African parliaments must aggressively push for a two-thirds parliamentary majority to authorize contraction of new public debt to arrest the mounting crisis engulfing countries, says Liuwa UPND member of parliament Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane.
And Dr Musokotwane has observed that Africa’s youth in the modern era are “too comfortable” to challenge governments on the rising debt problem burdening the continent.
Addressing questions during an OSISA SADC debt conference, Dr Musokotwane observed that currently, the Executive branch of government could easily override the simple majority procedure, which allowed for further, unnecessary contraction of public debt.
“When we are talking about the debt situation in Africa, we have to realize that there are some countries where you are already under the water, you are bankrupt. So, the discussion that we should be having then is: how do we get out? There are some countries, which are still above the water, and perhaps the discussion then should be: what do you do to avoid getting under the water? So, what is the role of members of parliament in all this? For those countries that are not yet under the water, I see the following steps: the first one is if, indeed, in your country there are no laws that empower Parliament to check the Executive in terms of what they should do in terms of borrowing, please, members of civil society, push very hard for those laws to be enacted,” Dr Musokotwane urged.
“Secondly, I would say that don’t just remain at the level of saying ‘the laws have been enacted.’ I would say agitate for the level of adoption by Parliament to be at least two-thirds majority. I think in many of countries, the laws might be there, but it’s only by simple majority. Simple majority is very easy for government to overcome. So, I think it is better to lift it to something like two-thirds majority so that it becomes a little bit harder for the Executive to borrow recklessly.”
And Dr Musokotwane bemoaned that Africa’s youth in the modern era were “too comfortable” to challenge governments on the rising debt problem burdening the continent.
“All the bad things in a country are for everybody. Let me remind you that, in Zambia, for example, Kenneth Kaunda, when he finally became (Republican) President was only 40 so; he started, maybe, when he was 20. What I see is the present generation of youth being very comfortable in their approach to things. The fight to reintroduce multipartyism in Zambia in the 1980s and 1990s, it was the youth who were agitating. This is why I say that the youth, today, need to pull up their socks and be more active,” advised Dr Musokotwane.
“And the issues of mental change, social activism. The debt relief of the 1990s, it was not just championed by MPs, in fact, civil society were at the core of that effort that led to debt write-offs. We had things like Jubilee 2000 and many others; they petitioned Parliament in Europe, UK, everywhere and this is what shook members of parliament in those countries to say: ‘well, this is what our citizens want’ and this is how they changed. So, it is an engagement for all of us to talk about this disease, to make activism for this disease.”