STATEMENT DELIVERED BY EMERITUS ARCHBISHOP TELESPHORE MPUNDU, CHAIRPERSON OF OCiDA
It is Time to Govern with Compassion and Respect for the People, not with Rhetoric
●Lack of consultation and rise of dictatorship.
●lack of compassion and respect for the people and poor.
●chaos in agricultural sector and its grave consequences on national food security.
● need for institutional, judicial reforms, operationalisation of the office of the Public protector and making Electoral Commission of Zambia truly independent
● Chaos in the Mining Sector and the devastating effects on the economy.
● rising corruption and poor governance.
“No nation has ever been built on the backdrop of lies, rhetoric, self-praise or by elevating dishonesty into a virtue”
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OCIDA Statement on the State of the Nation
Thursday, 19th January 2023
It is Time to Govern with Compassion and Respect for the People, not with Rhetoric
We, members of Our Civic Duty Association (OCiDA), have spent time reflecting on the many issues that have recently been affecting the day-to-day lives of Zambians. In furtherance of the Association’s objectives which includes fostering good governance, promoting national unity, encouraging effective management of the economy, and holding to account those in public office so that they attend to the most important policy matters and national issues, we wish to make the following observations on the State of the Nation.
Lack of consultation and increasing centralization of power
One of the qualities of good leadership is a preference for consultation, coupled with the capacity to build consensus. Unfortunately, consultation appears not to exist.
The president would appear not to work closely with his cabinet, even with his Allies and the people at large, we believe. We urge and appeal to him to use all channels available to him to seek advice, to consult widely. Consultation is key………it is a hallmark of good leadership.
Recently some government actions have once again demonstrated this lack of consultation. Just before the June 2022 African Union Heads of State Summit in Lusaka, the government, without warning, deployed the military to violently remove the mobile money booths which line sections of main roads in our capital city. The government deemed these structures too shabby for eyes of the visiting dignitaries……these booths are very necessary sources of livelihoods for the unemployed youths !
When those in power today were in opposition promising to support small businesses, few would have guessed that they meant using the army to sweep poor ordinary people off the street.
We have also observed a trend of “ centralization “ of power at State House, as opposed to power being devolved to ministries.
For instance, recently, in response to the energy crisis, the President undertook an on-the-spot check to Mamba Collieries and the Kariba Dam. If it takes a whole President to do this, what is the Minister of Energy doing?
The implications of such action is that either the line Minister is not up to the task, or the President is micromanaging in a manner that has the potential to demoralize his Ministers. We urge the government to learn to consult more broadly. We further implore the President to hire competent professionals and give them the leeway to discharge their mandate without interference from State House. Put plainly, it is now becoming clear that the President is micromanaging government Ministries and State-Owned Enterprises.
Lack of compassion and respect for the people
We have noted a worrying tendency by those in authority to heap praise on themselves whenever an opportunity presents itself and to explain away problems they cannot resolve by blaming the previous administration. This reflects a lack of decency and respect for the people. We all know that the country was in bad hands, and this explains why Zambians voted for change in August 2021.
What the people now wish to see and hear from their elected leaders are solutions to their myriad of problems; it is to see the implementation of the many promises that were made by those in power today when they were in opposition. We have had enough of blaming the PF for the last one year plus 4 months.
The problem of load shedding in particular, which has acutely affected our people, calls for more honesty. We the public are entitled to honest information on this matter.
We are tired of empty rhetoric and lectures. We want to see action. When promises are made, they should be fulfilled. There is nothing wrong with making promises and trying to fulfill them. What is wrong is to try to pretend that you never made the promises, or worst still try to cover them up.
No nation has ever been built on the backdrop of lies, rhetoric, self-praise or by elevating dishonesty into a virtue. Nations are built on the threshold of integrity, truth, selfless and honorable conduct by those entrusted with discharging public duties and responsibilities.
We urge our leaders to embrace the culture of acknowledging their limitations especially when things are wrong, explaining the difficulties they may be encountering in the course of honoring campaign pledges, and apologizing to the public when they make statements that later turn out to be false.
This would go a long way in improving public trust in such leaders. Just as the Minister of Local Government Mr Garry Nkombo has recently publicly and commendably advised his colleagues including the President, it is time to stop the blame game and instead focus on delivering the post-election goodies. People are anxiously waiting for Bally To FIX it!
