Party for National Unity (PNU) president Highvie Hamududu says it will be wasteful to effect the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) recommendation of increasing the number of constituencies from 156 to 235.
After receiving submissions during the countrywide delimitation exercise, ECZ recommended that the number of constituencies be increased from the current 156 to 235 in view of the growth in population.
If effected, there will be 243 members of parliament, including the eight who are nominated by the Head of State.
But in an interview, Hamududu said this would be a waste of resources meant to improve the welfare of citizens.
“The proposed increase of constituencies from 156 to 235 is too huge for a country. To increase a Parliament to that extent is tantamount to wasting resources that are meant to improve the welfare of citizens. Not at this time, the time is not correct! The timing and the huge increase is not correct. No one is against delimitation, we can increase progressively. If you check the history of delimitation, it has been maybe 10 constituencies, maybe two per province that jump is too high! It is not appropriate now because the country now is economically stressed and we must do everything in all departments so that this country may come out in this fiscal stress,” Hamududu argued.
“You cannot have one institution being ignorant of the general thrust. Every department of government whether it is Parliament, the Executive or the Judiciary must be seen to be efficient. The President in Parliament [during his Presidential address said] that we spent 50 per cent of our budget on personal emoluments. To reduce that, all government departments must undergo review. A prudential review meaning we must tone down expenses. Increasing Parliament seats from 156 to 235 is just too huge! I know. I sat in Parliament. I have approved the budget before.”
He argued that the challenge was not the number of constituencies but the efficiency of service delivery by government.
“Already, Parliament is a monster in terms of spending. So there should not be any government agency that should be exempted in spending from the general, fiscal consolidation. This fiscal consolidation must run for the next 10 to 20 years otherwise, we would not attend the vision 2030. The normal budget for personal emoluments is supposed to be around 30 per cent. The problem is not the number of constituencies, the problem is the efficiency in government delivery. An MP does not take development, it is not his duty. First of all, there is a councilor who sits in the constituency in the ward. So in terms of what happens in the constituency, there is nothing an MP does not know because they work in liaison with the councilor. So to bloat Parliament now would be inappropriate and insensitive to the general economic condition,” he said.
“On one hand, we are saying no deputy ministers and then you want to increase the number of constituencies; let me tell you, the increase in the number of constituencies from 156 to 235, the cost is higher than having deputy ministers. People must be consistent! We have agreed that there should be no deputy ministers, which is good at this time. Having deputy ministers provision in the Constitution does not mean you appoint all deputy ministers but this one the moment you put those constituencies, they will be there.”
He called on members of parliament, regardless of their political affiliation, not to support the recommendation as it was against the fiscal consolidation of the country.
“We politicians must be consistent otherwise people will not believe us. So we expect now those in government and in opposition to agree that this is not correct. But simply, this benefits both those in government and us in the opposition, everyone is quiet. This just shows that politicians are the same! That is what people are saying. You know why people are not voting? Why the apathy is high during elections? They don’t believe in any politician because our standing must be consistent. I want to hear all the politicians what they are saying about this. Simply because it benefits all of us, once there are more constituencies, there are more opportunities for political parties both for the ruling party and the opposition. I can tell you even a small party like mine with increased constituencies, there is no way I can fail to get some votes, if an independent can win, I can easily get numbers” he said.
“Our reform must agree with the general structure of the country. We are talking about fiscal consolidation, we are talking about reducing unnecessary costs. So this delimitation should only happen where it is extremely compelling. I can give you examples; maybe Kazungula, maybe Kalomo, maybe Mpika, maybe Kasempa, those huge constituencies, although the cooperation in some of the areas is low but it is difficult to reach from one point to another. But one of the constituencies that are being delimitated are very small rural constituencies where you can actually round up. I was an MP and I know what I am talking about.”
Hamududu said the cost of having an MP for five years in new constituency was equivalent to the establishment of much needed social services like schools and hospitals.
“Fiscal consolidation means we should reduce the running of government, running Parliament, running the Executive and running the Judiciary so that we can save money to provide education, health and good roads for our people and support the small scale farmers so that there is food security in our country. Do you know that [the cost of having an] MP position in five years can build a school? That increase means that you are basically foregoing 79 secondary school across the country in the next five years. That is why we are not developing, the money must go to service delivery we are not saying there should be no delimitation, delimitation must relatively be within the confines of the budget and our economic cycles,” said Hamududu.