Rev Sikwela must rise to challenge


ON THURSDAY President Sata swore in former UPND Livingstone Central member of Parliament Howard Sikwela as the new permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.
Reverend Sikwela replaces Chileshe Mulenga, whom President Sata has sent to Eastern Province in the same capacity.
We join the rest of the country in congratulating him on his appointment.
As permanent secretary Rev Sikwela is now the chief executive officer of the ministry to preside over the implementation of all government policies and programmes in the sector.
He is the right-hand man of and chief advisor to the minister on policy implementation.
His is, therefore, not a small task.
President Sata did not hide the fact that he has special interest in this ministry, in which he served as a governor and minister years back.
At the swearing-in ceremony at State House the President directed the new PS to get down to work immediately.
He went further to give Rev Sikwela tips on the need to have good interpersonal skills if he is to carry out his mission to the satisfaction of his appointing authority and the nation at large.
“Reverend Sikwela, I have been in this ministry and I know it inside-out. You are going to be with people, not animals. And if you have your skills in dealing with people, you will solve a lot of problems in this ministry. Anyway, I wish you good luck,” President Sata said.
It is good that Rev Sikwela assured the President and the nation that he is going to heed the Head of State’s advice to start working immediately.
This is an opportunity for the clergyman and educationist to serve the people of Zambia to the best of his ability.
After being hounded out of the UPND by that party’s intolerance Rev Sikwela had complained that his premature departure had deprived him of a chance to implement programmes aimed at uplifting the living standards of the people of Livingstone.
The President has now given him an opportunity to help lift the living standards of the whole nation.
The Ministry of Local Government and Housing is strategic because it is the government’s flagship in service delivery at community level.
Councils are the government’s first point of contact with the people, and the quality of services they deliver shapes the citizens’ perceptions and attitudes towards those who govern them.
Not long ago President Sata launched the revised Decentralisation Policy, which is aimed at devolving power from the central government to the people on the ground through the local authorities.
One of Rev Sikwela’s challenges is therefore to ensure the policy is implemented to accelerate development.
The President has created numerous districts, most of which have already started operating.
But there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the new districts have the right infrastructure and staff.
Another vexing issue the reverend will have to direct his energy to is the poor conditions of service for council workers.
He is expected to ensure the protracted negotiations between his ministry and the Zambia United Local Authority Workers Union are concluded.
The other priority area that will need his attention is housing and infrastructure development.
Rev Sikwela’s ministry has a critical role to play in addressing the country’s housing deficit.
Then there is the issue of illegal land allocations and grabbing, which have been thorns in the flesh of the government.
Welcome reverend!