The Donchi Kubeba Cabinet
By E. Munshya wa Munshya
By E. Munshya wa Munshya
President Michael Chilufya Sata has finally released a list of 19 ministers. I find this list very interesting for several reasons. First, it has taken at least a week from the time he took office to name a cabinet. This is the most time any Zambian president has ever taken in the Third Republic. That delay however, can be justified. He was probably still researching and investigating who to appoint. Or he was just being careful so that he does a very good job. Or may be he had been unwell and was waiting to recuperate. There could be several hypotheses given for the delay. In any case, the delay does seem to go against the ethos of President Sata’s campaign. That he is a man of action who was ready to govern immediately. However, once given power, it had to take seven days to figure out who is in his cabinet and who is not.
Second, HE the President has appointed Dr. Lindsay Guy Scott as his vice-president. In a post-colonial African country, this is a rarity. Zambia could be the first country to have a white vice-president. This appointment should be praised by all well meaning Zambians. Guy Scott has demonstrated in his life that he is just like every one of us. You think of Guy Scott and you never think of the color of his skin, but the content of his character. The character that mingles with the black poor of Zambia. The character that made him fight his political battles like everybody else. Guy Scott just like his boss, President Sata, possesses a common touch. He is a man of the people.
I am aware that there are some Zambians who are questioning whether indeed Guy qualifies to be a vice-president. There are questions of whether he could act as president or even whether he could run for the position of President of the republic.
According to the constitution of the republic of Zambia as amended in 1996, a presidential candidate should be a Zambian by birth or descent and his father and mother should be Zambian by birth or descent. From a cursory look at the articles of our constitution you would think that Guy does not qualify. But in fact, the right legal position is that according to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lewanika and others v FJT Chiluba, the Supreme Court interpreted Article 45 of the Constitution of Zambia and guided the nation that the clauses that seem to require a presidential candidate to have Zambian parents cannot apply to those candidates whose fathers or mothers were born before the creation of the Zambian state in 1964. The starting point for Guy Scott therefore is that he in 1964 became a citizen of the republic of Zambia. That citizenship qualifies him to stand. He cannot produce a Zambian father or mother just like Michael Sata or Rupiah Banda cannot. The parents of either Sata or Banda could have been born in the early 1900 in a territory protected by the British and Zambian citizenship cannot be imputed upon those old dead folks, according to the Supreme Court.
The appointment of Guy Scott and the ruling of the Supreme Court should now put to rest this xenophobia and tribalism exhibited by some sections of our country who believe that some Zambians are less Zambian simply because of the color of their skin or the name of their tribe. That is the more reason why it was so bizarre when Wynter Kabimba went to court saying President Rupiah Banda having had Malawian parents did not qualify for the presidency. In view of clear Supreme Court precedence Kabimba’s action was stale to say the least. But unlike Kabimba, all Zambians should welcome vice-president Guy Lindsay Scott and hope that one day, he would be able to run for president of our republic.
Third, President Sata’s cabinet is really notorious for having only 2 females. This is unacceptable and it cannot be justified. Not at all. President Sata should have included more women in his cabinet. It is the right thing to do. The argument that there were no women of caliber to appoint is a stale argument. He had appointed several questionable men, why can’t he do the same for women? The idea that a president should be excused when he makes gender insensitive decisions is a thing of the past. We are tired of having cabinets full of men. Men have proved to be selfish and problematic. What we need is a gender sensitive structure in all sectors of our nation. And we cannot say that women would have to compete freely in order to be appointed. The reason being that the structure of our nation seem to be so biased against the women and so a presidential appointment becomes one of the things that can at least bring in some balance and publicity to the issues. For now we have to endure another cabinet that lacks proper women presentation. Additionally, among the 10 MPs Sata nominated to parliament couldn’t he have at least nominated a woman?
Fourth, President Sata’s cabinet is simply tribally tilted towards one tribe. I had written previously that of all presidents the one who appointed more of his tribesmen was FJT Chiluba. But in 2011 FJT Chiluba has been beaten to this record. President Sata has appointed 11 Bemba-speaking ministers out of his 19. When I wrote this on both facebook and twitter, I was insulted and was called a tribalist. I was called all sorts of names. It is not my wish to respond to those insults. But suffice here to mention that Hakainde Hichilema’s National Executive is more tribally balanced than Sata’s cabinet. And when I say that, I should be not be roasted for it. Here is a short history lesson. When Mwanawasa appointed just a few Lamba and Lenjes in his cabinet Michael Sata then in opposition called Mwanawasa a tribalist. To make it worse, Mwanawasa at one time said Bembas stink. This was Sata’s staple for Mwanawasa’s political attack. Out of 22 Cabinet ministers, Rupiah Banda had 6 from Eastern Province. For opposition leader Michael Sata, that number showed that Banda was a tribalist. In 2011, Sata has over half of his cabinet hailing from either Northern or Luapula Provinces. Shouldn’t we call upon Sata and remind him that such actions are tribalistic? If what Sata has done was ever done by a Tonga or a Lozi Zambia would be in war today. Why is it that tribalism is alright as long as it is a Bemba practicing it and yet it is wrong if it is being practiced by a Tonga or a Lamba or a Lenje? President Sata needed to be a little bit more sensitive in his appointments. 11 ministers from Luapula/Northern out of a possible 19 is a tribalistic situation.
Fifth, President Sata says that he has reduced the number of ministers from 22 to 19. He has saved 3 seats. He says he has done this to save public funds. Among the merged ministries are ministries bizarrely called,
“Ministry of Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection” and then another one is called, “Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health”. There are still one that has merged Tourism, Broadcasting and Information. From the look of things, many are praising such initiatives as cost-saving. But the question is cost-saving by how much? Is it still cost-saving if one minister will be responsible for so different things as local government, housing, early childhood and environmental protection. No minister can attend to all these elements effectively. Which one of all these combined elements will suffer more than the other. Cost-saving should not be parroted over efficiency and effectiveness. President Sata in trying to save a few million kwachas is inevitably setting himself up for serious failure. Zambian ministers are already overworked supervising one ministry or two. Where will they get the energy to attend to four or five portfolios? There are better ways to save money and bundling up the ministries so that it creates some conceptually complicated nomenclature is a courtship of disaster.
All in all, after all is said and done. My score for this cabinet is a 2 out of 10. Donchi Kubeba!