State of Affairs

Political overview

Politics plays a pivotal role in almost all spheres of life in Zambia. In as much as Zambia’s political environment remains relatively stable there are still a number of political issues that can be potential sources of conflict. These issues are outlined in the sections below:

3.2.1.1   Political accountability and increased political intolerance

Political accountability entails that elected representatives respond to the will of the people and honor their commitments. This is more so in a democratic dispensation within which Zambia has been operating since 1991. However, the political leadership in Zambia has not displayed sufficient accountability, as evidenced by a number of issues including representation (Members of Parliament failure to adequately present issues raised by constituents in Parliament), inadequate political will to follow up on people’s wishes (as seen duringthe Constitution making process). The failure of political leadership to honor its promises results in increased tension between the right holders and duty bearers who begin to believe that they were cheated by the duty bearers. This in itself has become a serious source of conflict in Zambia as the duty bearers become very defensive in their failures to honor and resort to misapplying the available legal legislation which ultimately impedes citizens’ enjoyment of their basic rights.

One of the biggest challenges Zambia faces is insufficient intra party democracy within the various political parties that exist. This has resulted in a lack of objectivity among party members which has meant that those with dissenting views from the establishment are ostracized with little regard for their rights within the party or even their human rights. In addition this increase in levels of intolerance has culminated in unprecedented violence which tends to take place during elections and other occasions.

Another challenge is the weakening of political opposition parties due to mass defections into the ruling party. The mass defections of individual opposition MPs have greatly undermined the effectiveness of the opposition parties. As a consequence, opposition political parties seem to fail to unite in order to effectively influence Government’s legislative programme (SACCORD, 2013: 23) and to exercise control over the executive’s policies. Despite being a representative democracy as witnessed by competitive elections at regular intervals, attempts to reform Constitutional rules that would allow more autonomy of the electoral commission, Parliament and the media has not yet been successful. Further, the executive’s dominance has meant that the opposition can only use its Parliamentary position to check Government powers to a very limited extent (Rakner, 2012: 12-14).

SACCORD will continue to advocate for enhanced intra-party democracy in various political parties that exist in the country so that an increased sense of tolerance and co-existence is strengthened in the political parties which helps with the maintenance of peace. In addition, SACCORD will continue to sensitise members of the public on the roles and responsibilities of elected leaders such as MPs which is important in ensuring that elected leaders are held accountable.

3.2.1.2  Democracy and Separation of powers

While the Zambian Constitution recognizes the doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of Government (namely: the executive, judiciary and the legislature with clearly defined responsibilities of each) an imbalance of power exists, with the executive having overwhelming power over the legislature and the judiciary. Although the Constitution of Zambia (1996 Cap. 1) strengthened the formal powers of the legislature – the ruling party Parliamentarians rarely challenge their Government, partly because the Republican President chooses the Cabinet from the legislature. More than one third of the Parliamentarians have ministerial positions. Further, appointments of opposition MPs to the executive as deputy ministers by the President (though something not entirely new in Zambian politics), has further weakened the legislative wing to a level that there are growing perceptions that the legislature is a mere rubber stamp for the wishes and commands of the executive (APRM, 2012: 84). The ultimate result of this is the creation of a bigger and powerful executive at the expense of the weakened legislature which erodes the principle of separation of powers.

The executive in Zambia is entirely drawn from the legislature leaving the members of the executive conducting roles which conflict. This is because the legislature which is supposed to play the oversight role on the executive finds itself with a significant number of its members being part of the executive.

The judiciary in Zambia is equally perceived to be weak in relation to the executive. The independence of the judiciary is hampered by the President’s role in judicial appointments, a right, which is exercised at the highest level, with the National Assembly only playing a role of ratification. The courts of law are thus often perceived to be unfair and less independent of the influence of the executive. The executive also exercises undue influence over the judiciary, inter alia, through the control of judicial budget allocation and allotment as well as the subjugation to many judicial officials to tenures determined by contracts of limited duration which require periodic renewal. This reinforces the perception over the dominance of the executive and offers avenue for political benefaction and patronage (APRM, 2012:85). The system of political patronage permeates the entire organisation of Government institutions rendering all state institutions virtually beholden to the president, to the extent that the rule of law is observed more on paper than in actual political practice (APRM, 2012: 25).

This has always been a source of contention and disagreement among major political actors. The presidency offers great scope of patronage, with the incumbent enjoying broad executive and discretionary powers (SACCORD, 2013). The problem with the unequal distribution of power is that it weakens institutions that should provide checks and balances to each other. If issues surrounding the overbearing powers of the executive, coupled with lack of respect for the rule of law are not corrected, Zambia risks sliding back into a one-party state. Political polarization has shrunk the space for civil society, to a level that some of the autocratic tendencies of previous Governments have been adopted by the new Government, simply because many of the institutional guarantees for democratic consolidation are still not in place (Rakner, 2012).

