The same paper on "tribalism and elections" has an interesting statement by SACCORD Executive Director Lee Habasonda :
I agree with the second statement, but it also negates the first statement. If you appoint people on merit then on what basis are you appointing people on their tribe? You can't have both unless all the people have equal ability where merit then becomes unnecessary. But the chances of finding two people with exactly the same ability is remote. In any case by appointing someone based on tribe you are recognising they have something that the candidate from a different tribe doesn't have. In short, you are in effect implying that part of their capabilities includes their tribal identity.There is nothing wrong with tribal balancing; as a matter of fact it should be encouraged by all means, as long as it is done in the interest of the nation by ensuring that suitable candidates are given such positions. There is equally nothing wrong with a leader appointing his or her fellow tribes men and women as long as these are qualified for those particular positions and as long as these appointments are fairly done so that they do not alienate other tribes.
That said I have a bigger problem than merely Mr Habasonda's logical inconsistency. More worrying is the statement that "it should be encouraged by all means". This is poor reasoning because apart from being impossible at the cabinet level (we have 72 tribes), it also suggests that he missed some civics classes in Grade 8! He has confused the nature of the three branches of government.
The issue of representation has nothing to do with the Executive branch of government. The question of "representation" is one which relates to the Legislature. The representation of the local people in government decisions is reflected by the composition of MPs in the National Assembly. They principally fulfil this role through making laws on behalf of their constituency ("legislative function"). They also have an additional function of representing the views of their constituency to Parliament e.g. special problems they are facing which the Executive branch has failed to address ("advocacy function"). It is not the role of Executive to "represent the local people", since in a well functioning society such functions would be performed by an effective Legislature. The MP's role is to ensure that the local preferences are fully reflected in national decisions. These are not arguments I expect the State House to make, they are on too many trips to think of such, but I do expect an NGO with wider international exposure to carefully weigh what they say. Unless we start thinking properly on these issues, we are in danger of plunging our country in chaos. Every tribe will demand a seat on the cabinet table.Encouraging the Executive to be representative is not only dangerous but it grossly miseducates our people on how government functions.
If people feel they are not well represented they should direct their effort on two areas. First, ensure the Legislature is adequately representative and is holding the Executive to account. When you have a well functioning Legislature and Judiciary you wont care on about the misplaced need for a representative Executive. Secondly, we should push for greater efforts to devolve power from the centre. The issue here is devolving governance. We must look at the current system of governance and dream of better and more coherent system of governance, where people are able to get involved in shaping their destiny. In my view the cries for national tribal balancing within the Executive are not only fuelled by ignorance but also desperation - people don't feel they are being heard in policy making. A key way to begin to resolve this to devolve more power to the local level. A starting point should be what I have called A traditional approach to Zambia's development.