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Friday, 29 January 2010

A Million Words

That is the name of the Zambian Economist New Year Resolution. This year our collective target is to read every piece of legislation passed in Parliament. As part of this exercise, we'll regularly review and summarise the key proposals.

As I reflect on previous years, I have been struck by how many poor laws we have. But even more puzzling was that not many people read these important pieces of legislation Parliament regularly churns out. In a small way, we are hoping to help change that attitude with the" million words project".


  1. Cool. I'm looking forward to it.

  2. The monitoring of bills is absolutely essential, but it is the policy and legislative formulation process - which is so worrying, as outlined by Palan Mulonda (Mulonda 2003, p.5).

    There are four stages in formulating policy: formulation, adoption, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Unfortunately, there are severe systemic weaknesses in this process:

    (i) Article 50 of the Constitution empowers Cabinet to advise the President, to formulate policy and to assign responsibility for policy to the executive, a highly centralized process
    (ii) Policy procedures are the function of an internal executive act, with no requirement for consultation with non-Government stakeholders or civil society
    (iii) Those who formulate and evaluate policy are all state operatives

    This process ensures that policy which is not in the public interest can be gerrymanded, resulting in both flawed legal instruments and legislation, and legislation biased against the disenfranchised, the poor and illiterate. Some of the flaws are:

    (i) There is virtually no information exchange between Government and the governed, the procedures in place to arrive at statutory instruments, bills and the passage of legislation are screened from public view, and may rapidly pass into law unless newspapers happen to take an interest.
    (ii) Once an issue or instrument has passed to Cabinet, it is regarded as top secret and no public debate or scrutiny is possible, unless authorized. In addition, consultation is restricted to line ministries, and scrutiny to the Legal Committee of Cabinet.
    Article 44 (3) (b) of the Constitution gives the Executive, through the President, power to initiate laws for consideration by the National Assembly. Legislation formulation is therefore an executive act.

    MULONDA, PALAN. 2003. Legal Framework, Policy and Legislative Processes. In: Report on the forum on natural resource management policies and legislation, CONASA/USAID, Lusaka.

  3. Zambian Economist undertakes during 2010 to review every piece of legislation passed by Parliament, and to review and summarise the key proposals. An excellent New Year resolution! But publicity is an ending: but how about the beginning?

    What we need most of all is to be able to study bills BEFORE they are debated. To see them AFTER they have become law is too late. Members of the public need to be able to consider draft legislation before it is debated by Parliament, so they can comment, perhaps in the press, and lobby for or against it.

    Indeed, MPs themselves ought to insist on seeing draft legislation at least 3 months before a bill comes up for debate. How else can they have time

    a)to study it,
    b)to consult their constituents, and
    c)to obtain advice from experts in the areas to be affected?

    Chosanganga makes some excellent points. To comment further on supplementary legislation, ‘statutory instruments’ should not become law until they have been laid before Parliament for a sufficient period for MPs to examine them, consult those affected, and comment on them.

    Have these aspects been covered by the Constitutional Commission?


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