SACCORD in this strategic plan will intensify its advocacy on strengthening the separation of powers in the country which is important in consolidating the democracy that the country has been enjoying since the country reverted back to multi-party democracy. This will ensure that the strengthened separation of power contributes to the maintenance of Zambia’s peace and security as Zambia will have functional democratic institutions.

3.2.1.3  Media and freedom of the press

Press freedom remains one of the most critical drivers of a growing democratic system. Since the return to multiparty system, Zambia has slowly worked towards ensuring press freedom. These efforts have suffered setbacks as a result of the conduct of the ruling elite who at times abuse the law to further their interests. While pronouncements and laws have been made to assure and ensure freedom of the press, there still remains within Zambia’s statutes, laws (the Secrecy Act and laws on defamation) that take away the freedoms that were being promoted by other laws. Despite assurance to enact the freedom of information law, the current PF Government has continued to delay the enactment of this commitment.

Since the PF assumed power, some journalists from the public media have lost jobs as a result of perceptions that they supported the MMD regime. This trend has also been noted from previous Governments. As of August, 2013 some former media heads were in courts as a result of some of the publications they are reported to have supported while some journalists from private media organizations are either in courts, facing continued police harassment or are in hiding or exile as a result of threats on their lives. As of November 2013, the President had revoked licensing allowing national coverage by some of the radio stations.

SACCORD in this strategic plan will conduct advocacy to decriminalize laws that are responsible for ensuring that the people enjoy their freedoms of expressions. The organization will also network with like-minded organizations to ensure that Zambia creates a media environment that is conducive to helping democracy flourish which in itself is very important in the maintenance of peace and security.

3.2.1.4  Citizen participations and representation

While citizen participation should be seen as an important aspect in a democratic environment like that of Zambia, there are few people who are actively involved in political processes of the country. More than 50% of the population does not engage in activities that are political in nature other than mere voting. Even in terms of voting, more recent elections have been characterized by a lot of voter apathy thus affecting the legitimacy of elected leaders. Political engagement is marred by antagonistic confrontation and intolerance of opposing views. Compared to the early 1990s, when multi-party politics were reintroduced in the country, there seems to have been a gradual drop in citizen participation in political activities over the years (CIVICUS, 2010). The low participation thus has brought into question the legitimacy of those elected especially when elected by smaller numbers of citizens. Low citizen participation also extends to policy reforms (Rakner, 2012). Policy formulation processes, which have not been fully participatory and transparent stand little chance of success. Subsequent Governments seem not to have done enough to institutionalise citizen participation in the governance of the country (Rakner, 2012). This situation is exacerbated by the fact that despite spaces (District Development Coordinating Committees, Provincial Development Coordinating Committees (PDCCs), Sector Advisory Groups, Parliamentary Committees etc) being created, citizens have not made use of such platforms. Going forward, strengthening accountability, representativeness and voice should remain a priority if democracy is to be consolidated and reversals avoided.

SACCORD will conduct civic and voter education so that the people understand their civic and voters rights which are important in helping increases their participation in the governance process of the country. This action will contribute to people believing that they are part and parcel of the governance process of their country which is important in contributing to the maintenance of peace and security.

3.2.1.5  Freedom of Assembly

One of the key ingredients for growing a democracy is the ability by competing political parties to compete on a level political playing field. In 2013, in Zambia, the freedom of assembly has come under serious attack. The first two years of the PF have seen the right to peaceful assembly being denied to people and groups perceived to be critics or opponents of the ruling party. This has been seen in the Police’s continued denial to the opposition to hold political events. It has further been compounded by the arrests of some opposition leaders on allegations of having violated the Public Order Act (POA). Monitoring and advocating for the professional implementation of the Public Order Act will remain critical if freedoms to assemble, demonstrate and hold processions are to be enjoyed.

Unprofessional administration of the POA leads to lawlessness which subsequently leads to violence and anarchy as the law enforcement agencies endeavor to enforce the rule of law. It is important to note that the public order act is a current source of conflict with potential to escalate. E.g. violence during the Livingstone March 2013 by-election and the Kabwata UPND rally in early 2013.

In this Strategic plan, SACCORD will continue to engage in advocacy on the reform of the POA so that it is administered in a professional manner which helps afford all political players a sense of belonging. This action will help address the problem of the POA being a source of conflict which is important when it comes to the maintenance of law and order and ultimately peace.

3.2.1.6  Decentralization

The most fundamental rationale for decentralization in Zambia lies in its opportunity to bring the Government closer to the people by providing citizens with greater control over the decision making process and allowing their direct participation in public service delivery. Since independence, Zambia has been talking about decentralization. However, the model of decentralization that has been practiced in Zambia since independence is that of deconcentration or delegation (APRM, 2012). Decentralization policy shift towards devolution only came through in 2002.

