A wonderful article by Neo Simutanyi that tickes many boxes on the key issues we have discussed here with respect to traditional leadership and development. Yes, its a bit short on actual proposals, but it does well to highlight the many inconsistencies within our system that need reconciliation as the National Constitution Conference continue to deliberate. Excerpts:
I have a lot of problems with the policy to grant car loans to chiefs in a context where the role of chiefs in Zambia’s governance system is ill-defined. Are chiefs public officers accountable to the Minister of Local Government and Housing or traditional representatives of their people at the local level? How much are chiefs paid to be able to service a car loan in excess of K80 million? It is common knowledge that chiefs’ allowances are so meagre that they are not even able to survive on them. One only needs to visit some chiefs’ palaces across the country to appreciate the fact. some of them live in destitution and their palaces are in states of disrepair.
However, those known to have been supportive of the ruling party have benefited greatly from the government’s largesse. Some chiefs still remember how former president Frederick Titus Chiluba showered them with ‘presents’ and feted them in prestigious hotels in the capital, especially at the height of the third term campaign. In 2006, some chiefs complained that they had not received as much financial rewards from the current incumbent of State House compared to his predecessor.
It is clear to me that the relationship between the government and chiefs is not based on a coherent policy. Chiefs have come to be considered as an important tool for the mobilisation of the people, especially during elections. Their integration into the policy formulation and implementation process has been minimal. For example, a closer examination of the Decentralisation Policy does not provide for a visible role of chiefs in local governance and development. research has revealed that chiefs would like to play an important role in supervising development programmes in their chiefdoms, but feel that they have been largely marginalised by the government and governmental agencies.
Why has public policy not formally incorporated chiefs in policy formulation and implementation? Why are chiefs only considered important for purposes of mobilising the vote? What is the public attitude towards chiefs’ role in local governance? Is the present structure of chieftaincy, whereby chiefs ascend to the throne by appointment and not election consistent to a democratic political order? These may be uncomfortable questions but require honest answers, if the role of chiefs in Zambia is to be meaningful. There is no unanimity as to the extent to which chiefs should be integrated into the modern political system.
....As our delegates deliberate the new constitution, it is important that the role of chiefs in our governance is clearly defined. To pay chiefs salaries and even give them car loans when they are not public officers is difficult to fathom. We have to reach a consensus as to what role chiefs can play in the local governance system and how the institution of chieftancy can be adapted to a modern democratic dispensation.
During the colonial period, chiefs were an extension of the colonial administrative apparatus and had defined functions. If chiefs have to be paid from the public treasury and even access benefits such as car loans, they are public officers and it is important that they become integrated into our local government system. The current Decentralisation Implementation Plan (DIP) should address itself to evolving a more meaningful role for chiefs in local governance.