Editor's Comment

Don’t waste this opportunity

AFTER procrastination by some sections of society, it is gratifying that the much-awaited National Dialogue Forum has started.
The coming on board of United Party for National Development (UPND) members of Parliament has added impetus to the national dialogue and help ensure that the vast majority of Zambians are representated.
The gathering in Lusaka is an important undertaking which involves all key stakeholders as opposed to the way some people wanted to narrow it to only a few stakeholders.
The dialogue is expected to lead to critical outcomes as some matters were not conclusively dealt with when the Constitution was amended in 2016.
Among the issues which were not satisfactorily dealt with is that of by-elections for councillors, mayors, council chairs and even MPs.
There must be a way to prevent unnecessary costs on by-elections arising from defections and other unforeseen circumstances such as death.
There was also the issue of appointing ministers from outside Parliament as opposed to restricting the President to choose from the House.
The argument is that ministers are supposed to be experts in their portfolio and may not be involved in the day-to-day sittings of Parliament, hence enhancing the principle of separation of powers and giving them more time to attend to ministerial duties.
Some argue that appointing ministers from outside Parliament can help improve accountability of the executive.
Others contend that MPs appointed as ministers neglect their constituents.
There is also debate regarding the devolution of power so that there is a very clear divide between central and local government, including quasi-government institutions.
The allocation for funds to the local authorities is contentious as some stakeholders contend that funding should be stipulated in the Constitution.
The subsidiary law has failed to solve this.
The issue of the Public Order Act (POA) continues to come up each time there is an election and the opposition feel disadvantaged in its application.
The POA is under consideration although the feeling is that it is ok but it is just its misapplication by the Zambia Police Service.
Instead of having all the powers vested in an officer-in-charge, a district security team should approve political meetings.
It ought to be kept in mind though that the POA is not only for politicians. It is for all citizens who intend to hold various kinds of gatherings.
This is an opportunity too to reflect on how to strengthen the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), which some contend does not have enough teeth to “bite” those that flout electoral rules.
Recent months have seen the raising of the voices of those that advocate the proportional representation system of national governance. A hybrid called mixed proportional representation is also food for thought and debate.
The proposal, which few oppose, is aimed at making elections cheaper without compromising the electorates’ right to choose their representatives.
This is a matter that should get the due attention and overwhelming endorsement.
Expectations are high that these men and women will do Zambia proud by charting a course that is well defined and for the good of the country.
Heated debates are expected too because not all delegates are of the same views. What matters though is that there will be mutual respect for each other’s views and agree to disagree in a brotherly/sisterly manner.
The delegates must realise that they are using taxpayers’ money and they should, therefore, make the most of this moment. They will collectively be judged by what comes out of the meeting.
In Professor Muyunda Mwanalushi, the forum has an experienced and respected chairperson. The forum is in good hands, but the biggest onus in on the delegates to deliver desired and realistic recommendations.
This is an opportunity that must not be lost. Zambians are waiting.


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