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Thursday, 15 January 2009

NCC Discussion Updates (Ministries)

The NCC has proposed that creation and reduction of ministries by the President should be ratified by Parliament. In theory this is welcome to avoid the sort of increase in the size of government that many of us have bemoaned (see here and here). In practice, the idea of ratification within the current legislative framework is pointless because the Executive has so much sway over the legislature. Parliament has yet to impose itself effectively over any appointments, and nearly always just follows what the President decides. So I doubt this will eliminate the sort of waste that the NCC presumably want to discourage.

That aside, atleast the NCC now appear to have eliminated one of the major flaws in the current
Mungomba Draft Constitution . The current draft stipulate the optimal size of Government for all occassions (see sections 152 - 157). The draft makes it clear that there should be positions of Deputy Ministers and Provincial Ministers. As I have argued in the past, it would be good to see some flexibility in the final constitution that allows any incoming Government to define for itself what it regards as the optimal size of Government - assuming it can justify those positions. Government structures need to be flexible and allow for positions to emerge as well as disappear.


  1. Government structures need to be flexible and allow for positions to emerge as well as disappear.

    At the same time, it has been tradition to 'reward' political supporters with positions they aren't suited for. Then, there is the incentive for elected officials to put as many loyalists in positions of power as they can, to minimize opposition to their policies.

    The problem is that Zambia cannot afford the present 29 or so ministries, and all the duplication of tasks and ceremonial positions.

    I think they are a big cause of the permanent inflation of the economy.

  2. Vernon Mwaanga’s Obsession with Larger Parliament

    The current news that the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) legislative committee has proposed to increase seats for Members of Parliament from 150 to 250 makes very sad reading, especially that it is coming at a time when tens of thousands of Grade 7 and Grade 9 students have continued to be spilled onto the streets every year, the healthcare system cannot meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens, the majority of Zambians have no access to clean water and electricity, a critical shortage of decent public housing has compelled so many of our fellow citizens to live in shanty townships nationwide, public infrastructure and services are still deficient, civil servants are still not adequately compensated for their services, crime and unemployment are still widespread, and, among many other socio-economic ills, taxes and interest rates are still high.

    Zambia cannot afford MMD Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga’s suggestion that 200 should be elected MPs, 40 MPs should be from interest groups, and 10 MPs should be nominated by the Republican president.

    Rather than increase the number of MPs, we should actually be considering the prospect of reducing the number and restricting their functions to legislative matters. Parliament would still be representative and able to function effectively as the legislative organ of our national government with only 72 elected MPs, for example – so that 1 MP could be elected from each of the existing 72 districts. Also, the Republican president does not really need to nominate 8 people to the National Assembly. Why not 5 or less?

    We should emulate countries like the United States of America, where over 320 million citizens are represented by 100 Senators, with 2 Senators elected from each of the country’s 50 states. And the Senators’ functions are restricted to law-making.

    Comrade Mwaanga seems to be overly obsessed with the idea of increasing the size of Parliament. He advanced the same idea before he was sacked by the late Levy Mwanawasa. He should be stopped before he manages to push a costly agenda to be included in the Republican constitution.

    We should be thinking about how the unprecedented levels of poverty in the country can be reduced rather than attending to Vernon Mwaanga’s obsession.

  3. What has the number of MPs has to do with the constitution? Dont we already have the so called Delimitation committee that meets every decade to decide on the new number of constituncies once the census results are established? My dear God what has the number of MPs have to do with the constitution? What are the implications of this? Arent we then going to be forced to repeatedly repel of the constitution just to accomodate the rise in the population? Is Mwaanga and the people in that NCC committee so ignorant of the laws that they are supposed to reengineer?

  4. It is on the Lusaka Times. How can these individuals continually argue that 'there are limited resources' or say 'we don't have the money', when they obviously do. When the MMD wastes $100 million on the NCC, and then VJ Mwaanga suggests we need more MPs, but does not argue for more teachers, you know these are people who are in it for themselves. How much can I get, not what is good for the nation.

    From the Lusaka Times:

    NCC proposes an increase of an additional 100 parliamentary seats
    January 17, 2009

    Vernon Mwaanga (r) talks to mines minister Maxwell Mwale
    THE National Constitutional Conference legislative committee has proposed to increase seats for members of Parliament from 150 to 250.

    The proposals were made during the committee’s sitting at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.

    MMD Chief Whip Vernon Mwaanga submitted to committee chairperson Mutale Nalumango that 200 should be elected MPs, 40 from interest groups and 10 should be nominated.

