ASKING civil servants who wish to aspire for political office in the 2021 general election to resign will not improve efficiency in the public service because some elements will still remain aligned to the ruling party, says Dr Sketchley Sacika.
But Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Cosmas Mukuka says the rationale of removing politically-inclined civil servants is good as it will promote productivity in the public service.
In a memo issued by Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Simon Miti and addressed to the Secretary to Treasury Fredson Yamba; all permanent secretaries; the DMMU national coordinator Chanda Kabwe and the Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja, among others, Dr Miti urged anyone wishing to aspire for political office next year must render their resignation by November 30.
“It has been alleged and generally observed that a number of public officers have become actively engaged in partisan politics. This has not only affected their performance to provide public services, but also goes against the public service code of ethics. In this regard, all public officers, including those serving in foreign missions, quasi-government, grant-aided institutions, and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), who have ambitions and intentions to participate in future elections, and in particular the 2021 general election, must indicate in writing and state their informed decisions to resign from the public office not later than 30th November, 2020, this is intended to protect the integrity and impartiality of the public service as it implements government programmes before, during and after the elections. Failure to adhere to this directive, appropriate actions shall be taken,” the circular read in parts.
But in an interview, Dr Sacika, a former secretary to the cabinet, said the directive would not resolve anything because the public service was already led by numerous political appointees, who paid allegiance to the ruling party as the appointing authority.
“I think Dr Miti is trying to show the problem of a highly-politicised and non-performing public service in the wrong way, and we sympathise with him. But this directive to public officers wishing to take part in elections next year to resign by 30th November will not solve the problem, which Dr Miti has highlighted. The biggest and fatal problem that the public service is facing today is that our public service institutions are highly-politicised. This high level of politicisation has come about because the people, who are appointed to run these institutions, are political appointees, who are affiliated to the party in power and people who have no long-term commitment to the public service. This is the biggest problem faced today,” Dr Sacika observed.
He added that partisan politics had penetrated the public service, hence the inefficiency in service delivery.
“And this problem has been created by government. If you look at what is happening, politics has destroyed our civil service. We don’t have a functional civil service anymore. The whole thing is collapsing. Look at how a militia of a political party in power can victimise political opponents, look at the performance of our parastatal institutions, there is no single parastatal organisation, which you can point at and say, ‘this parastatal is performing efficiently.’ So, the whole public service system has been destroyed by very high levels of politicisation,” he said.
He stressed that forcing civil servants to resign was not going to professionalise the public service due to its current structure of it being an extension of the ruling party.
“Coming to Dr Miti’s directive, those wishing to expand for political office next year may heed Dr Miti’s directive if they like, but this is not going to solve the problem. In my view, in order to solve the problem that has been complained about in the circular, I would recommend that all public officers, who are known to be involved in partisan politics, must be removed from the public service because doing so is contrary to the code of ethics. And this must be extended to everybody. Maybe they must undertake a comprehensive programme to depoliticise the operations of the public service by doing away with political appointees, and by insisting that public institutions are allowed to function as professional bodies and not just an extension of a political party in power. This is what is going to solve the problems in the public service and not what Dr Miti is proposing. If 10 or 20 people resign because they want to stand in the next elections, how is that going to improve the situation? It is not going to improve the situation at all. So, Dr Miti must take a comprehensive approach to resolve the whole problem,” Dr Sacika advised.
Meanwhile, Mukuka said Cabinet Office’s intention was good, but it should have addressed civil servants who had no ambitions to contest next year’s polls, but were actively involved in partisan politics.
“When we look at the circular, the intention is good and the best thing would be to look at it from all aspects, including the private sector. What it is is that, if you choose to do politics, that’s a vocation you can still follow and that’s a path, which should purely come from your heart. You can’t mix the two. But there are those who do not want to contest, but they are involved in political activities like in promoting political parties activities. You do not want to contest, but you are involved in political parties activities,” said Mukuka in a separate interview.
Mukuka, however, expressed concern that the circular did not speak to those who had no intentions of contesting the 2021 general election but were still heavily involved in partisan politics.