Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zambian President Rupiah Banda’s legacy

by Henry Kyambalesa - He suggests potential initiatives for Zambia's President Rupiah Banda.

There has been so much talking about 'continuing with the Mwanawasa legacy' by Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) leaders recently, a legacy whose content they have not been able to explain to the Zambian people.

If the so-called 'legacy' includes the introduction of free education up to grade 7, it does not match the legacy of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which provided free education from Grade 1 through university from independence until the mid-1980s.

If the 'legacy' includes the provision of 'free' healthcare to rural dwellers, it does not match UNIP’s free healthcare for all Zambians from independence until the mid-1980s. If it is about the fight against corruption, the scourge had never been pervasive until the MMD assumed power.

There is, however, still a great opportunity for President Rupiah Banda to leave his own legacy rather than continuing to sing about someone else’s questionable legacy. Let me suggest some of the potential initiatives which President Banda can pursue if he is interested in leaving a legacy after his term of office:

1) The creation of a smaller cabinet with fewer ministers and the abolition of the positions of deputy minister and district commissioner, among other sinecures.

2) The operationalisation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in order for the broadcasting industry to be regulated by an independent body.

3) The enactment of the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill and making it possible for journalists to access information that is vital to both the media and members of the public.

4) The creation of an autonomous 'Bureau of Statistics and Archives', placing the Zambia Daily Mail under its auspices. The bureau should replace the Central Statistics Office (CSO) so that it can freely and independently collect, process, maintain and publish essential data and information about our beloved country, and should incorporate the National Archives of Zambia.

5) The establishment of an Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia (ECAZ), which should assume the functions of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) stipulated in Clauses 6 through 8 of Article 112 of the Draft Constitution prepared by the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). These functions could be designated as a separate article and amended accordingly.

There is a need for a separate governmental watchdog designed to monitor the activities of officers of the ECZ, and the conduct of elections in the country. This will hopefully lessen the vulnerability of the ECZ and the electoral process to the influences, manipulation and/or machinations of unscrupulous politicians and political parties.

6) The conversion of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), which is currently vested in the Office of the Vice-President, into an autonomous 'National Emergency Management Agency' (NEMA). The agency needs to be made autonomous in order for it to perform its duties without any political meddling or manipulation by government officials to achieve partisan objectives, and should incorporate the functions of the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme currently administered through the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, which includes the Social Cash Transfer Scheme. NEMA should be accountable to the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Welfare.

I make these suggestions knowing very well that some of the MMD leaders are likely to interpret the gesture as an insult to the president and his administration.