    “When making this Constitution, we should be futuristic. Ten years from now Zambia’s population will not be the same, so, we should look at increasing the number of seats for MPs,” Mr Mwaanga said.


  5. Frank,

    Arent we then going to be forced to repeatedly repel of the constitution just to accomodate the rise in the population?

    That would not be my objection. The founders wanted to constitution to be a living document, up for review and renewal.

    My problem is that these central government politicians only think of increasing their own power and budgets. They do not consider the effect of greater bloat on governance itself.

    I agree with Professor Kyambalesa, that MPs should be restricted to legislation and representing their constituency in parliament. Development and day to day basic services should really be put into the hands of local government.


    We should be thinking about how the unprecedented levels of poverty in the country can be reduced rather than attending to Vernon Mwaanga’s obsession.

    There always seems to be enough money to increase the size of government, or to hold a $100 million NCC. But there never is enough money to hire more teachers, or upgrade the roads.

    I think it is not a matter of too little money, or 'limited resources' as is often quoted, but misplaced priorities. And these priorities are misplaced because of the emphasis on central government.

    The political elite are behaving as if only they matter - and I'm sure in their minds they do. The ordinary people are just there to vote once every 5 years, and they get to rig the elections. Levy Mwanawasa even referred to 'the so-called popular will'.

    When it comes down to it, there is too much distance between MPs and the people. Literal distance, but also financial distance, and cultural distance.

    And where is the IMF in all of this? Why has the IMF, even when it pushed through austerity measures (SAP) that kicked children out of school and reduced access to healthcare, why has the IMF never insisted that Zambia reduce it's 29 or so ministries? Why did they never demand good corporate governance and transparancy from the western corporations (mining companies mainly) that do business in Zambia or anywhere else in Africa?

  6. Frank and MrK,

    Thank you for your observations.

    It seems Mwaanga is tricky enough to hoodwink Zambians into adopting a costly idea that seems to be the sponsor's desire to leave a "good" legacy after decades of public service that is punctuated by personal embarrassments and partisan politics.

  7. MrK,

    Thanks for that paper.

    I will bring to the wider attention. I think it deserves a good discussion!

  8. I will be the first to admit to being amazed by the marvelous profusion of forms that legitimate (in the eyes of the governed that is) democracy can and has taken in various times, on various scales and in various locations around the globe. From the lottery draft of the Athenian Senate, to the Unanimous Village Democracy traditional to the People's of Panama (and yes, they will sit there until everyone is satisfied). There are a great many ways to achieve representation, when trying to compress the sum of a nation into a single room, and a single voice at a time. What we must expect is the same as was offered at the founding of the Roman Republic, not the best possible government, but the best that you will accept.

    This is what is at the heart of the cynical proposal to expand the size of the legislature to 250 seats. The increase itself is not nearly as outrageous as the proposal to set aside not only 10 (Ten) seats for distribution at the President's pleasure (in what way is this representative of anything other than the preference of the executive?), but a further 40 (Forty) seats to so-called "interest groups". Each of these "groups" are likely to be quite thrilled with their opportunity to bypass the rest of the population and leap straight into the halls of power, no doubt this is the carrot intended to carry the proposal over the fifty percent margin. After all, it is designed to place a full 20% of the votes on every issue ever to face the country forever firmly in the hands of people the sitting government has determined are "representative" of some "interest group". This stretches the definition of democracy past the breaking point in my opinion.

    I don't care who these proposed "groups" are. I don't care how underrepresented they may be within the current governmental make up. We have in the last year witnessed a majority of women in the Rwandan legislature, a blind governor in New York, record numbers of amputees in office in various countries thanks in large part to the Iraq War (but props to Special Olympics!), and of course the election of Barack Obama and all the "firsts" which he personally encompasses. Don't tell me that you need a constitutional provision before you can make a meaningful contribution to society. Don't tell me that you have that little faith in your children and children's children that the inequalities of today will be exactly the same in a distant tomorrow. Such a vision is unworthy of a Constitutional process.

    True constituencies for democracy want nothing more or less than equality under the law. No self-respecting democrat would ever accept unelected appointment to represent "interests" rather than voters. This is a perversion, plain and simple. To want to increase the size of the potential pool of patronage is one thing. To do so with such blatant disregard for the appearance of propriety, to go so far as to use the phrase "interest groups" when speaking of permanent entrenchment of power, such pandering is simply insulting to all who view it. I hope that the NCC will reject this ridiculously undemocratic proposal, and all similar proposals that seek to establish appointive positions on a par with elected ones, without hesitation.


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