In 2010, the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) recommended an increase in the number of Parliamentary seats from 158 to 280 seats. Recently, Electoral Commission of Zambia Chairperson, Comrade Ireen Mambilima, urged the government to amend the Republican constitution in order to increase the number of Parliamentary seats from the current 150 to 235 elective seats.
This is worrisome, for how can some segments of Zambian society have a desire to increase the size of Parliament at a time when our beloved country’s educational system is not adequately catered for, the healthcare system can hardly meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens, public infrastructure and services are still deficient, and, among a host of other socioeconomic woes, civil servants are still not adequately compensated for their services?
Formal and tertiary education, for instance, hold the key to both personal and national prosperity. They are vital to the molding of polished leaders in science, technology, business, politics, and other aspects and spheres of any given country’s socio-economic system – that is, leaders who have unlimited potential to contribute meaningfully toward any given country quest for a more affluent, a more democratic, and a more tranquil society.
But in spite of the intrinsic value of formal and tertiary education to the proper functioning of a modern society, we do not currently have adequate resources to allocate to such a vital sub-system of our national economy.
One of the basic reasons why we have not been able to adequately meet the basic needs of both formal and tertiary education, among other essential public services, is our bloated government structures, the opportunity cost of which has been enormous to the nation and the citizenry.
I, therefore, wish to add my voice to Comrade Wynter Kabimba’s advice against increasing the number of Parliamentary seats in the light of budgetary constraints, and due to inadequate space in Parliament Building, which is currently not even adequate to accommodate the current 158 elected and nominated Members of Parliament.
There is, of course, a need to increase the number of polling stations, given the fact that we now have 103 districts compared to the 73 or so districts we had before the Patriotic Front (PF) assumed the reins of power.
Given the multitude of socio-economic problems which cannot be addressed mainly due to the lack of financial and material resources, one would perhaps do well to urge the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Patriotic Front government to seriously consider the prospect for a constitutional Clause that would limit the number of elective Parliamentary seats to 103 (one seat per district), and that would increase the number of nominated Members of Parliament from 8 to 12 in order to give the Republican president the opportunity to nominate women and other under-represented members of society to Parliament.
The constitutional Clause should also provide for an increase in the size of the National Assembly by one Parliamentary seat whenever a new district is created.
Parliament would still be representative and able to function effectively as the legislative organ of our national government with 103 elected and 12 nominated Members of Parliament.
There is also a need to restrict the role of Parliament to legislative functions – that is, law-making. In other words, Members of Parliament should not be involved in the implementation of development projects; this should be the function of government ministries and local authorities.
After all, our beloved country’s 10 provinces are already chock-full with such portfolios as District Commissioners, Provincial Ministers and Provincial Permanent Secretaries – all of which are supposed to complement the executive branch of the government in the implementation of development projects and programs.
(The author is a Zambian academic currently residing in the City and County of Denver in the State of Colorado in the United States of America.)