FORMER Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda says it would not be a bad idea to bring back deputy ministers, as long as the number of Ministries is reduced.

And Shamenda has welcomed the appointment of Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane as Finance Minister, saying he is well exposed and will put the economy back on track.

In an interview, Shamenda said he used to get a lot of relief from his deputy minister when he was served as Minister.

“You know when we started, Mr Sata brought in Alexander Chikwanda and afterward we had other young people who were coming in. So we are not saying the whole cabinet should include all those who were there. That is why in my view, cabinet would have been lean and that is why some of the jurisdictions have got deputy Ministers. In my view, a lot of people do not agree with this but there was nothing wrong with Deputy Ministers as long as the Ministries are lean. Some of the Ministers who performed well with Mr Lungu were formed Deputy Ministers, some of them graduated to become Ministers. Even in the UK, we have Deputy Ministers,” Shamenda said.

“Anyway, it is up to them, but in my view, it would not be a bad idea. I was a Minister myself and I used to get a lot of relief from my Deputy Minister. We were working as a team. So if the Minister is not there, even if the Deputy Minister does not act as Minister, atleast there was one who is a politician and works with a Minister. So it is not necessarily civil servants running the Ministry but two politicians running a Ministry. You can reduce the Ministries but democracy can be expensive. That can be a training ground for Deputy Ministers. When the Minister is busy, the Deputy Minister will ensure that the policies of that political party are implemented. The Minister is too busy and Deputy Minister safeguards and stands in for the Minister even if he is not active.”

And Shamenda welcomed the appointment of Dr Musokotwane as Finance Minister.

“It depends on which Ministries and what persons you are talking about. Situmbeko Musokotwane is not a recycled person per say. He was in MMD and he is one person who was principled and did not jump to join PF when PF was popular. He read the mood and he joined the opposition when a lot of people joined the ruling party. So you can tell from that that he is a principled person. You saw his friend Prof Lungwangwa quickly even when the boat was sinking he was running to join. So that one will tell you the caliber of a person who wanted to serve his country in whatever position,” he said.

“He was keeping the PF in check and he realized that what PF was doing is wrong. So in my view, he is the right person. Dr Musokotwane has got vast experience. When you say people want change, it is because they want to improve for the better and Dr Musokotwane is a renowned economist who was with the World Bank, Bank of Zambia. So the way he looks at issues now with what is happening, you cannot get any chap to some Ministries to say we want change. With the mess that we have found our economy in, we need a person who has seen the ups and downs of our economy to start with.”

Meanwhile, Shamenda said there was need to blend experienced leadership with new ideas in order to offer balanced opportunities.

He said Zambia’s economy was in a mess and needed an experienced Finance Minister like Dr Musokotwane to help get it on track.

“I think he is not there to stay forever. I think maybe one term and then he will help to put things right. Even when you look at PF when they came in, they blended. The MMD when they were coming in 1991, they blended. So it does not mean that when there is change, ninshi mwaipaya tonse utukote (then you forget about the older ones). Those are the ones who will help to put things on track. So the point I am trying to put in place is that there are certain areas where you need experience. Our economy is in a mess. You put a new person who has never been in government but he will not know where to start. The Ministry of Finance is very sensitive and Dr Musokotwane is respected globally, regionally. So let him start working and when the economy gets on track after five years, maybe we can talk about change. Change is meant to be gradual. All I am trying to say is that it is important to have gradual change particularly in the Ministry of Finance,” said Shamenda.

“The civil service has been politicized. So with some of those cadres who have been in various Ministries, you need a person who understands the operations of government. Thereafter, when things are on track, then you can say someone else can take over. Even in football, you just do not bring in new players on the pitch completely. When you are changing, you bring in old and new players and when the new players gain experience, you phase off. And this is what caused problems for Mr Lungu. When he came in, all those people who were with ba Sata, he removed them and brought in people who were bootlickers and that is how we got to this place. I think in my view that is the best decision that has been made.”