Local Government Minister Nkandu Luo recently banned the alcoholic beverages packed in sachets known as “Tujilijili". Her actions continue to demonstrate a poverty in policy making that has come to characterise many Government administrations in Zambia. The problem is not that the ban has no wide public support, the problem is the lack of cost benefit analysis evidence and crucially the failure to consult widely.
The councils have been the first to signal the measure as inept. Lusaka City Council recently suggested it wont be able to enforce the ban because it has no financial capacity to do so. It is appealing for government to help the council by beefing up manpower through provision of state police. But where is Government going to get the money from? No cost benefit analysis has clearly been done on this. The ban is typical political posturing with zero practical effect. Presumably the idea of the ban is to encourage people to come together and buy whiskey in bottles. May be its a community initiative to encourage oneness! The sad thing is that it will simply stretch an already over stretched police.
No surprise therefore that the proposals are now before the courts. 15 liquor companies have challenged the Government’s decision to ban the manufacture and supply of Tujilijili in the High Court. The liquor firms filed a notice of application for leave to apply for judicial review over the ban on the beverage. Which has now been granted though the ban has not been set aside.
According to the application, the liquor firms contended that Professor Luo’s decision to revoke the liquor licences was procedurally improper, illegal and was a breach of rules of natural justice. The minister, they said, breached rules of natural justice when she arbitrarily revoked the licences. They contended that they came into Zambia at varying times but between 2002 and 2011 and were given investment licences by the Zambia Development Agency after meeting the mandatory minimum requirement of US$500, 000. They employ 1, 000 people directly and about 10, 000 indirectly. The firms said the decision had far-reaching consequences of job losses, creditors losing their monies and loss of revenue on the part of the Government.
All of these issues could have been avoided had the ban come through with wider public debate and careful reasoning. But here is a more important point - why is this ban being taken forward by Ministry of Local Government? Under the law she certainly has the power to do so through the provision of her local "statutory instruments". But these powers are too arbitrary and risk perpetual abuse without sufficient parliamentary scrutiny. The vast implication of this measures for police means that such measures must have wide public and parliamentary debate before putting them into laws.