Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo says increasing the number of constituencies is long overdue but that now is not the right time because the country is economically stressed.
Last week, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) recommended that the number of constituencies be increased from the current 150 to 235 in view of the growth in population.
ECZ chairperson Esau Chulu said the recommendation arose from submissions received during the countrywide delimitation sittings and factors outlined in Article 59 of the Constitution which gave powers to the Commission to delimit constituencies and wards.
But in an interview, Friday, Nkombo said the proposed increase in the number of constituencies was not possible because Bill 10 would not go through in Parliament.
“I don’t think it will happen because Bill 10 will not go through. The problem that PF have created is that they have married the delimitation process to Bill 10 and true to the word, there is no money to satisfy the desires of the country vis-a-vis the increase in the constituencies because PF has depleted the money. But it is an ideal situation to increase the constituencies because that was the recommendation of the people that submitted to the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission. There were actually going to be about 240 constituencies because there are some constituencies that will be hectic to manage, they are too big. Kasempa is the one that I have in mind; it has 22 wards and to be managed by one member of parliament can be quite stressful and so it is something that is long overdue to happen; it should have happened a long time ago,” Nkombo said.
“We have a huge debt that we have to start servicing, they are not paying salaries to government workers on time, there is a crisis with the electricity they have to import power and the country is basically in an economic melt down. Right now, it is the wrong time of increasing constituencies but it doesn’t take away the fact that is an ideal situation. When an economy is growing at two per cent, this is a wrong time to ignore austerity measures…”
He cautioned the ECZ against using the delimitation exercise to increase the number of constituencies on account of what PF wants to do with Bill 10.
“The only problem that we have is that yes, it within their mandate to make those final recommendations and reports, but the ECZ must not get their nose in the operations of Parliament by trying to use the delimitation to increase the constituencies on account of what PF want to do with Bill 10. It should be understood that we know that PF have used that as a bet from the word go that MPs who feel that their constituencies are too big to be managed must support Bill 10 but inside that Bill 10, there is a mighty devil. So if this is the right time to do it, I would say it isn’t because the country is bleeding; it hasn’t got the money,” said Nkombo.