If the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa’s observation that Members of Parliament (MPs) pose the biggest challenge to the local government reforms is anything to go by, then the legislators are in a Catch-22 situation.
From his ministry’s findings, Nankhuma says the MPs, who are at the centre of some of the sticky reform issues, have constitutional powers to determine the very same reforms.
In view of this, the minister, who is also an MP, says one of the sticky proposals in the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, which he wants to table during the November meeting, is the removal of MPs’ voting powers in local councils.
But we feel that there is no need to bend backwards in trying to convince our honourable men. Afterall, strictly speaking, their mandate is about making laws in the august House.
It is a litmus test for the MPs to demonstrate that they are determined to adhere to principles of good governance and, indeed, ensure that decentralisation becomes a reality.
Critical to decentralisation is the separation of powers, enabling councils to advance development agenda at the local level.
It is for this reason that at the local level, the country held tripartite elections to elect councillors to look at the development agenda at that level.
However, the reality is that MPs and councilors treat each other with contempt due to petty partisan politics that only undermines development.
MPs meddle in affairs which are supposed to be for councillors for them mere fear of losing popularity at the grass roots.
But then that is a selfish reason which, at the end of the day, does not serve the interest of the masses.
MPs are in the forefront holding the authorities accountable. Now is the time for the legislators to show that they are mature enough to rise above the petty partisan politics and remove their own voting powers at the local government level.
Being reluctant to remove their voting powers in councils on the pretext that the councillors have capacity gaps is a lame excuse.
We know what the MPs are really scared of loss of power to the councillors who they feel will be getting all the credit and limelight on development projects.
And by the way, who said all our MPs have the intellectual capacity to enable them to effectively discharge their duties?
We know that some of them spend time in the House showering insults at each other and dozing instead of making sound contributions.
We know that some legislators have capacity gaps which limit their contribution to issues of national development. There is indeed little difference between the calibre of the MPs and the councillors.
Interestingly, the Cabinet Committee advised that the removal of MPs’ voting powers would be premature, let alone removing MPs from the councils.
However, as long as the MPs hold on to their powers, there will never be the right time.
What ought to be respected is that the country opted to restore the councils, hence, it is indeed necessary to amend this legislation.
We cannot agree more with the Public Affair Committee’s Chairperson, Felix Chingota, who says maintaining such provisions does not only breach the principle of separation of powers but undermines the will of the people on the reforms.
The nation is watching the game which the MPs are playing.
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