Analysis: SUNDAY CHANDA
AS THE election campaigns for mayor of Lusaka intensify, one cannot help but cringe at the level of naïve ignorance and illusions of grandeur particularly from opposition candidates and their supporters.From the way they are going about their witless pie-in-the sky “promises”, one would think the office of mayor of Lusaka works arbitrarily by decree to the exclusion of all other officials in both central and local government.
They need to wake up and smell the coffee! The office of the Mayor of Lusaka should be viewed realistically in its collective context in relation to other stakeholders.
WHAT IS THE LUSAKA CITY COUNCIL?
The Lusaka City Council, like other district and city councils, is a body corporate entity created by an Act of Parliament and governed by the Local Government Act, Cap 281 of the Laws of Zambia.
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE COUNCIL?
The council is legally established as an agent of the central government in the promotion of social, political and economic development to the lowermost level.
The numerous economic and social functions of the council are too many to be outlined in a brief article as this one. However, the Local Government Act in Section 61 lists more than 60 functions of Local Authorities such as Lusaka City Council. More functions are disseminated in Cabinet Office Circulars such as No. 10 of 2002.
WHO COMPRISES THE LUSAKA CITY COUNCIL?
The council comprises a political and policy-making side on one hand, and an administrative arm that executes policy on the other.
The political side led by the mayor consists of all the six elected members of Parliament from the constituencies in Lusaka and 33 ward councillors as well as two representatives appointed by all the chiefs in Lusaka.
(It is important to note that all the six elected members of Parliament in Lusaka as well as all the 33 elected councillors, except one from UPND, who is currently facing suspension and criminal charges in court , represent the ruling Patriotic Front).
The administrative part is headed by the town clerk who oversees eight directors, representing eight directors representing eight departments, which include engineering services and City Planning Finance, Legal Services, Human Resource and Administration. Others are Housing and Social Services, public health, as well as Valuation and Real Estate Management department.
However, after consultation with the council, the minister may, by statutory order, alter the number of councillors of which local authorities like the Lusaka City council consists.
DOES THE MAYOR OF LUSAKA WORK IN ISOLATION?
The answer is an emphatic No! The mayor does not work in isolation but is part of a group that comprises the “council”. The Lusaka City Council acts as agents in implementing the policy of central government to the lowest level under the principal leadership of the President of the Republic of Zambia, in this case His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
Consequently, the mayor and council policy is informed by overarching central government policy and programming such as the Local Government Policy and the Seventh National Development Plan.
Penny drop moment! The amended constitution does not provide for an “executive mayor” as the uninformed opposition candidates and their supporters seem to believe. It cannot be overemphasised that the mayor is part of a “council” and consequently cannot and does not make arbitrary decisions.
Article 26 (1) of the act states: “…Any question proposed for decision by a council shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the councillors present and voting at a meeting of the council at which a quorum is present.” As can be deduced from the foregoing, whatever plans the mayor may have, they require the endorsement of a quorum before they can be implemented.
WHAT THEN IS THE ROLE OF THE MAYOR?
As cited earlier, the mayor is the political head of the council and the following are his/her functions as per amended constitution:-
Superintend over policy making;
Ensure the preparation of the annual budget and implementation plan;
Ensure the preparation and implementation of the strategic plan; and community and district development plans;
Ensure the development and design of economic development programmes;
Ensure the developments and implementation of robust performance management system;
Promote citizen engagement and participation; and
Preside over council meetings and ceremonial functions
What attributes should the best Candidate have to carry out the above functions?
The office of mayor of the capital city of Zambia is very senior management position which requires a corporate savvy individual with project management, finance and local government experience. Lusaka mayoral elections should thus not be trivialised and reduced to a celebrity popularity contest or populist variety show.
Out of the nine candidates, who is best suited?
Mr Miles Sampa is the most suitably qualified candidate. The mayor’s office should not be trivialised and experimented by reducing it to a celebrity variety show. A Patriotic Front mayor working with Patriotic Front Members of Parliament, together with Patriotic Front ward councillors means everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and pulling in the same direction.
On the other hand, an opposition mayor will sing a different song and bring drudgery and discord. Besides, former Matero Member of Parliament Miles Sampa has the requisite local government and top level corporate experience and business acumen.
President Lungu and the Patriotic Front are poised to continue putting miles of smiles in Lusaka and across the nation.
The author is Patriotic Front media director.
Analysis: SUNDAY CHANDA