Thursday, 5 March 2015

Should The President Be Opening Police Posts?

“Why don’t you do a write up on the President’s job description?” a message came through the Facebook inbox.
“Uhhhhmmm, but the President’s job description is tabulated in the national constitution,” I responded. “Besides, somebody did a film with that title.”
“Yes, Abdon Yezi did a film with that title but that’s not what I have in mind,” the person responded. “President (Edgar) Lungu just commissioned the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) project in Luangeni Constituency in the Eastern Province. I was wondering where the Minister of Energy was. Not only that, he recently commissioned a police post—yes police post—in Misisi Compound. My question again is, where was the Minister of Home Affairs?”
I honestly did not know the answer, but one thing for sure is that I am happy that power has been taken to the part of the country which I am indirectly connected to. I hope that when I visit it again, I will be able to drink a cold beer from the village near Feni turn off, on the Mwami/Mchinji road and also avoid spending the evening in a koloboyi (paraffin) lamp lit room, or worse, spend the evening next to a wood fire avoiding smoke and the accompanying fumes.
With the on-going rural electrification in most parts of the country most houses may have air conditioning.
The issue of commissioning projects by the President always comes up. I remember that President Rupiah Banda, campaigning very hard for the 2011 elections, was all over the place commissioning projects that should have been commissioned even by District Commissioners. Obviously, the idea for the man who holds the shortest record of an elected reign, was to register a presence in the minds of voters at every opportunity.
Sadly for him, the people had already made up their mind as to who they were going to vote for even if President Banda had turned up at the corner of a street to flag off earthmoving equipment as part of either the Formula One road project or the other.


Chikwanda’s Iconic Plaque

One of the most iconic “This building was opened by” plaque carrying the name of a minister is that of the current Minister of Finance, Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda opening the Kafue District Council Civic Offices in the Kafue Estates c1976 as a Minister of Local Government under President Kaunda’s UNIP regime. He is still a minister under a different regime 40 years later.
Talking about President Kaunda, the fact that he ruled for nearly three decades, initiated a lot of projects as first post-independence head of state, naturally he commissioned a lot of projects, broke ground and opened a lot of buildings and rightly so. His successor, Frederick Chiluba, may not have had a lot of projects he commissioned because his administration mainly embarked on privatising or hiving off most of the public assets built or set up under the Kaunda administration.
Under Zambia’s third President, Levy Mwanawasa, one of the most outstanding projects commissioned and successfully completed was the bridge on the pedicle road linking the Congolese side of the road running from Mufulira in Zambia to Mwenda in DRC on to Chembe in Milenge District of Luapula Province.
President Banda’s administration mostly embarked on road rehabilitation and construction which the Michael Sata administration continued with. One of the most enduring projects of the Rupiah Banda regime is the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in the grounds of the Chainama Hospital grounds.


Sata’s Ambitious Projects

Not to take away anything from President Sata’s administration, it did embark on some of the most ambitious infrastructural developments after the Kaunda administration, such as the construction of universities, stadia and the declaration of a province and numerous districts country-wide. A lot of construction will need to be undertaken in the new districts for offices, accommodation, schools, hospitals and health centres and business premises.
I doubt if President Lungu’s administration will come up with any earth-shattering, view-changing project in the short time between now and the elections in 2016 but I am sure that his going to commission apolice post in Misisi was to go and thank the people of Chawama Constituency for electing their Member of Parliament in the 2011 elections and his subsequent elevation to the republican presidency. An excuse had to be found to travel to the area.
Similarly, the commissioning of the REA project at Kayeka Village coincided with the Nc’wala Ceremony at which Zambia’s newest head of state was guest of honour alongside Malawi’s Professor Peter Mutharika and Mozambique’s Felipe Nyussi, the two other countries in which Ngonis/Ngunis are found.


President’s Job Description

Section 44 of the current Zambian Constitution prescribes some of the following among the functions of the president:
As the Head of State, the President shall perform with dignity and leadership all acts necessary or expedient for, or reasonably incidental to, the discharge of the executive functions of Government subject to the overriding terms of this Constitution and the Laws of Zambia which he is constitutionally obliged to protect, administer and execute and in the exercise of any functions conferred upon him under this Article, the President shall, unless he otherwise obliges, act in his own deliberate judgement and shall not be obliged to follow the advice tendered by any other person or authority.
When the President goes to commission seemingly small projects which should, in an ideal situation, be delegated to a minister or another junior official, gives the impression that the head of state does not have a lot to do and as a result, usurps functions of the people he himself has appointed to perform duties on his behalf.
Instead of flicking on the switch in Kayeka Village or cutting the ribbon at Misisi Compound, the President should turn on the power generators at Kafue Gorge Lower, Kariba Dam or Itezhi Tezhi. Similarly, he should break ground for a regional police headquarters in Muchinga Province or something bigger anywhere in the republic for his presidency to be remembered for what it will have done between now and 2016 and beyond.

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