DEVOLUTION IN ZAMBIA: A CONSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE

The Constitution of the Republic of Zambia is what is termed by scholars as Unitary. What that means is that its system of governance is centralized and all decisions in effect come from the President and his cabinet. In my few years of law school, I have heard some views saying that the country would do better if it changed to a federal system. By definition, a federal-state is one in which governmental power is not centralized in one entity. But rather it is shared among the semi-autonomous states with a governor as the leader of that state. Examples of federal states are Nigeria, India and of course, the United States of America (I mean, it’s in the name, right?)

States in Nigeria

In an article by the Lusaka Times dated 4th March 2012, Wynter Kabimba remarked that a federal system of government in Zambia wouldn’t work. He cited his reason to be that the population of Zambia is just too small for a federal state. He made his remarks to a response made by Zambia Direct Democracy president, Edwin Sakala, who had called on the government of the day to consider introducing a Federal system of governance. Mr. Sakala’s bone to pick was that under the current system of governance, government resources are not well spread out.

Come to think of it, there is some truth to Mr. Sakala’s line of thinking. However, I agree with Mr. Kabimba when he said that it would be quite an enormous task for the country to change to a federal state. First and foremost, this would mean that the constitution has to be amended (I know right? More drama…) to provide for a federal government and the removal of a devolved system. A devolved system of government is the current type of government system that Zambia has. By definition, ‘it is the delegation by the Central Government to a regional authority of legislative or executive function (or both) relating to domestic issues within the system.’ That’s according to the learned author Mulenga Besa.

In our current Constitution, the system is introduced in Article 147 (1), which says that “The management and administration of the political, social, legal and economic affairs of the State shall be devolved from the national government level to the local government level.”

Although we do have this provision, it is most unfortunate that attention has been paid more to the central government than the local government. It is true that perhaps we cannot afford a change of a complete system of government. But, I think leaders should put more power to the people by empowering the local government.

I was born and raised in Chachacha in the city of Kitwe on the Copperbelt Province of Zambia and during my time here, I have never heard of a councillor or mayor that is, call a meeting when there’s a crisis like an unanticipated shortage of water for a week. People just have to figure out what they will do.  Isn’t that odd?…

Problems like this are rampant on the copperbelt

 It really doesn’t reflect the principles of democracy. There’s no system in place for lodging complaints either and even if they are put forth, it is with a doubtful spirit that I think they would go far.

We shouldn’t blame the people we put in power for this. I think we should blame ourselves. We should really start holding the people we put in office accountable because they are our servants. This principle is as old as democracy itself.

So, in conclusion, I think the people of Zambia should start participating more in the running of this country. Not through politics per se but through accountability and objectivity. For that is indispensable to democracy and the Vigilante Scholar.

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