Debating tribe in Parliament dividing Zambians, cautions Wina

Vice-President Inonge Wina has asked members of parliament with proof that someone has been fired or retired in national interest from State House based on ethnicity and region to report the matter to police and to take it up for debate in the House.

And Wina says government has plans to decentralise the Office of the Public Protector to all provinces in the country by 2020 immediately after Treasury authority has been granted by Ministry of Finance.

Wina said this in Parliament, Wednesday, when she winded up debate for the 2020 budgetary allocation to the Office for the Public Protector where she also gave responses to a number of striking concerns made by the members of parliament.

Earlier, Zambezi East UPND member of parliament Brian Kambita expressed concern that the Office of the Public Protector was unable to carry out its duties independently because it was captured by the Executive, which had continued to do wrong things with impunity.

And Kambita added that the Office of the Public Protector needed to be enhanced to deal with the PF government, saying the current regime was the very culprit that needed intensive investigation.

“There has been a lot of abuse in the government at the hands of this PF government. Not too long ago, police officers were fired and retired in national interest for carrying out their duties very well in Sesheke by stopping PF thugs from attacking people, who were campaigning in that area for a by-election. That is the kind of work the Public Protector is supposed to be doing. If those staff reported those matters to the Office of the Public Protector, the Office of the Public Protector is supposed to investigate such cases to the core and get evidence and the public must be protected against such kinds of political decisions. People have been retired in national interest for simply belonging to certain regions and simply for their names. If you worked at State House and people learnt that your name is one, which is not preferred by PF, they will actually retire you in national interest,” Kambita said.

He added that the PF government had kept on reducing the budget allocation for the Public Protector as it ran contrary to the interests of the current regime.

“They are the very culprits, which the Office of the Public Protector is supposed to be dealing with! This Office of the Public Protector needs to be enhanced. As the laws sit now, it is actually well defined, but let it be independent enough and let it have no boundaries. The biggest culprit that needs investigation much more often is the Executive and the current Executive of the PF and in enhancing that Office of the Public Protector, the Public Protector’s Office needs to be decentralised. And we need regional offices of the Public Protector, if possible, we should go even up to the districts so that this office can be enhanced and that it achieves its purpose for which it was created by that piece of legislation. I would also want to sound a warning to the PF government: let that office operate independently and let it have security of tenure. If you interfere with that office the way you are doing now by allocating a meagre allocation of a budget towards that office, we will not achieve its intended purpose and in any case, the public needs to be made aware of the existence of the Public Protector’s Office. There are so many people who do not know about the existence of the Public Protector’s Office and I have not seen any allocation in that budget for publicity or awareness creation,” said Kambita.

But addressing Kambita’s concerns, among others, in wrapping up, Vice-President Wina said those with evidence that some people had been fired from State House based on the basis of ethnicity should report such matters to the police and not bring them to Parliament.

“Some members were bemoaning lack of independence for the Public Protector; I can assure the House that this office is extremely independent and that as we all know, the office reports to Parliament and it is accountable to Parliament. It makes its decisions without any interference from the Executive and the Constitution gives it the required independence. The member of parliament for Zambezi East was making quite a number of allegations and assertions, I must say, carelessly, because he, as an MP, should be concerned if people are retired at State House if their name related to a certain tribe or region. Mr Chairman, these are issues that we try not to really address in this House because this is the way we are dividing our people out there. If a member of parliament knows that someone has been dismissed or retired in whatever interest, they should report that case to the police instead of coming to the House to talk about such matters,” Wina said.

“Mr Chairman, it is undesirable for members of parliament to be debating the budget on the Office of the Public Protector in the manner that we just heard. We do realise that the budget for this office can actually benefit from increased funding, but the situation at the moment has not allowed for this provision because we are under austerity. But generally, I want to thank all the debaters for the Public Protector, and I thank you.”

Meanwhile, Wina earlier revealed that government had plans to decentralise the Office of the Public Protector next year.

“The Office of the Public Protector is a very important office in the governance of this country. On the issue of visibility of the office, the Public Protector is aware of the need to connect with the people and the visibility of the institution, if necessary, so that our people know the office that can protect their rights. Currently, the office plans to undertake public awareness programmes to inform the public about its existence and also its roles. There is already a budget line for this purpose. Regarding the services of the Public Protector to the provinces, the Office plans to decentralise to provinces and districts in 2020 after the Treasury authority has been granted by Ministry of Finance. It is, indeed, a constitutional requirement that the office is decentralised,” said Wina.




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