According to ActionAid Zambia, one of the key expectations of the new government is that the grand corruption cases that were brushed under the rug during the previous regime be investigated and prosecuted swiftly.
In a statement released to the media listing a number of demands, Action Aid Zambia said that it expects the incoming government to commit to legal, institutional, and governance reforms like review and amendment of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012 to include among other things minimum sentence for corruption and assurance of the independent operation of law enforcement agencies like Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate its own investigations, allow investigators and prosecutors autonomous decision-making powers in handling cases, not be subject to undue influence from any of the branches of government or any third party.
Below is the full statement
ACTIONAID ZAMBIA DEMANDS/EXPECTATIONS FROM THE NEW GOVERNMENT
ActionAid Zambia would like to congratulate the UPND and His Excellence President-elect Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and His Vice President-elect Madam Mutale Nalumango for being elected as the seventh Zambian President. We would like also to thank the outgoing President, Edgar C.Lungu for conceding defeat and committing to the smooth transition of power. To Mr. Hakainde Hichilema we look forward to your leadership as you deliver your promises to the Zambian people as enshrined in the UPND Party Manifesto.
We are live to the fact that these elections came in the backdrop of an ailing economy with the country grappling with high unsustainable public debt levels estimated to be over US$ 20 Billion, increased corruption levels, drastic shrinking of civic spaces and deteriorating human rights for effective participation of citizens in the governance and decision-making processes.
Currently, in Zambia, 54.4 percent of people live below the poverty line and 42 percent are classified as extremely poor while Zambia’s Gene-Coefficient is not only still high but also indicates high levels of inequalities. ActionAid Zambia, observe that the poverty levels and socioeconomic inequalities have been worsened and/or perpetuated by the compromised political and socioeconomic systems characterized by gender inequality, youth exclusion, corruption, poor economic management, tribalism, cadreism, malfunction local governance system and non-adherence to the rule of law and crippled environmental sustainable management that has seen forest reserves and national parks turn into residential homes and mining.
Consequently, the ushering in of a new government presents an opportunity to step up our effort in ending poverty as well as bridging the political and socioeconomic inequalities. ActionAid, therefore, shares the following expectations from the new government on various socioeconomic issues.
Corruption and Public Finance Management
One of the most concerning effects of corruption is that it denies citizens, especially the most marginalized, access to basic and gender-responsive services. Firstly, we expect the new government to immediately institute investigation and prosecution of the grand corruption cases which were swept under the carpet in the previous regime. We, further, expect the incoming government to commit to legal, institutional and governance reforms like review and amendment of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012 to include among other things minimum sentence for corruption and assurance of the independent operation of law enforcement agencies like Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate its own investigations, allow investigators and prosecutors autonomous decision-making powers in handling cases, not be subject to undue influence from any of the branches of government or any third party. Additionally, there is need to ensure strong enforcement of various pieces of legislations that promote prudent Public Finance Management such as the Public Finance Management Act and Public Procurement Act. We would also like to call on the new government to ensure that the 2020 Financial Intelligence Centre Trends Report is released.
Public Debt Problem
Firstly the new government must undertake a vigorous public debt audit to establish the scale and nature of our public debts. The new government should then immediately call for a multi-sector public debt indaba to discuss possible solutions to our current public debt problem. The new government must also commit to greater public debt transparency especially with regard to Zambia Chinese loans which remains so opaque. We also expect the new government to commit to the reforms and/or amendment of the public debt legal framework like the Loans and Guarantees Authorization Act and other related legislations to improve Zambia’s primary legislation. This will improve transparency and accountability and hence limiting the current debt problem which is crowding out public service financing.
Shrinking of civic space and the rule of Law
Over the last five years, the country has experienced the worst violation of human rights which included the denial to exercise rights of freedom of assembly and expression. This has been perpetuated and/or enabled by promotion and formulation of regressive and archaic laws which regulates and limit freedom expression and limit freedom of assembly. The new government must commitment to upholding of human rights, particularly, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as well as putting an end to extrajudicial killings. They need to amend/repeal archaic laws such as the Public Order Act, Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act that limit citizens’ fundamental freedoms. The new government must also see to it that the current Access To Information bill is refined and enacted into law to enhance access to public information and consequently promoting transparency and accountability.
Mining plays a key role in Zambia’s economy, however, in most cases it has been proved to be done at the expense of the people and mine host communities whose land, water, and environments are polluted with impunity. On the other, Zambia continue to lose the much-needed revenues from the mining sector partly due mining tax policy inconsistencies as well as dubious Tax dogging operations of Multinational Companies through illicit financial flows. We, therefore, expect the new government to initiate a stable tax regime, strengthen monitoring of mining operations and ensure that extractive companies adequately adhere to environmental laws.
Climate change negative impacts have been on the rise globally as could be witnessed by heat waves and floods that are currently experienced in Zambia. The reduction of Green House Gas (GHS) emissions especially from land use changes/ unsustainable natural resource utilization and deforestation in the country to mitigate climate change and to stop “business as usual” is critical because climate crisis is an emergency that needs attention amid the Covid 19 Pandemic. The negative effects of climate change is a driver of poverty in Zambia hence, we urge the current government to take climate change mitigation and prevention with the utmost urgency with practical intervention to secure the future life of mother Zambia. The incoming government must also clearly demonstrate and adhere to a clear policy road map for increased budget allocations towards climate change mitigation.
ActionAid Zambia wish to call on the new government to speed up the process of actualising the full devolution in line with the decentralization policy of 2013, which facilitate, and place emphasis on the importance of community participation in the development process and agendas. We further call on the new government to ensure that they allow local authorities to collect revenue levy, impose, recover and retain local taxes, as prescribed Article 161: of local authorities. Additionally, new government must ensure that all bus stops, markets are run by councils. Furthermore, the new government must scrap off the offices of the district commissions as it is not only unnecessary personnel at the district level but also a drain on public resources.
Despite being the majority, youths remain on the periphery of decision-making processes, socioeconomic opportunities as well as having little or no influence in policy formulation in the country in all the arms of government. Preliminary statistics indicate that out of the 155 elected members of parliaments in just ended elections only 6 are youths, representing less than 4 percent of youth representation of elected Members of Parliament in the next parliament. Youths have little access to jobs and economic productive resources like land among other things. The new government especially the President must, therefore, address youth under-representation in government as he makes various appointments of his Cabinet and technocrats in various Government Ministries and institutions. Furthermore, the government must commit to undertaking socioeconomic policy and legal reforms to promote equal access to socio-economic opportunities for youths. This can be in agriculture; access to land and financial and crop markets; and in entrepreneurship, access to start-up capital for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The young people who previously lost their voice to cadres and unruly political supporters need to have their voices heard and gain access to meaningful socioeconomic opportunities.
Tribalism and national unity
Zambia has in the recent times seen an increase in hate speech, tribalism and regionalism leading to divisiveness and in most cases socio-economic exclusion where certain regions of the country have little or no access to public resources, jobs in the civil service and national development on tribal lines. We expect that the unifying of the country will be top of the agenda for the new Government to help undo the damaging propagation of tribalism, regionalism and patronage that was encouraged by the previous regime for political expediency and benefit of the select few. It is therefore expected that the new government in the spirit of uniting the country and eradicating tribalism should be inclusive, promote equitable development across the country, condemn and take remedial action against any form of tribalism.
In conclusions, we would like to wish the new government the very best as take to lead this great nation. As civil society organizations, we will continue to play our watchdog role to the government for the betterment and benefit of all citizens.
Nalucha Nganga Ziba
Country Director, ActionAid Zambia