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 2012-03-06 12:55 am Back to NEWS
Barotse Agreement can be basis for national devolution of power — EFZ

EFZ Executive Director Rev Pukuta Mwanza

The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) says the Barotseland Agreement, if well handled, can be used as a basis for decentralisation and devolution of power not only in Western Province but all regions of the country.

Releasing the state of the nation report yesterday, EFZ executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza said the primary concerns of the people of the Western Province seemed to be those of development and the government should ensure that there was equitable distribution of resources to promote uniform development in the country.

He said the government should initiate dialogue with the Barotseland Royal Establishment and other stakeholders and make its position known and ensure that the matter was conclusively and peacefully resolved.

Rev Mwanza further said the government may be justified in taking a different position on the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement looking at the implications of the move.

He, however, expressed concern that the report had not yet been made public from the time it was submitted to the government.

“We recognise that the issue of Barotseland was raised during the campaign before the September 2011 tripartite elections and this raised a lot of expectations among the general public. Realising the implications for the restoration of the Barotseland Agreement, the government may be justified in taking a different position on the matter,” Rev Mwanza said.

He said the original Barotseland Agreement, if well handled, could be used as a basis for decentralisation and devolution of power not only in Western Province but all the regions of the country, thereby fostering national development.

And Rev Mwanza proposed for the setting up of a truth and justice commission that will, among other things, offer amnesty to the people that may have engaged in corrupt practices to surrender themselves and be offered concessions for their openness.

He said in order to be effective, the fight against corruption must not be selective and should not appear to be targeted at specific high-profile individuals or politicians alone who served in the previous government, but should instead include the civil service and persons in the current government and other institutions.

On the re-alignment of districts and the creation of an additional province, Rev Mwanza said this should be preceded by a comprehensive survey conducted by the Surveyor General's office to ensure that such new districts have been properly described in accordance with the Constitution.

He counselled the government to carry out wider consultations with all stakeholders, including traditional leaders in order to ensure transparency and consensus in the process.

“The re-alignment of the districts should not be done unilaterally and in haste because this may have far-reaching implications on traditional leaders and their subjects who would be affected by such decisions,” he said.

On child defilement and gender-based violence, Rev Mwanza said EFZ was deeply saddened by the rising and frequent number of cases of defilement and child abuse in the country.

He said just like the abuse of children, the number of gender-based violence cases has been on the increase countrywide.

“We have seen despicable cruelty against our womenfolk in the country by their male counterparts. We are deeply grieved by the rampant abuse of women that have combined rape, physical abuse and murder. This continued brutality against our women is uncalled for and we urge the government, through its assigned law enforcement agencies, to tighten the law on gender-based violence to ensure that there is justice for our women,” he said.

On education, Rev Mwanza said the degeneration of Zambia's education system in general and the inadequacy of infrastructure in higher institutions of learning in particular were worrying.

He said the pass-rate at the school certificate level still remained very low.

Rev Mwanza noted with sadness the current deplorable conditions at the University of Zambia.

He said the over-enrolment in public institutions needed to be addressed as this exerts a lot of pressure on the limited resources and infrastructure such as bed space, water, library resources and lecture facilities.

Rev Mwanza said the optimal ratio between the number of students and the needed resources had increased, leading to the quality of education being compromised.

He urged the government to quickly mobilise the required funds to improve the education sector and restore the image of the tertiary institutions of learning.

On the constitutional process, Rev Mwanza said there was a danger that if the constitution is not widely accepted, it would lack the credibility to stand the test of time.

He said the process of developing a constitution that later becomes rejected by the majority of the people would be a mere misuse of the national resources.

Rev Mwanza said although the EFZ was not in the current technical team of experts that was formed to draft a new constitution, they felt duty-bound to offer their objective contributions to the constitution-making process for the common good of the country.

He said having scrutinised the terms of reference of the technical committee on the drafting of the new constitution, EFZ welcomed the published roadmap towards the realisation of a people-driven constitution.

Rev Mwanza said the lack of a legal framework to back the work that had been assigned to the technical committee on the drafting of the new constitution was a concern as it subjected the whole process to the whims of executive powers.

He also said the reasons advanced for the postponement of the production of the first constitution draft which, was earlier scheduled for the end of February 2012, were understandable, and supported the adoption of the constitution through the referendum.

Rev Mwanza called on the government to amend the Referendum Act which he said was outdated in its current content.

He also opposed the proposed route of referring the draft constitution to international experts as there were sufficient local experts to confirm the aptness of the wishes of Zambians within the current context of their collective and united journey politically, economically, socially, culturally and spiritually.

And Rev Mwanza proposed the inclusion of the 50-percent-plus-one vote clause for the election of the Republican president in the country's Constitution, saying the election of a popular president helps to promote unity in the country.

“…And in case of a petition against the results of the presidential elections, the winning candidate should not be sworn in until the petition has been heard and the case has been disposed of…,” he said.

Rev Mwanza also said the date for presidential and parliamentary elections should be enshrined in the constitution and made a public holiday.

He further recommended clear independence and autonomy of each of the three arms of the government.

“Separation of powers between the three organs of the government, namely Executive, Judiciary and Legislature, is crucial for their effectiveness. Interference by any one of these organs in the jurisdiction of any of the others undermines the legitimacy of the institution and affects the level of trust and confidence by the general public,” said Rev Mwanza.

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