Former deputy minister in the Ministry of Energy Charles Zulu says he strongly supports the National Dialogue Forum proposal to reintroduce deputy ministers, contrary to the position of the PF central committee.
And Zulu says some government ministries have not been effective because ministers are overwhelmed with work.
In an interview, Zulu, who is also Luangeni PF member of parliament, said he expected ministers to be in the forefront of supporting the proposal because they knew how much work was involved in their various ministries.
“The issue of us (NDF delegates) resolving that the position of deputy minister should be reinstated, which for me I agree and support 100 per cent, of course, I respect those people who are saying that we should look at austerity measures. It’s true we are looking at austerity measures and government has done its best. You find ministers not travelling anyhow, permanent secretaries have been banned from travelling and a lot of things have happened. We are also putting in measures to ensure that we pay back the debt and I respect those measures which government has put in place. But to say that we cannot reintroduce the position of deputy ministers as a way of saving resources, for me I don’t agree,” Zulu said.
“This position of deputy minister started way back in the UNIP era where deputy ministers were called ministers of state. From there, Chiluba took over government and maintained the position but just changed from minister of state to deputy minister. After Chiluba, came Mwanawasa and he maintained the position, Rupiah Banda did the same and Michael Sata. When President Edgar Lungu took over, he maintained the position of deputy minister and even went a step further and allowed us to attend Cabinet meetings. He wanted proper service delivery and maybe even preparing us to take over ministries but at the end of the day, it’s the president who decides those positions. So from history, we’ve had this position since time immemorial.”
Zulu said even countries whose economies were not performing well had maintained the position.
“If you talk about austerity measures, look at countries around us, whose economies are not as good as ours but they have deputy ministers. You go to school, you will find a headteacher and a deputy head, government ministries have permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries. Go to Parliament, you will find the Speaker of the National Assembly with two deputies. Now, look at a minister who runs the whole country, for instance, Minister of Home Affairs who is in charge of police, correctional services, immigration, Registrar of Societies and in charge of all these sensitive government departments and then you are saying he should not have an assistant or deputy? Why is it only a minister who is not supposed to have a deputy? We are looking at project implementation here. That is why some of the ministries are not effective because ministers are overwhelmed. There is just too much work,” he said.
And Zulu said the country was not saving much since deputy ministers were removed.
“And I strongly think that the ones that are supposed to be supporting this are ministers who know what goes on in a ministry. As a former deputy minister, I worked with three ministers; Honourable Yamfwa Mukanga, Honourable Christopher Yaluma and Honourable Dora Siliya but you saw me I was all over the country commissioning projects, monitoring projects with Rural Electrification Authority and Zesco. I was all over the country sorting out fuel depots in Mongu monitoring construction of fuel depots in Solwezi, Mpika meanwhile, the minister was in the office, busy with other things. Much as we are looking at austerity measures, I think we should be very careful because these austerity measures should not be at the expense of project implementation. As a country, we must look at how to support the office of deputy minister and give the office more power, more authority and more teeth. I don’t think we will save much by avoiding the office of deputy minister,” said Zulu.