PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu last week made changes to Cabinet.
The reshuffles at both ministerial and permanent secretary level are meant to re-energise, firstly, the economy, and compel all ministers (even those that have maintained the dockets) to work extra hard.
Lusaka Central Member of Parliament Margaret Mwanakatwe moved from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry to the Ministry of Finance, replacing Felix Mutati, who has been moved to the Ministry of Works and Supply.
Without doubt, the economy has been struggling, the Kwacha, though stable, has not been at its best, international oil prices have continually harassed us to an extent that fuel prices keep going.
A number of vital projects have stalled, as revealed during the recent presidential trip in Muchinga, which might be a symptom of what is obtaining across the country.
Civil servants’ salaries have been a struggle to come in on time. Besides these challenges, efforts to seal a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are having a toll on the the economy.
I think the President had to shake up the Finance portfolio and, most importantly, mines which is the lifeblood of our economy.
Mrs Mwanakatwe, with a background in the corporate world, particularly the global brand banks, Barclays and the United Bank for Africa, and her three years-plus experience at the Commerce docket, gives her relatively reasonable experience to add value to the Ministry of Finance and inject confidence of investors and the cooperating partners in the economy.
Mr Mutati has already done the talking at Finance and it is now time for Mrs Mwanakatwe to act.
It seems, finally, honeymoon is over. The Muchinga trip might have been very re-awakening for the President and his team of advisors. At Finance, I had forgotten to add that the President has also brought in Dr Mulenga Emmanuel Pamu, a highly experienced and educated technocrat from the central bank as permanent secretary – budget and economic affairs.
It is expected that the combination of Mrs Mwanakatwe, Dr Puma and Mr Mukuli Chikuba, permanent secretary economic management and finance (already serving since 2017, and he rose through the ranks), will realign the ministry to deliver on its mandate.
Michael Katambo at Agriculture, with background in the sector and having worked in a sister ministry (Fisheries and Livestock), gives him an upper hand to deliver.
As we may all agree, the Agriculture ministry was limping, especially with the problems that dogged the e-voucher system, payment of farmers and armyworms challenges.
As we are in the process of implementing the Seventh National Development Plan in sink with global efforts of sustainable development, Zambia needs to grow its purse to finance key socio-economic sectors and capital projects.
With detachment of the bulk of projects from Works and Supply to the newly-formed Infrastructure Development docket, I’m sure Mr Mutati will not have much to do “next door”.
Due to the significance of mining, President Lungu felt it necessary to bring in someone with mining experience and a touch of the labour movement background, Richard Musukwa.
Having also served as deputy minister at Mines, he is a good fit. It’s worth acknowledging that the mining companies have had labour issues, especially Konkola Copper Mines with its workers’ stand-offs. It is, therefore, hoped Mr Musukwa will bring in his wide experience in the sector to reignite it.
Without doubt, Petauke legislator Dora Siliya is a perfect fit at Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services. With her background, knowledge of the industry and eloquence, no one can question have capabilities to handle the demands of the ministry and most importantly the role of Chief Government Spokesperson. Nevertheless, she will still have a lot of work going by the unresolved labour impasse at public broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, and a poor balance sheet at Times of Zambia and to some extent at the Zambia Daily Mail.
The Zambia News and Information Service (ZANIS) does not seem to have sufficient resources to effectively operate.
Perhaps, the minister will have to find ways to make ZANIS and all State- media to generate significant resources for their operations.
Andre Nkunika, as permanent secretary, legislative drafting Ministry of Justice, is a perfect fit as he has sufficient experience in the same ministry.
Mr Nkunika has risen through the ranks and I think he sufficiently understands the needs of the ministry, legislation drafting – which is his area of expertise – the prevailing legal/constitutional environment prevailing in the country, particularly the lacunas in the current 2016 Constitution, which might require refining.
With these changes, all ministers and permanent secretaries are on alert, hence they will be compelled to work extra hard to remain relevant and keep their jobs.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.