October 22, 2003

ZAMBIA: Indaba recommends new constitution and reduction of ministries

According to the government, the four-day national Indaba was a success - even though key civil society groups and opposition parties boycotted the meeting. President Mwanawasa stressed that he regretted the action of some political parties and said it was unfortunate that these missed the opportunity to sit with others in addressing national problems. Some parties that had refused to attend the national Indaba, such as the Alliance for Progress (ZAP) and Heritage Party, have in the meantime expressed willingness to attend another round of talks with President Mwanawasa to discuss ongoing issues.

The major recommendations of the national meeting were issues concerned with the need to have a constituent assembly to adopt a new constitution, a reduction in the size of the cabinet and an electoral reform to ensure that an elected president receives more than 50 percent of votes. The national indaba further recommended the reduction of the number of ministries from 21 to 14 and agreed to phase out the position of District Administrators (DAs). It was suggested that ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Energy and Water Development, Lands and Mines should fall under one umbrella to be called Ministry of Natural Resources. Furthermore, a merger of ministries of Works and Supply and Communications and Transport to be called ministry of Works, Transport and communication should follow. It was proposed that the ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training be incorporated in the Ministry of Education.

Other ministries proposed to fall under one category are Labour, Community Development and Social Service and Youth Sport and Child Development; the new ministry should be called Labour and Social Affairs. The meeting also recommended the outlawing of unconstitutional expenditure, including the limiting supplementary expenditure to cater for only unforeseen circumstances. It was agreed that the dividend externalisation policy, particularly for banks should be reviewed and that banks should be induced to reduce the asset holdings in treasury bills and foreign bank accounts. Delegates also agreed that the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) should spearhead a review of the tax regime on petroleum products which were very expensive in Zambia.

The President has moreover pledged to implement the recommendations by the national conference and directed Secretary to Cabinet Leslie Mbula to circulate the report to all stakeholders including those that boycotted. The President further announced that he would soon appoint a special assistant to the President in charge of monitoring and implementation of the recommendations. He directed Mr Mbula to forward a copy of the recommendations from the Indaba to the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) and the Electoral Reform Committee for consideration. The Cabinet would also consider the mode of implementing the proposal to institutionalise the indaba process. The national indaba however failed to reach a consensus on whether to increase land under State control after traditional rulers objected to that idea. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola / IRIN)


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