Zambia must abandon some British practices – Sacika

Former Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Sketchley Sacika has observed that the constituency based system of holding Parliamentary elections is less democratic, unrepresentative of political opinion and too expensive to run.

And Dr Sacika has called for the abolishment of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) because it was initially meant to be a bribe to members of parliament and it has been highly politicized.

In an interview, Dr Sacika noted that the system of holding by-elections whenever there is a vacancy in Parliament is an unnecessary drain on the country’s meagre resources.

Dr Sacika said Zambia needed to do away with certain systems that were initiated during the British colonial rule and adopt something more democratic and financially viable.

“Our system of electing members of parliament is too expensive for nothing. Holding by-elections whenever there is a vacancy in Parliament is an unnecessary drain on the meagre resources available to the State. Zambia must grow and do away with certain systems that were given to us by the British. The constituency based Parliamentary system is not only too expensive to run but it is also less democratic and unrepresentative of a political opinion in Parliament,” Dr Sacika said.

“Imagine a member of parliament who is elected from a constituency with only 20 per cent of the votes cast, how can such a person claim to represent a constituency where 80 per cent of the constituency did not vote for him? My very strong appeal is that we must move away from the constituency based system of electing members of parliament and adopt a system of proportional representation, which has proved to be more democratic, successful and less expensive to run in countries where the system is in operation.”

Dr Sacika said the proportional representation system of electing members of parliament could do well for Zambia because it’s less costly.

“Under this system, there will be no need for Parliamentary by-elections because the filling of vacancies in Parliament will be by nomination. Moreover, small political parties under the system of proportional representation will be able to send people to Parliament if they reach a certain threshold of political support in the country and this will enhance our democracy. Zambians should not be spending huge sums of money, like we are doing right now on a system of electing members of parliament which is very expensive. If Zambia adopted a system of proportional representation, we would cut expenditure on elections by more than 50% and that money could go to maintaining our education and health sectors. Why are we spending K2 billion to run one parliamentary by-election? It’s not making sense at all,” Dr Sacika said.

“So my appeal is that let us move away from the present system, let us embrace a system which is less expensive to run. The British gave us this system we are using now, but it is not the best system at all. Let us try the other system which the German’s and other people have using and let’s see how it works for us.”

And Dr Sacika called for the abolishment of CDF.

“In the ongoing Parliamentary by-elections in Sesheke, candidates are promising all sorts of things as a way of wooing the voters to vote for them. But all their promises are lies that will never be implemented, and unfortunately, even ministers have joined the queue of making promises they know they cannot fulfill. It is time we put an end to this issue by changing the system of electing our members of parliament. Politics is not about telling lies and Zambians must know this, the politicians must tell the truth. If we reduce politics to telling lies then we are finished as a people. The job description for members of parliament is clearly stated in the constitution. Members of parliament are law makers and not supervisors of local projects in their constituencies,” said Dr Sacika.

“The role of seeing to it that the roads are paved , boreholes are sunk and social amenities are provided in constituencies belongs to local councils where the voters are represented by local councilors. But what is the role of ward councilors if members of parliament are the ones attending to local projects in constituencies? The Constituency Development Fund (CDF) was meant to be a bribe to members of parliament and the fund has not worked well because it has been highly politicized. The Constituency Development Fund should therefore be abolished, instead the central government should increase its statutory grant to district councils for their development projects.”

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Mutonya
Mutonya

Although I agree with the comments on cost, I don’t think the alternative being suggested is cheaper. Sketchley was part of the MMD government that ignored calls for a new constitution and I find his comments disingenuous. What we need is a complete revision of the constitution. There’s need to balance power through systems, not individuals. The system he proposes will do little to stop sick individuals running for office. We need an honest debate on this issue.

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