Editor's Comment

Activism should be within law

LUSAKA Mayor Miles Sampa should take a measured and legal approach full of mayoral disposition as he visits places of work and businesses where either customers or workers’ rights are said to be abused.
In one of his errands last week, he closed a Chinese-run restaurant in Longacres in Lusaka. He also visited Sinoma Cement in Chongwe following a tip from some concerned members of the public about workers being allegedly locked up.
As mayor of the greater city of Lusaka and a citizen, Mr Sampa has every right to demand justice where human, workers or customers’ rights are being deprived.
That is why people who follow him on his Facebook page appreciate his activism. What is wrong, however, is the manner in which the mayor has been going about it.
Activist office-holders present both advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages include the opportunity to uncover wrongdoing like Mr Sampa has been doing. The disadvantage is that sometimes there is a danger to overstep their mandate, leading to legal challenges.
To strike a balance, activist public officials such as Mr Sampa should acquaint themselves thoroughly with procedures established to guide an intended action.
To adhere to the rule of law, it would be advisable to mount any operation in the company of wings of Government such as the Human Rights Commission, labour commissioners, health inspectors, or Zambia Bureau of Standards who have a legal standing in the matter.
If it is labour matters, they should let the Ministry of Labour or trade unions to handle such issues.
Such an operation should be discussed by the various stakeholders before it is executed, including obtaining necessary approvals such as police clearance to search premises.
When companies or businesses are found erring, they should be advised to comply with the laid down procedures.
But the mayor seems to be ‘overwhelmed’ with his Boba television, which he uses to film the premises he visits, thereby invading the privacy of the victims.
Such a disposition is not good for a public officer, especially in a country like Zambia where the rule of law is supreme.
Premises’ inspection should be done professionally and without cameras and drama.
As if that is not enough, the use of derogatory words against foreigners miscasts Zambia.
Added to that, the mayor has been fuelling hatred against foreign nationals and whipping up xenophobic sentiments against them.
The Chinese came to Zambia as investors because the country is in need of foreign direct investment.
It is not a secret that the Chinese have added value to our economy as they are involved in various sectors of the economy.
They have provided jobs which are helping Zambians who work for them put food on the table, pay rentals, take their children to school and fulfil their other financial obligations.
Zambian workers employed by the Chinese are also benefitting from the skills transfer.
But this does not mean all the Chinese investors are familiar with the country’s labour laws. This is where the Ministry of Labour, through its inspectorate unit, is supposed to be doing what the mayor has been doing of late.
Where there are flaws, they have to be corrected through dialogue and not through inflammatory statements like the mayor has been doing because it has a danger of not only scaring away other investors, but borders on the bilateral relations between China and Zambia.
China might think Mr Sampa’s actions of intimidating or harassing Chinese investors have the blessings of the central government, when not.
There is need for some public officers to reorient themselves in all areas of operations to avoid unconscionable conduct.

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