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I take this occasion to congratulate the United Party for National Development and His Excellence President Hakainde Hichilema on a resounding victory in the 12th August 2021 elections. May I also congratulate Madam Mutale Nalumango on her ascendance to the position of Vice President of the Republic. The occasion was ripe and the message you presented to the people resonated renewed hope and renaissance in the life of our great country. To the Patriotic Front may I say the mistakes you made have not been in vain as from them, a new dawn has emerged where as a country, we can show that indeed our country’s democracy constantly matures and teaches those in whom power is entrusted that indeed the final arbiter of political authority is the people.

The day President Lungu conceded defeat and then, President elect presented his victory speech, a feeling of hope permeated the senses of many in the country. It was especially gratifying to hear the President emphasising focus on how governmental power in the governance of the country would be based at local level. It is indisputable that any democracy so called, is only achievable when the people are involved in governance especially on matters that affect them on a daily basis. It is also fallacious to think that development is pronounced rather than planned. However, to plan for development in the absence of local governance would be qualified for planning to fail.

The last fifty-seven years that the country has been independent, successive governments have been making elaborate pronouncements about plans to develop the country. Budgets have been presented whose main themes have been about bringing development to the country etc. In all the pronouncements previously made, one very important link between a pronouncement and actualisation of the pronouncement, has been missing and inevitably, the results of such pronouncements have not yielded anything meaningful to ride on about the development so pronounced. Unless one considers development as being some roads built here and there, which is indeed a positive step towards development but not really its determinant. Development ought to be considered from a system that enables the ability to respond to the daily needs of the people in their respective places. Government being a collective body embodying the aspirations of a people and entrusted with power to address challenges faced by many that, individually, they may not be able to address but, through the collective ability, can easily find solutions and respond effectively to the peculiar plights that people face in their respective places.

That said of government, the question then is how the government is able to address the peculiar plights of the people in their respective places? How does the government actually know what the needs of the people are so as to be able to address those needs? The response to such questions is addressed through local governance. Local governance comes in as the bridge between the people and their needs. Because it is government based where the people that need government actually are, it knows the peculiar challenges faced by people in their respective areas and because it is localised, the people are able to participate in finding solutions to the challenges different areas differently face and is therefore better placed to find solutions from within the community to address the challenges. Through local governance, the people are equally better able to hold those entrusted with power to govern, accountable as they operate within the reach of the communities they are entrusted to govern. Local governance is equally the most effective tool to addressing social disorder in any society as, the government is present almost everywhere and is able to address social vices that otherwise escape the attention of governments under a centralised system. Classical example may be the degeneration in the social order in our Zambian society where there is no control whatsoever and everyone does as they please with some level of impunity never imaginable to a point where social disorder seem to be gaining ground as a norm unless something urgently is done to curb the scourge. Local governance, would be the surest way to address such and bring normalcy to any society Zambia being no exception.

The realisation therefore that local governance is the conduit through which development and social order is achieved, is the first step towards attainment of national development. The presentation of the national budget by Finance Minister on 29/10/21 which saw a huge leap in allocations to Constituency Development Fund, is in many ways testimony of a desire beyond pronouncements to actualise development in the country. With such encouraging allocations towards local governance, what is the way forward to ensure the expectations brought about by such handsome allocations do indeed materialise? It is one thing to have such allocations yet another to see them yield the expectations of the people. To ensure allocations to the constituencies bring development to the people’s doorsteps, it will be imperative for the government to immediately review the structure of our local government institutions and truly institutionalise them as mechanics through which the funds should be channelled and accounted for. To achieve the foregoing, it will be important that the government looks at the different regions of the country with their peculiar set up and design a system that would work depending on the structural setup of any particular region of the country. Example, places like Lusaka with its big and heavily populated constituencies cannot be considered the same way as other parts of the country so that the monies are administered from the constituency offices through what may be known as constituency development committees.

Lusaka Central constituency for instance with Woodlands, New Kasama, Kabulonga Long Acres and Chalala etc, are all big townships belonging to one constituency. Matero Cons*+- tituency with Matero town, Lilanda, George Compound, Chunga, Industrial area, Barlastone etc; Kabwata constituency with Kabwata township, Chilenge, Libala stages, Kamwala, Kamwala South; Munali constituency with Chelston, Avondale, Handsworth, Chadleigh, Salama, Chainda, Jesmondine, Kaunda Square, Kalingalinga, Mtendere, Chakunkula and ‘Obama’ etc. All the areas indicated above belong to different constituencies but all administered under one Lusaka City Council. The state of affairs would be passed as a recipe for failure in achieving what otherwise is a brilliant move by whatever standards.

To ensure the allocated funds bring about positive results where it matters, it would be imperative that the structure of local governance is decentralised and brought as close to where the people are to allow for decisions to be made and implemented within and by the affected communities. In that regard, the Minister of Local Government should exercise powers vested in the office by section 3 of the Local Government Act 2019 and establish township Councils through which going forward, the monies should be disbursed rather than to the constituency offices. The system will ensure that all communities within a constituency have received their allocations and all areas within the jurisdiction of a township council will receive their share of development and be able to hold their elected officials at the township councils if development is deprived of them. With this system of local governance in place, the country will be assured of real development which will be driven by the people themselves. Accountability equally will be enhanced as communities will have properly established local authorities elected by and accountable to the people meaning, whatever is done or not done the people will know about and those responsible whatever the case, would have to account to the people within the locality.

Mulenga Besa
Constitutional Law Lecturer: Lusaka Goldsmiths University
Author: Constitution, Governance and Democracy.
Administrative Law and Process: Cases and Commentaries.

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