Enforcing democracy

Democracy is not cheap and enforcing it is an expensive exercise that requires oversight institutions that will make all levels of governance accountable.

One of these institutions is the office of the investigator general which does not seem to have received the profile, resources and legal support that would be required to tackle the mammoth challenge of making public service accountable.

Compared to the role of the Public Protector in South Africa our investigator general is an innocuous and tame appendage of governance. An examination of the statutes that create these institutions tells the entire story.

The South African model is comprehensive, elaborate and suitably crafted to deal with all manner of infringements.

We cannot help but admire the zeal and determination of South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who has run spirited battles championing public interest causes.

There is no doubt that, although Zambia is a constitutionalism democracy, institution and instruments of delivery, lack the legal framework to fully execute the role for which they have been designed.

For example, the Judiciary is technically independent but in reality is controlled by the executive in more ways than one. For a start the entire budget, conditions of service including the remuneration of judicial officers are dictated by the executive.

The executive is also fully involved in  the appointment of Judges at High Court and Supreme Court level, giving rise to general concern of overbearing influence, especially for judicial officers serving on contract and therefore at the absolute mercy of the President.

Invariably the majority of complaints directed at the Investigator General have to do with the performance or lack of it from public institutions, which require legal compulsion which our IG does not seem to possess.

The same is true of the Anti Corruption Commission which has no direct oversight supervisory authority meaning that citizenry in general have very little recourse to higher authority if the Commission refuses to investigate and prosecute a complaint.

For example a citizen who reports the theft of huge amounts of sequestrated funds in a Bank of Zambia account has very little recourse to seek an application for mandamus to compel an investigation and public declaration of an outcome.

The ACC has simply refused to investigate such theft, choosing instead to prosecute small fish involved in minor infraction.

On the contrary South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has demanded that President Zuma should pay back some of the money used to upgrade security installations at his Nkandla homestead. This would be unheard of in our current dispensation. 

South Africans are now debating the protectors recommendation, with the predictable bouquets and brickbats but the very fact that the protector could inquire into a seemingly complicated matter gives the assurance that no abuse of    funds or resources will pass un-noticed.

This is possible because the law governing the office has been given the authority and resources to perform the assigned role.

As a country we may have to learn from these success stories and endeavour to empower and strengthen our oversight institutions so that they truly serve the needs of our growing democracies.

One thought on “Enforcing democracy

  1. Zambian politicians are not ready to move this nation forward, thats why the constitution is not being realised to the public. Just think of selfishness President Sata, an old man who has already lived his life. When he came into office, he increased his salary three times in a month without recourse to Parliament. Then he has kept punching Zambians in the face by preventing the release of the constitution which they seem to place much hope on. Countries that have bad constitutions cannot develop, its clear. This is the reason why Zambia is poor because of a bad constitution. A bad constitution allowed president Sata implement various evils. Let me point out just one. Instead of uniting this country, through our motto “one Zambia one nation”, he has done the opposite by appointing most people from his tribe. Zambia has 72 + tribes. Do you think the other tribes are happy? we are all God’s children and we all want to do something for the country and share its resources.

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