PARTY of National Unity and Progress (PNUP) president Highvie Hamududu says Parliament has become impotent and it is just a talk show because the constitutional framework does not allow it to hold the Executive accountable.
Speaking during a debate dubbed “Voters Voice UPND: six months in office”, Wednesday, Hamududu argued that the UNIP Parliament still beats the multi party parliaments.
“In fact, the new government could have done us a favour as a country if we begin with constitutional reforms. There are historical problems in the governance arrangements. The lack of separation of powers, how can you have the same MP becoming a minister? I want to tell you, if your MP is a minister, then you no longer have an MP. In Parliament a Minister cannot stand up and complain about the drainage in Munali, the Speaker will say ‘sit down, you are the government’. Some of these things are settled over the years, the constitutional reviews from Mvunga [commission] that remove [the] appointment of Ministers from Parliament so that now you have a Parliament that holds the Executive to account,” he said.
“The Parliament has been invaded, is that a Parliament? Then we have Ministers and ministers to be. So if you are an MP [from] a ruling party, you are waiting that when someone is fired you must go, ‘I might be considered’, so even your behaviour, you behave ministerial. Do you know that back benchers in the ruling party are supposed to criticise government policy? They don’t because of the political culture against even the Parliamentary practice, back benchers are there to provide checks and balances on government. I was in Parliament, that thing is a talk show, it is nothing. Not that people there are bad, the constitutional framework made them impotent, they cannot produce. What production is coming from Parliament? In fact the UNIP Parliament still beats the multi party parliaments.”
He said there was need for enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill to promote transparency, arguing that it would in turn reduce corruption.
“The fight against corruption has been problematic over the years. We must go into the fundamentals, what are the underlined institutional frameworks and legal frameworks that should help us fight against corruption. It is not correct to say the President might fight corruption, he is also human, put in a system, put legislation that makes it difficult for corruption to arise. One of it is transparency, public funds should be transparent. Here it is a secret of how much a government official gets, that in itself is corruption, why are you hiding? It is government money! As long as we do not quickly put reforms on freedom of Information. Freedom of Information is about citizens’ right to know. Let’s take it lower to a simple council, like my former council in Monze, CDF comes, put it on the billboard. The tendering process, people must come and witness so that people who get the tenders get it on merit. When you become transparent it becomes difficult to be corrupt,” Hamududu said.
“So there is no fight against corruption without laws that promote transparency, without that corruption is happening today in the new government. It could be at a lesser degree. We do not have the enabling legislation for transparency. There must be few things that we must not know as citizens. For me the fight against corruption can be helped if we do legal reforms, starting with the constitutional reforms. The enabling legislation we have does not provide for transparency. Do you know why any government [which] comes in does not perform, there is an inherent structure and constitutional problem. We must agree as a country to put in new constitutional and governance arrangement.”
And Hamududu said government should reconsider reintroducing subsidies on fuel to lower the cost of living.
“We have the Russia, Ukraine crisis, the global external factor has completely put the economy in disarray. If you are following the news there is a spike in energy prices, even in Europe, the cost of living has just shot up and it is coming here also. If you checked today, the global fuel trends are continuously going up. Expect another increase, that will be a very serious shock on the economy. We have reached a point where young people who come from Mtendere and work in town, some of them are stopping to work because literally the whole salary is being absorbed by the bus fare,” said Hamududu.
“Government now must think about reintroducing subsidies of fuel. If they don’t, the situation might force them to do so because life will become unbearable. Not that we don’t agree with cost reflectivity, there must be a migration process so that you moderate the policy implementation. With the external crisis that has come to hit the global economy, I can tell you the future issue will be a very big issue.”
Meanwhile, Ministry of Information Media Director and Spokesperson Thabo Kawana said the UPND government had performed fairly well in the last six months.
“The UPND has fared in the last six months in a way that no other regime before it has managed to do so in six months. In six months we have paid your retirees, in six months we have raised money to put CDF in all the constituencies, we have paid the councils, we have paid the programmes that need to be paid by government. So we can see that in terms of setting the country on a developmental trajectory, we have set it and we are headed in the right direction. So what we have achieved in the last six months is things that give us hope, that we are going to achieve more especially as we get to the close of this year,” said Kawana.
“We continue to ask from you our people especially the young people with all your vibrancy and all your energy, we continue to ask you for patience but we are also cognizant of the fact that patience pains. As you wait, you are in pain, as you give us a chance, you are in pain, but we promise you that the mandate you have given us is not in vain. Very soon we shall be the pain killers of that pain you are feeling. We will fix this country. We as a government cannot always prepare the future of our youths but we shall endeavor to prepare these our youths for the future, that is why we brought free education and all incentives.”