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COMMISSIONS, SERVICES AND INDEPENDENT OFFICES

By DARLINGTON CHILUBA

THE Japanese have an interesting concept called Amakudari which makes full use of skilled labour throughout the lifespan of an individual.

Skilled individuals who acquire certain skills over their years of formal service are employed in commissions and boards of private and public firms, after retirement, in positions directly linked to their specialties.

For instance, an ex-Army Commander, or

Attorney General would be employed in defence and law-related fields respectively, post-retirement.  

This concept has its supporters and opponents. Proponents advise that there is no shortage of knowledge in specific fields because experts are readily available and contribute actively to the country.

Those who oppose this tradition opine that individuals may favour those boards or commissions that they hope will employ them after they retire. Both arguments are valid. However, it is the position of this article that no system is void of criticism. In fact, criticism can be a catalyst for an idea to evolve and achieve appreciable and applicable relevance.  

Given this senarion, we can make two observations: firstly, that the idea of Amakudari can be applied selectively and cautiously to an economy like Zambia’s.

Secondly, that the constitution can make deliberate linkages between the existing commissions and economic and national goals this country must achieve.

To this end, the law must consider itself flexible to amend, annex or include commissions that create progressive impact.  

An objective observation of our history teaches that Zambia was one of the first members of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and prominent in the liberation struggle of Africa.

She chaired the Security Council of the United Nations as far back as the mid to late 1960s and argued for freedoms of people in the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa.

This same country was the proponent of the change from OAU to African Union in 2000 and maintained its high pedestal of global diplomatic excellence at presidential and national levels throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.  

The continuation of the high standard of international diplomatic visibility under the first and second presidents speaks to one core competence ingrained in the bureaucracy of Zambia, which is diplomacy – at the highest level.

Diplomacy includes trade and a vast array of issues that can either benefit a country tangibly and intangibly. For example, trade can lead the way for economic agreements for export of energy or copper that earn tangible benefits.

Another way is when the country is elected to chair international committees or organisations that may not provide tangible income but provide visibility and respect for the country. With all this available skill, there is no commission for foreign affairs granted in our constitution.  

Zambia has been a command economy and one of the first to adopt free-market economics in 1991 even becoming a B+ rated country in 2010. For all this, there is no commission for Economics despite there being several National Development Plans which act as guideposts.  

The point and proposal here is that the Services, Commissions and other Independent Offices established by Part 18 of the Zambian Constitution should enforce the idea of high national ideals that fortify the country beyond partisan divisions and subjectivism.

Of course, those serving are not in full employment and their conditions cannot mimic those in actual formal employment. 

The second point, therefore, is to include for posterity, either as an amendment or addition, commissions that reposition the country domestically and internationally. The institutional memory for Constituency Development Fund or Farmer Input Support Programme is missing among the commissions and yet, these have direct impact on the domestic economy and how the common folk are affected. Instead of increasing the number of commissions, some can sit under economy or amend the existing ones.  

Article 216 sets out functions of the commissions which include, among others, that they shall be subject only to this Constitution and the law; be independent and not be subject to the control of a person or an authority in the performance of its functions…be impartial in the exercise of its authority.

The idea of this law is to cause the nation to grasp the higher path of destiny beyond regional, partisan and other differences. Commissions could be the ideal middle ground for this.

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