The need for a clear roadmap on institutional reforms
Those in power today promised comprehensive legal and constitutional reforms when they were in opposition. Among other things, this included:
1. judicial reforms that would change the way judges are appointed and make the process of appointment more transparent and inclusive, to enhance the independence of the judiciary, notwithstanding the restrictive funding of the judiciary;
2. the full operationalization of the office of the public protector to perform the functions assigned to this independent office as provided for in Article 243 all the way up to Article 248 of the Constitution of Zambia;
3. changing the way in which the appointment of commissioners of ECZ is done to enhance transparency, increase wider participation and build confidence in the process; and truly make ECZ INDEPENDENT.
4. changing the structural independence and operations of the investigative wings such as the ACC, Drug Enforcement Commission and Financial Intelligence Centre by removing these watchdog institutions from the presidency and making sure that they report to parliament. In most cases, the Executive is the culprit when it comes to grand corruption so it does not make sense that these institutions should be reporting to the executive.
5. Urgent repeal and review of all laws that inhibit the enjoyment of human rights and democracy such as the Public Order Act, the Cybersecurity and Cybercrimes Act, and the Penal Code. We are aware that the Zambia Law Development Commission has handed over the report on the review of the Public Order Act, and we hope the government will not take a year to act on the recommendations;
Instead of producing a clear roadmap that shows and appointing a committee of experts to comprehensively look at the constitutional reform exercise, what we have seen is a slow, selected, and targeted review of legal reforms. We have also witnessed the appointment of supporters of the party in power to critical and sensitive institutions such as ECZ, the seemingly targeted transfer of magistrates who do not toe the line, and the appointment of allies of those in power to head critical institutions such as the Judicial Service Commission and Judicial Complaints Commission.
This is most unacceptable. We urge the government to conduct a thorough reform of the laws and preferably through a constitutional review process that should be led by independent, qualified, and highly respected professionals from a diversity of backgrounds, not surrogates of the party in power.
The chaos in the Agriculture Sector and its grave consequences on food security.
The government says it has saved millions in the Farmers Input Support Program, but at what cost? The delayed delivery of farming inputs that we witnessed last year is likely to have a more costly impact on the general harvest. A poor yield means the country may have to import food. And what will be the cost of importation?
We urge the government to identify and address the root causes of the factors that were responsible for the chaotic distribution of farming inputs that we saw. Millions of Zambians, especially those in rural areas, depend on agriculture. It is important to safeguard not just this vital source of their livelihoods but our national food security. Sadly, we are reliably informed that this New Dawn Administration is still exporting Maize to this very day despite the aforesaid chaos during this farming season.
THE CHAOS IN THE MINING SECTOR……AND THE DEVASTATING IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY.
Despite attempts by previous administrations to diversify the country’s dependence on mining to agriculture, tourism and energy, mining still remains the country’s key economic backbone.
Now with demand and prices for EV metals such as copper, cobalt and lithium growing exponentially, mining in Zambia should be our economic salvation, especially with respect to our huge debt situation, going forward…..of course that is if we accelerate expansion in production in this sector. And Mopani and KCM hold part of the key.
But 14 months into the New Dawn Administration, we still do not have a clear roadmap on how to achieve the 3,000,000 tonnes of copper production by 2031.
To this day the Mopani and Konkola Mines debacle created by PF, remains unresolved, despite numerous and inconsistent pronouncements by the New Dawn Government.
Today the Copperbelt economy alone is devastated on account of this failure by government.
Mopani and KCM hold a potential 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of copper production per annum….but if only Government earnestly attended to their problems.
Let us wait and see!
The creeping culture of intolerance to criticism
We applaud the government for abolishing the law on criminal defamation of the president. We however urge the State to go further and remove all the bad laws that criminalize libel such as the ones contained in Sections 190 and 191 of the Penal Code. These were the ones that were used by members of the PF regime to arrest current ruling party supporters when in opposition. Civil laws on defamation are enough to deal with anyone who maliciously slanders another person. We are also noting a growing level of intolerance to criticism of government officials by supporters of the party in power. Those who point out the failings of the government are considered as enemies or bitter rather than people who are expressing diverse views. Branding those with alternative views as people who bitter or sponsored by the opposition is the undesirable kind of language that Zambians thought they had removed from public discourse in August 2021.
A crucial component of a thriving and healthy multiparty democracy is respect for unity in diversity. Diversity also refers to ideas and opinions. In a society where many hero- worship leaders, it is understandable that government critics may appear to be an inconvenience to both the leadership in power and their supporters.
But there is a place for critics in our democracy, especially those who don’t use insulting language and who conduct their criticism with utmost civility, decorum, and respect. We also implore government leaders to embrace critical feedback in actions, not rhetoric.
The President recently urged Zambians to criticize him in open forums, as opposed to doing so from a hidden spot in the toilet. In addition to reigning in on his intolerant supporters, we urge the Presidency to reflect on why people are finding the toilet to be a safe site from which to issue criticism, if at all the democratic space is now freely open.
