Transparency International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka says PF Secretary General Davies Mwila is ill qualified to supervise ministers as he does not even attend Cabinet meetings.

Lifuka was responding to a press query on Mwila’s statement that as chief executive officer of the ruling party he had the authority to summon any minister or mayor to question them when they make wrong decisions because he is third in government hierarchy.

“We want to urge Mr Davies Mwila and the ruling party to desist the temptation of taking this country back to the inglorious days of the Party and its Government. Unless, things have changed, we know that Mr Mwila does not have the privilege of sitting in cabinet meetings where key decisions are made and he may therefore be ill qualified to supervise Ministers. Similarly, Mr. Mwila does not serve in any of the Councils and may not be privy to the decision making of the councils, and it is a bit presumptuous for him to assume functions and responsibilities of summoning Mayors and Deputy Mayors for the work that they are doing. Let us assume that the basis of this decision is because PF sponsored the candidature of the Mayor or Deputy Mayor and hence has authority to summon them whenever necessary, is Mr Mwila saying it will be perfectly in order for the UPND or MMD where they control the council, to summon and supervise the Mayors or Chairpersons who are their members?” Lifuka asked.

“We are sure that the PF will be the first ones to condemn such opposition parties for interfering in the operations of local government. And is it any wonder that party cadres have taken up the cue and feel duty bound to order around public servants and basically interfere in the operations of government? Let us also assume that the people who were unfortunately affected by the demolition of their stands and confiscation of goods by Lusaka City Council were known cadres from an opposition political party, would Mr Mwila have felt the same urge to summon the Deputy Mayor to his office? Need we remind Mr Mwila that sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.”

Lifuka stated that democracy entailed that elected leaders were answerable to the people.

“We wish to underscore that political intimidation of this nature, undermines the confidence of duty bearers and makes them subservient only to the party and not the people they serve. The Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Councillors, Ministers etc, should firstly be more concerned about meeting the aspirations of the people than the party- that should be their number one priority. The narrative presently from what Mr Mwila stated, suggests that the people only have a symbolic influence through their vote and they are of no consequence thereafter, their elected leaders serve at the pleasure of the party. This is essentially what is wrong with our democracy and the root cause of all the corruption that we see today,” he stated.

“While it is acknowledged that political parties play a key role in shaping a political manifesto, sponsoring candidates in an election and subsequently forming government, the role of the party members who end up serving in Government at both local and central levels, assumes a national character which demands for a new form of accountability. Cabinet Ministers, Mayors and all other elected leaders, do not serve narrow political interests but assume responsibility for institutions of government, which are at the service of all nationals, regardless of their political party affiliation. Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Councillors, just like Members of Parliament, do not serve in their positions as party operatives, but as elected representatives of the people. Once an election has been declared, the winning candidate becomes the people’s representative. It follows therefore that in a representative democracy such as ours, these leaders should be accountable to the people first and foremost and not to a political club. After all, the guardians of democracy are the people and not necessarily a political party.”

And Lifuka noted that corruption and lack of transparency thrived in environments where leaders lacked clear roles and responsibilities.

“We note with concern that corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, thrives in an environment where roles and responsibilities are not clearly stated or deliberately obfuscated. It is our contention that the day to day oversight functions of Cabinet Ministers, Mayors or Councillors should be outside the purview of the ruling party, as this will be a recipe for confusion in the discharge of important functions. It is our considered view that Cabinet Ministers, Mayors, and other elected or appointed leaders, should be given the latitude to serve their roles professionally and to the best of their abilities without unnecessarily being overwhelmed with many layers of reporting,” he said.

“It is our expectation and in line with the Constitution, specifically Article 116, that the appointing authority for Ministers, who is the President, will or should adequately provide direction on their performance and conduct. It begs the question why a party Secretary General, would want to supervise Ministers, outside the current system of supervision by the President and Vice President. Is this a power grabbing exercise? Is this an expression of inadequacies by the President and Vice President to supervise Cabinet Ministers? Similarly, the Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Councillors, are expected to act in accordance with Article 157 of the Constitution which invokes them to collectively and individually be accountable to the national government and residents in their wards and districts for the performance of their functions,” Lifuka stated.

He said apart from the Executive, the National Assembly also had supervisory role over Cabinet ministers and not the party.

“We do appreciate that the Constitution, also provides further avenues to hold Cabinet Ministers accountable through the National Assembly. Specifically, Article 87 of the Constitution, is instructive as it provides for a Vote of Censure of Cabinet and Provincial Ministers by the National Assembly for dissatisfactory performance,” stated Lifuka.