Former Secretary to the Cabinet Sketchley Sacika has advised government to immediately stop the ongoing delimitation of constituencies, wards and polling stations, saying Zambia does not have enough money to sustain a bloated National Assembly.

Sacika instead asked President Edgar Lungu to scale down the size of his Cabinet even as he awaits results from incumbent Secretary to Cabinet Dr Simon Miti, whom he directed to work out measures of reducing the cost of running government when he addressed Parliament a fortnight ago.

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) commenced the delimitation of constituencies, wards and polling districts in July this year, with a view to mapping and realigning electoral boundaries in readiness for the 2021 general election.

ECZ chairperson Justice Esau Chulu, who launched the exercise at a press conference in Lusaka, explained that the process scheduled to be completed in November would also involve establishing new polling stations wherever necessary in addition to the creation and renaming of constituencies, wards and polling districts.

But in an interview with News Diggers!, Sacika said there was no need for the ECZ to create more constituencies in the country because the effectiveness of Parliament was not dependent on the number of elected members.

He added that the country did not even have enough money to sustain a bloated National Assembly.

“President Lungu’s speech in Parliament, directing Secretary to the Cabinet (Dr Simon Miti) to take certain measures to reduce the cost of running the government, is an acknowledgement that government is living beyond its means. But the Electoral Commission of Zambia is delimiting constituencies with a view to increasing the number of seats in Parliament. This is an exercise, which the government must stop because increasing the number of seats in Parliament is not a priority, besides, our economy is in no position to sustain a bloated Parliament. The effectiveness of Parliament does not depend on the number of parliamentarians, but on the quality of individual parliamentarians,” Sacika argued.

“Zambia is a poor country with a debt burden, which has become somewhat unsustainable, but surprisingly, we have been running the affairs of our country as though we are a rich country. Our government officials live in affluence, a Cabinet Minister in our country earns an annual income, which a peasant farmer will never earn in a lifetime of toil on the land. They (government officials) travel first-class when travelling out of the country and they drive top of the range government vehicles. But when you are a leader of a poor country, you must be prepared to live a simple life. Leaders must lead by example.”

He asked President Edgar Lungu to scale down the size of his Cabinet to reduce the cost of running the government.

“Going forward, we must establish the correct order of priorities. While the Secretary to the Cabinet is working out measures to reduce the cost of running government, President Lungu should also order the reduction of the size of his Cabinet. He should cut down on the emoluments of these senior government officials and he should order public service reforms, which will lead to the dismantling of the top serving administrative structure of his government. At the very most, Zambia needs a government of not more than 18 Cabinet Ministers. Reducing the size of the government will create enormous savings, which can go to towards improving of the delivery of social services and improve the economy,” said Sacika of the current Cabinet that has 28 ministers, the President, the Vice-President and the Attorney General as an ex-officio.

“At the moment, the government is failing to pay even retirees, people that retired 10 years ago cannot receive their retirement dues because the government has no money! This is the most unfortunate state of affairs. Government is a trust and officers of the government are trustees. Therefore, both the trust and the trustees must work for the good of the people. Unfortunately, our government is not doing so.”