By Austin Mbozi
Dear over-zealous PF cadres.
Come and debate with me on MUVI-TV ‘s ‘Hot Issue’ over the Chirundu re-alignment at 18 hours on Monday 19th March 2012. . Since you generally fear embarrassment to come in the open to debate with me, you normally send insults and lies against me without disclosing you identities. You are like scared little puppies barking at me the elephants whom you cannot bite with fear, hiding in a hut with your tails pulled under your legs.
Since you normally don’t have the mental capacities to debate with me instantly, I have done you a favor. I have put my arguments in advance on the Watchdog against realignment so that you plan your side of the story better.
1. Future likely Loss of local people revenue
Southern Province will have no power over the economic benefits of hydro-power stations once Sata decentralizes the provincial powers. Recall that during campaigns, Sata said the Barotseland Agreement would be Zambia’s model of decentralization countrywide? The Barotseland Agreement model decentralization gives provinces rights to control local taxation, control of forests, fishing, land, etc!
2. PF to dictate ‘centralization’.
If Sata believed in decentralization, they would not be imposing re-alignment. Decentralization means giving local people more power. Yet by imposing realignment where all MPs, councilors and chiefs are refusing, PF is giving a signal that it is about to reduce power to local Southern Province people. You cannot give power to somebody against their will! If I want to give you power to be cooking for yourself, you have every right to suspect that I plan to give you poisoned food if I insist on‘re-aligning’ you by imposing to you to move your kitchen from Choma to Lusaka, and to stop planning your food budget with your beloved neighbor at Choma but plan with PF people in Lusaka district! Real empowering means I should decide where my kitchen should be (Choma not Lusaka) which language I should speak when planning ( Tonga, not Lusaka Nyanja), and who to eat the food with ( Hon. Gary Nkombo and not Hon. Gerry Chanda!)
3. The so-called re-alignment is not necessary.
The fact is that PF have not studied any serious research on the causes of local government failures. They use a big word, ‘realignment’ just to deceive uneducated people that they are doing something important. The most recent comprehensive research around, by UNZA’s Dr Peter Lolojih for his PHD thesis (2008) does not say anywhere that the problems with local governance is ‘re-alignment’. During the eras of the Local Government Act 1965, the Local Administration Act 1980, and Local Government Act 1991, the report shows similar patterns of problems at all four governance levels namely:
(3.a)The Central Government ignores Section 34 of the 1991 Local Government Act and gives less and irregular funding to councils. Already the PF has ignored UPND insistence on a K5 billion Constituency Development Fund ( CDF) advocacy. The Central Government hardly pays its dues to councils. As at 2008, it owed K1.3 billion to the Lusaka City Council (LCC) in rental arrears for the Church Road offices housing the Ministry of Local Government and Housing; where it must pay 21 million per month. The Central Government politicizes the Councils, such as Chiluba’s (with Sata) giving away council houses during the 1996 election campaigns. LCC lost 35% of its revenues due to this! Central Government took over local taxation over fuel levy, road licenses etc and after water supply companies such as the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Companies and the Southern Water and Sewerage companies were grabbed from councils in 2000 , these water companies hardly pay dividends to their shareholding councils , as evidenced in the case of Choma. In 2000 LCC budget revenue collection was K367, million but this went down to K123 million in 2001. Then the Central Government is imposing cadres in councils. And who caused this problem? Sata was part of them when he was Lusaka Governor in the 80s. The report says on page 81:
‘the background to this ( over-employed incompetent workforce) can be traced back to the Second Republic era of the One-party state. During the reigns of Governors in particular, the Council was influenced to employ party cadres in order to appease UNIP supporters …’
Now. How can Micheal, the most prominent of among causers of Council mess, solve them now?
(3.b) The Councilors are largely corrupt and unmotivated; they hardly visit their areas and so give wrong priorities. The report says (page 241) that 72.5 % in Lusaka, 50% in Choma and 7% in Luwingu residents did not know their councilors!
(3.c) Council workers underperform. Many administrators may be ‘graduates’ of the Institute of Local Government Administration ( ILGAZ) but because of low council pay to attract qualified staff , many council personnel do not meet the qualification levels stipulated in the 1996 Local Government Service Regulations. Because of politics cited above caused by the likes Sata, councils are over-staffed. The Post Newspaper of 6th December 2001 reported that Lusaka District Council had 2, 300 workers. Of these 1000 were paid for ‘doing nothing’. Some needed retrenching, but because of low financing from the central government (which brought this problem in the first place) there were no retrenchment packages to retrench them!
(3.d) The general Public hardly know functions of councils and hardly bothers to hold them accountable. The media only exposes central government corruption but ignore councils. Central Governments again create a problem here. Technically, the Provincial Local Government Officers complain that they have no resources to enable them to audit councils. Worse, ministers cover up council misdeeds. Under MMD LCC PF councilors were suspended for illegal acquisition of plots. When PF came into office it makes no mention of this case, but has suspended Chirundu UPND councilors for a similar offence!
These are the problems PF must be solving, not the rubbish ‘realignments’. Dr Lolojih studied Choma Municipal Council, Lusaka City Council and Luwingu (rural) District Council. He interviewed thousands of ordinary people. They all gave the above problems, not cutting off districts to other provinces.