Currently, the local Government system is fraught with many challenges including a weak legal framework. There are about 32 pieces of legislation for the administration of local Government in the country. These laws are, to a large extent, disjointed and are, therefore, difficult to enforce effectively. In addition, although local Government authorities are empowered to make by-laws, these by-laws are subjected to approval by Central Government. Other challenges faced by decentralization include poor resources in various councils, inadequately informed and organized local communities who are not able to demand for accountability from their leaders in rural areas, public service poor work culture, misperception of councils as being outside the public service, and negative attitudes about councils which are historical and thereby resulting in underfunding.

The new PF Government since 2011 have also created over 30 districts with little resource allocation provided to develop these newly created districts which was done on the basis that they would facilitate for the implementation of the decentralization policy. The coordination role of institutions at Provincial level is undermined by the existence of provincial heads of department who report directly to their Ministries at Central Government level. The Decentralization Secretariat and other stakeholders identify capacity development and sensitization at all levels as being the key areas of focus when it comes to implementing the revised decentralization policy as launched by the ruling Patriotic Front. Other key areas of reform focus are sector devolution which needs to take place at national level, fiscal decentralization at all levels, organizational restructuring at national and local level, and legislative and policy reform to be done at the national level.

One of the ways in which Government has attempted to decentralize is through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which aims at poverty reduction but also empowers local people in decision making and prioritization of projects. There is a strong relationship between CDF and decentralization in the sense that decentralisation is about devolving power, responsibility and resources to local levels such as councils and CDF is one component local authorities have a responsibility over. It is hoped that implementation of the decentralisation policy will address existing gaps in the administration and use of CDF.

The Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) is undertaking a number of next steps. These steps involve finalizing ministerial devolution plans, address local councils debt progressively, define roles of different stakeholders such as chiefs in local governance among others, build capacity of districts to receive functions that are devolved, facilitate citizens participation by establishing sub-district structures, facilitate fiscal decentralization, facilitate for the involvement of stakeholders in decentralization including civil society, and expedite awareness creation on decentralization.

SACCORD believes that decentralisation through devolution will be most effective as devolution ensures technical efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and enhancement of popular participation. SACCORD also believes that the involvement of local people in governance and decision making at the local level and the effective service delivery to local communities are important means of ensuring conflict prevention. Therefore successful implementation of the decentralisation policy is an effective strategy for conflict prevention.

SACCORD within this strategic plan will continue to monitor and conduct advocacy interventions targeting he Government’s implementation of the revised decentralization policy.

3.3        Ethnic and tribal conflicts

3.2.1.1   Barotseland

The unending and seemingly intensifying dispute between some activists in Western Province preferably called Barotseland continues to pose a challenge to stability not only in the province but also in Zambia as a whole and in neighboring countries sharing the border with Zambia along the Western Province region. The calls for the recognition of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 have grown in the recent past as some people within the area feel that the administration in Lusaka has not treated their views and problems with the urgency they deserve. They blame the high poverty levels in the area to failures by successive Zambia Governments to balance the distribution of resources among all the provinces in Zambia.

In the life of this strategic plan, the issue if not skillfully resolved will remain one of SACCORD’s key points of intervention under its peace program. SACCORD has observed that there have been few platforms if any that the people of Zambia have been able to engage into constructive debate over the Barotseland Agreement of 1964.

3.2.1.2  Tribalism

At the local level, tribalism and tribal conflicts have become a big problem within various communities in Zambia. Examples of such tribal conflicts include the Lunda/ Luvale in Zambezi district, the Luvale / Nkoya and Nkoya/ Lozi conflicts in Kaoma and Lukulu districts as well as the Luchazi and Mbunda conflict in Kabompo district. In most of these conflicts the main reason or source behind the conflict is the chieftaincy. Latent conflicts exist around Zambia which are largely as a result of stereotypes that have been formed over time and accepted.

One of the major threats to peace in Zambia is the growing trend of tribalism especially in the political arena. Politics are now viewed in Zambia as a means of survival but also as a means to have the power to distribute or redistribute national resources. In their quest to gain this power, a number of politicians have employed the use of tribalism as a means to win support among “their people” and make it difficult for “outsiders” to gain popularity within such communities. The effects of this tribal inclination can be seen from the growth of political parties in areas whether top leaders originate from.

As the strategic plan gets implemented, SACCORD will focus on raising the issues of tribal conflict and its negative impacts on the governance of Zambia. Advocacy around the minimization of tribalism will be conducted which will be important in contributing to the maintenance of Zambia’s peace.

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