Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Political, Economical Orderliness Eludes President Sata

Euphoria at Sata's inauguration on September 25, 2011
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
The euphoria of winning the September 20 elections two years ago by the Patriotic Front seems to be quickly evaporating. The abilities to smoothly manage Zambia politically and economically by ensuring these are done in an orderly manner and ensure respect among the people seem to be eluding President Michael Sata and his ruling Patriotic Front party.

These are difficult facts to realise by the ruling inner-circle and accept as truth, but a few critical moments can reveal this. 

President Sata said a lot about the constitution, promising to deliver it in 90 Days, but done so little thus far. 

Already the technical committee drafting the constitution has differed with the Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba over the document. Kabimba wants the committee to sign and release ten copies of the constitution to President Sata, a request that the committee members have refused demanding that the government should first give them a road map on how the constitution shall be distributed and adopted. I do not find any piece of order in all this.

Earlier, the government had refused to extend the period of the constitution making due to lack of money but the technical committee insisted it would work without asking for any personal benefits apart from administrative expenditure. Now the government is paying for those same allowances. At the same time, Kabimba has backtracked on his government promise to the people of Zambia that the constitution will be adopted through a referendum, instead he says that is not an assurance because there is no money.

Although President Sata has insisted that his government will deliver a constitution it promised, the fact that Sata has a soft spot for Wynter sends wrong signals about his assurances. This alone has a potential for political anarchy soon to come because the very basis agreed by Zambians for revising the constitution was to ensure the country changes the mode of adopting it and also the inclusion of a 50+ one majority vote clause for electing a President. Wynter, as Justice Minister, has strongly opposed the inclusion. 

Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) General Secretary Cleophas Lungu, who is also the Oasis Forum Spokesperson has condemned the idea by Sata and Wynter to only print 10 copies that should go the President, Fr. Lungu wants the constitution draft to be simultaneously availed to the President and the public at the same time rather than making it a preserve of a privileged few.

The priest fears if Zambia will even hold a referendum because according to the independent estimates, the exercise is supposed to cost K500 million while government has only made available K44.2 million in the 2014 budget.

That is not all, the fabric that held the Patriotic Front as a cohesive, disciplined political movement in the opposition leading to election victory three years ago is dishevelling, with every thread of unity falling off each moment of the day. Violent fighting between the factions that have arisen in the ruling party, leading to the death of its own member last week, has brought to the fore how difficult it has become for President Sata and his senior leadership to ensure order in the discourse among those holding different views in the party.  It proves how those among senior leaders of the party have little respect for the President and how he [Sata] has failed to prove that he is in control. 

One deduction from all this disorder is the failure by the top leadership in the ruling party to appreciate the orderliness of democracy, allowing the party to settle disputes using the principle of one man one vote that ultimately entails the majority carrying the day and everyone respecting the outcome.    

Sata himself has never allowed general members to elect their top leadership; the fashion is that he has to appoint those leaders himself. A question in point is how recently it is understood his son Mulenga Sata assumed the ruling party chairmanship of Lusaka District in bizarre disorder. Sata allegedly asked Robert Chikwelete to assume the district chairmanship, displacing Goodson Banda who was duly elected by the rank and file. After a civil war erupted between the two about who is the chairman, the confusion benefited Sata Jr. who it is now understood is in-charge of the party in Lusaka district.

In government, the manner in which people are being appointed and discarded throws into doubt if President Sata has any knowledge of the specific abilities and purpose why he appoints these people. Or is he doing things anyhow that he cannot wait to see what they are capable of contributing to his government? Could that be another meaning of disorder?

Planning and budgeting are the bases of delivering good economic development. Is President Sata hitting these codes perfectly? I doubt big time and if I am wrong about it, I will not hesitate to apologise next time around. 

One simple flaw about how poor planning has engulfed the major projects that President Sata and his government has massively launched came to light when one stretch of the L400 road project through Mandevu and Kabanana stalled this week for two reasons. Reason number one: the road has to cut through two farms on each side and the owners have refused to let go of their farmland. Reason number two, at one point the road must have six lanes, but that means ripping down people’s houses and displacing them. Newly appointed Lusaka province permanent secretary Wamunyima Mwana was at the spot to check the road and laughed loud at the poor planning: “These are the problems that were supposed to be addressed when the surveys were being done for the road and not now. Anyway we cannot look back as we need to find a way for the contractor to finish the work.”

The crunch is: the President launched the L400 when not all the technical paper work and cost implications were done. It is expected the L400 will now cost Avic International, the company that is financing the road and has undertaken the construction works, more than US$400 it has already loaned to government for the project. Technical hitches in projects do not signal good planning and is costly.

The poor planning has further been proved by President Sata’s appearances at projects that he is intended to launch, only to abandon the launch and leave in frustration. On a number of occasions Sata has exhibited in public how he hardly sits down with his ministers to plan what must be done about infrastructure. This lack of planning is either stressing or embarrassing him as he has been publicly heard grumbling—tongue lashing his ministers and District Commissioners to the extent of calling them half-wits.

We as a country we are spending more money than we are able to raise in the country’s budget and doing so on some projects whose merits may turn out to be more about people liking the President, praising him than producing tangible economic benefits. 

The cost of paying back loans for these projects might just turn out to be more costly on the economy, than what may be produced to make people’s livelihoods better than they are today.

Already warning signs are that Zambia is quickly sliding back into huge debt—increasing the total government borrowing from 1,667.6 million US Dollars in 2010 to 3,179.6 million US Dollar as at the end of 2012.

Naver Chayelela wrote on his Facebook page: “Talk about lack of consistency, coherence and rational analysis of policy formulation and implementation! If Zambia is allowed to continue on this path of public policy and governance decision-making, based on the random and arbitrary personal whim of individuals rather than on fact, logic and reason, the country risks being taken backwards to the Stone Age!”

The fact that a cross-section of people have condemned the awkwardness in the manner the country’s politics are being managed under Sata, and economists have warned about senseless borrowing, exudes little confidence among the enlightened general public whether the President is suited for another tenure in office when the country returns to the polls in 2016.

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