As the next session of the National Assembly reconvenes on 24th February 2014, the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) would like to share its expectations which we believe that if addressed would help in improving the lives of the people of this country and ensure effective representation of the people and accountability. This session of parliament comes at a very critical time when the country has a new president and when the performance of leaders in government fails short of people’s expectations.
As an organisation we would like to make the following known to the parliamentarians as they meet again to address various national issues;
The Auditor General’s report
Over the years SACCORD has noted with disappointment that the use of public resources has continued to be abused. There has been outright theft of public funds with little or nothing being done to ensure that the people involved in the abuse and theft of such funds get to receive necessary sanctions. The Auditor General has just released an audit report which shows continued abuse, mismanagement and theft of public funds. We expect parliament this time around to ensure that the people involved get to be made to answer for their involvement and where there is theft, the courts of law must be given a chance to determine the cases. Zambia is still poor and cannot afford to continue loosing resources as a result of the selfishness of individuals holding positions in government. We would like to see leaders from government departments, parastatals and Zambia’s foreign missions that have not accounted for public funds to be made to do so.
Constitution making process
During the campaigns, the Patriotic Front was very categorical in promising the people of Zambia that they would be able to facilitate for Zambians to have a new constitution before the next elections in 2016. We expect parliament to ensure that the PF delivers on this process. It is agreed by almost every genuine and honest Zambian that the constitution making process has continued to gobble a lot of money which would have gone to other service areas but also that the failure to have a new constitution has caused a lot of expenditures which could be avoided. It has also led to near constitutional crises for a modern democratic country like ours. The government working with parliament must ensure that legislation is put in place to protect and guide the constitution making process. This will help with understanding the process and also for citizens to know when exactly the new constitution would be ready.
Rights of the people
There has been continued abuse of the rights of the people in Zambia under the current PF government. While our constitution guarantees certain rights without derogation, people’s human rights continue to be abused by government agents and some powerful or well connected citizens. This has brought a lot of loss of dignity among some of our people as well as physical pain to some. We expect parliament to ensure that government agencies that are supposed to help in promoting and protecting the rights of the people do so without exception. All citizens regardless of their political or religious affiliation, tribal or economic status in society enjoy the same rights all the time.
Appointments of constitutional officer holders
This session will see a lot of names coming before parliament for ratification. While parliament has in the past done a commendable job in this area, there have been instances when people who do not deserve to be ratified have ended up being ratified just because the appointing authority has interest in such individuals. We expect parliament to properly scrutinise people who are supposed to be ratified to avoid some of the embarrassments the country has found itself dealing with due to the poor standing of such individuals. As more judges and other constitutional office holders are being ratified, let only those who are above board pass the test not just because they have been nominated by the president.
The Zambian economy is not in its best of shape. We still have low employment levels. The kwacha is seriously haemorrhaging and risks putting Zambia importers out of business. In addition, the country’s local and external debt is getting too high much to the worry of many stakeholders. We expect parliament to ensure that government delivers on job creation for our people, provides an environment conducive for trade and puts a stop to government’s continued unnecessary borrowing. Zambia’s foreign debt is now estimated at more than US$7 Billion which we think is too high and may soon begin to take away from funds meant to provide social services to the people of Zambia. Loan contraction needs to be undertaken for proper development reasons not political expedience as the case has been in the recent past.
Finally SACCORD would like to see parliament playing a major role in promoting a good environment for citizens to engage in political processes. We also expect parliament to compel government to promote co-existence in the country. The January 2015 elections have exposed Zambia’s growing political intolerance and this has to be stopped. We expect more efforts from parliament and government aimed at uniting the people of Zambia. The use of tribalism to gain votes or malign political opponent will not help archive political tolerance rather it will divide the people even more. The beneficiaries of these actions have been elected leaders not the people themselves. Deliberate efforts must be made towards national cohesion and unity.