4. Tonga language’ cultural degradation.
As ba Mwami Mukuni correctly argued, if Chirundu becomes part of Lusaka it means Chirundu to stop learning Tonga and start learning Nyanja. The Ministry of Education system operations in such a way that it teaches any of the seven local languages to specific areas. The entire Southern Province learns Tonga ( shared with Lozi in Livingstone). But learning Njanja will follow into social life. Since Tonga speakers are still recovering from anti-Tonga language stigmas and they still avoid speaking Tonga to non-Tongas, this will make it worse. Then we will see public meetings addressed in Nyanja there. No language grouping in the world wants their language to be die. Of course Itezhi Tezhi will not be affected in schools, since although the northern parts of Central Province learn Bemba, the southern parts , which will now include Itezhi Tezhi will still learn Tonga. But socially, the officials from Itezhi Tezhi who will now be reporting to Kabwe rather than Choma will be forced to learn some Bemba while reporting in Kabwe. Currently, non-Tonga workers in Itezhi Tezhi learn Tonga by virtue of having to report to Livingstone.
And by the way, Chama District which PF has cut off from Eastern Province where they learnt Nyanja will now learn Bemba in their new Muchinga Province. Since Eastern Province was small, why did Sata not just cut off a part of Northern Province and attach to Eastern so that a part of Northern Province would have to learn Nyanja in the Eastern Province?
5. UPND political power loss vs PF gain
Politically the likes of PF Lusaka Youth Chairman Erick Chanda and the Central Province PF Provincial Chairman Benson Chali’s PF party authority will now extend to Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi rather than to local Tonga PF members! Soon, to be councilor in Chirundu or Itezhi Tezhi, one will be jostling for a PF rather than an UPND ticket.
8. Logistically infrastructural complications. For example how and at what cost will the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company take over some of the equipment and powers of the Southern Water and Sewerage Company which supply water from Chirundu to Itezhi-Tezhi? If the status of these companies remain the same, then Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi people will realize how useless the PF ‘realignment’ is when they will still to referred to Choma when water problems hit them! The same problems can occur with other institutions such as ZESCO, ZRA etc.
9. Lusaka’s poor service delivery to transfer to Chirundu. Lusaka District which is in Lusaka Province is worse in service delivery than Choma or Livingstone. Comparavely Lusaka has more water shortages, uncollected cabbage, lack of play parks, water shortages, street vending, poor drainages, crime, poor stopping fire services etc than Choma or Livingstone. So why attaché a better run area to a worse run one? Lusaka’s population 2,198,996 (16.1 %,), Dr Lolojih’s report say 72.5 ‘ Lusakans ‘ did not know there councilors while in Choma respondents say they believed their councilors where trying their best! Why add the Chirundu number from Southern Province’s 1,606,793 population to the already over-crowded, ungovernable Lusaka Province population? Just what planning is this?
10. Uncertainly due to lack of clear PF plan. From the manner these re-alignments are announced it’s clear that the PF has no clear plan. Firstly, PF have not studied what they are doing, as shown above. Secondly, PF President Micheal Sata has no clear policy on this. He keeps changing as if his mind can accommodate a contradiction. In the 1980’s he accepted the job of Lusaka Governor, a position which allowed him as Kaunda’s UNIP partisan appointee to chair the City Council. Why did he not object to politics in councils? Yet in 1991 again the same man accepted being Local Government Minister under MMD, a party that abolished the position of politically inclined governor and opted for an elected mayor. If he had believed in UNIP ways, why accept the new job? Mr Sata was part of MMD, at its worst under Chiluba and supported the appointment of MMD royal District Administrators. Further he even wanted Chiluba to go for a Third Term! So if MMD and Chiluba was so good, why is he changing its policies? Why did he not suggest all these changes all along? Recall than on assuming office he dismissed all DC on account that they were MMD politically inclined cadres, now he is supporting PF cadres! What is there to show that he may change again and re-align Chirundu and Itezhi-Tezhi again? People must live a predictable life. They cannot progress by being re-organized so unpredictably. Thirdly, there is no allocation in the 2012 budget for the Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi realigned status. This re-alignment was announced after the budget was out. In this budget, the share for Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi is on the Southern Province allocations. And the allocation for Lusaka Province has no share for Chirundu district while the allocation for Central Provinces has no share for Itezhi Tezhi. So where will funds for these districts coming from? Diverting it from Southern allocation? Is this not a sign of poor planning? Fourth, PF must have a complete map showing the re-aligned for the whole country so that the nation as a whole must see the plans, the logistics needed and the funding needed. Waking up daily and announcing re-alignments is unpredictable and a recipe for confusion. Fifth , these districts being formed are not actually performing, but draining resources paying PF cadres appointed to run them. For example, on the Tonga programme Kantuunya Kamunsabata of 3rd March 2012, the PF-apponited Chikankata new District DC was telling the local people not to complain that they are not seeing anything on the ground since things take time to start! If so, they why is he being paid as DC if nothing is on the ground and people still report to Mazabuka district? Was it not going to benefit locals more if the money wasted paying this DC went from Mazabuka District to sink a bolehole for them? PF cant create so many useless districts within six months. For Sata to find 74 districts it means UNIP and MMD ( who used to think before ‘creating’) created only 15 districts in 40 years! In 1962 whites left 52 Districts, One City (Lusaka) and 7 Municipal Councils (Broken Hill, Livingstone, Mufurila, Luanshya, Kitwe, Chingola and Ndola).
10. Submerging the Chirundu-Itezhi Tezhi local development priorities. Once these districts are attached to Lusaka and Central Provinces, their development priorities will be outvoted at provincial level. When funds are allocated they pass through the provinces before going to districts. The people of Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi are traditional cattle farmers. They generally take these issues more seriously than some of the people from Lusaka and Central Province whom they now will have liaise with over developmental issues. Being a minority within the Lusaka and Central Province priority discussions, they may not get as much attention as they would if they remained with their fellow-cattle keeping groups of Province.
So let’s sing ‘nichali chibotu!’ to applause the Southern Province for rejecting this useless ‘re-alignment’.
Austin Mbozi is a lecturer at the University of Zambia.