The creeping levels of intolerance remind Zambians of a recent dark past and risks driving many people into silence until the next election, leaving only one group speaking and dominating public discourse. This may create the impression that all is well, when in fact not, and detach the leaders from the actual reality and the voice of the people.
Current corruption and governance
Nothing undermines good governance than corruption. Corruption is responsible for the deaths of millions of Zambians through the theft of public funds and diversion of resources meant for service delivery.
We commend the government for initiating the arrest and prosecution of officials of the previous administration. We are however alarmed at the continuing lack of interest in investigating and prosecuting the current corruption in government.
We suspect that corruption is still happening even among ministers and other senior government officials. After one year four months in office, where are the investigations and arrests ? We urge the ACC to not only concentrate on past corruption but also focus on current issues.
We further strongly urge the government to move beyond a narrow focus on the corrupting party and the corrupted to include dealing decisively with the enablers. We as a country must, for instance, deal with lawyers whose firms enable corruption as well as officials at the Ministry of Justice and in the Attorney General’s chambers who may be involved in facilitating the scourge.
This may be through questionable consent orders or ‘inside trading’ where firms with connections to those in power are hired to represent clients who sue the government so that the parties concerned can later share the spoils when the courts award costs. The greatest loser is the suffering taxpayer who has to meet the cost of what may be termed as organised theft of public resources. We urge the ACC to take an interest in these matters.
The high cost of living and youth unemployment; leading to unprecedented HUNGER in the nation.
The current administration won power on a series of promises that included reducing the cost of living and tackling youth unemployment.
Unfortunately, the cost of living has risen considerably in the past one year plus 4 months, with no discernible plan in sight on how to reduce it.
People in our communities are very HUNGRY……..they are struggling to feed themselves and their families. We want to remind this Administration that a HUNGRY people is an ANGRY people; you need not be reminded what caused the French Revolution!
Among the worst affected are young people who are grappling with record high unemployment among their ranks.
This includes those who have finished their studies but are neither teachers nor health workers and are therefore not covered by the commendable recruitment in these sectors. What is the government’s plan for dealing with youth unemployment? We have not heard of any coherent plan being articulated by our leaders to address this specific issue. To increase employment in the public sector may not necessarily be the best solution because it denotes an increase in the emoluments side of the budget.
Apart from attracting foreign investors, what coherent plan do we have to increase employment using our own institutions? Are there any tax incentives for local businesses that employ a certain threshold of people? Are there any areas that are reserved for Zambians?
What incentives are being given to small scale businesses and farmers, the same way that we see huge incentives being extended to foreign corporations? What exactly is the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises doing? We are not saying these challenges must all be resolved at once or even under a year, but there must be a clear roadmap or some kind of direction that shows movement towards the goal.
Regional imbalances in public appointments and the foreign service
We commend the government for improving ethnic diversity in government appointments compared to the previous administration. We however urge those in power to not use the previous administration – a failure on this score or indeed any other – as their golden standard.
We have noted a worrying pattern that shows a regional inclination in public appointments to the leadership positions of government bodies such as the five security wings, the judiciary, the electoral commission, the National Assembly, the foreign service, and even boards of parastatal entities. We urge the government to improve its record on this issue as opposed to comparing itself to the record of a failure and attacking those who are drawing its attention to this important issue.
Building national unity would require more than doing better than the record of a failure.
We also urge the government to professionalize the recruitment of ambassadors and high commissioners by making sure that those appointed are subject to parliamentary approval.
We have noted a worrying tendency where the foreign service has long been used by successive governments as a dumping ground for unemployed ruling party supporters. Patronage is not the best way of utilizing public resources. We urge the government to initiate legal reforms that would pave the way for this transparent involvement of parliament in the appointments of senior officials into the diplomatic service.
PROFESSIONALIZATION OF CIVIL SERVICE
We have observed that the New Dawn Government have not hitherto started “ professionalizing “ the civil service, as they had promised to do while in opposition.
A professional Civil service is what makes any government succeed in its programs. We therefore lament that the new government are likely to fail in this regard, with a “cadre”driven civil service.
We therefore strongly urge that the new government should as a matter of absolute urgency create a truly professional civil service.
The visible shadow of State capture
Like many of our people, we have noted the increasing role of foreign and local private actors in affairs of government. As the experience of South Africa has shown, private actors and foreign influence can lead to State capture, which is a form of corruption.
We urge the government to guard against State capture by local businessmen, foreign persons and institutions through policy influence, especially in the extractive industry, that may undermine national interests in favour of foreign commercial interests.
Statement delivered by Emeritus Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, Chairperson of OCIDA.