Davis Mwila, the ruling Patriotic Front secretary general, says district commissioners could not claim that they were civil servants because they were appointed by a politician, who is the President.
Hehehe, hehehe!!! What type of logic is this? And this is not coming from a lowly placed Patriotic Front cadre; it’s coming from the chief executive officer of the party.
Is Mwila really serious that anyone who is appointed by the President cannot claim to be a civil servant?
The Secretary to the Cabinet is appointed by the President, so according to Mwila, he is not a civil servant!
All permanent secretaries are appointed by the President. But following Mwila’s reasoning, these civil servants are not civil servants because they are appointed by the President, a politician!
If anyone who is appointed by the President doesn’t qualify to be a civil servant, then what remains of our civil service?
Mwila’s approach is certainly wrong. District commissioners are civil servants. And they are paid by the Zambian taxpayers because they are civil servants. If they are not civil servants, in what capacity are they being paid by Zambian taxpayers money?
Of course, the office of district commissioner has been grossly abused by successive governments by making it a preserve of ruling party cadres. And this is wrong.
But where is Mwila getting this type of reasoning? Is it from his boss Edgar Lungu?
Well, we know that since the 1990s, the Zambian civil service has undergone what amounts to a perpetual degeneration as successive governments and politicians have sought to politicise and
make it more responsive and effective in ensuring their political survival.
Today, almost all the most senior civil servants are people who are politically very closely connected to the ruling party and its leadership – they are ruling party cadres. And these now see their survival to be linked to the continued stay in office of the ruling party and its leadership – they go, they also go.
Look at our permanent secretaries! Almost all of them are ruling party cadres or people very closely connected to the key leadership. These may be very few in numbers as civil servants but their influence on the civil service culture and the arrangements by which Zambia is governed is considerable. Hence, the need for us to pay a lot of attention on these high level positions and their relationship with politicians. The most senior civil servant is the Secretary to the Cabinet, the title by which he (and so far they have all been men) is usually known. In this capacity, he is supposed not to be ruling party cadre but a politically independent or professional adviser to the president and the Cabinet on issues of policy, as well as on the conventions, precedents, powers and limitations of those offices. He thus has a close relationship with the President and senior ministers and a pivotal position within government. As head of the home (as opposed to the diplomatic) civil service, he is also the glue which holds the civil service together, as well as its protector and chief spokesperson, a role which, from time to time, may put him in the spotlight.
A civil servant who identifies himself or herself actively or publicly with political matters ceases to be a civil servant. Such conduct is indefensible, and is detrimental to the interests of the civil service as a whole. The nature and conditions of a civil servant’s employment should, of themselves, suggest to him or her that he or she must maintain a
reserve in political matters; and not put himself or herself forward on one side or another and, further, that he or she should be careful to do nothing that would give colour to any suggestions that his or her official actions are in any way influenced, or capable of being influenced, by party motives.
That is the attitude the Zambian people, while not wishing in any way to interfere with or influence political views privately held, expect civil servants at all times to observe. Should any departure from official impartiality occur, it must be followed by disciplinary action. No civil servant should be allowed to overstep the bounds of propriety. If they do, it must be pointed out to them
the gravity of their fault, and obtain from them an undertaking that there will be no recurrence of
similar impropriety in the future. If more severe action is called for, its severity must be related to the time and place, the standing of the official concerned. And whatever punishment is deserved, it must follow.
While it may not be feasible to anticipate every occasion of the
kind in question that might arise for consideration, a civil servant should not be a member of an association or serve on a committee having
for its object the promotion of the interest of a political party or the promotion or
prevention of the return of a particular candidate to power.
A civil servant is not supposed to support or oppose any particular candidate or party, either by public speaking or writing.
Civil servants are not supposed to make any verbal statements in public (or which are liable to be published), and are supposed to contribute to news media outlets any letters or articles, conveying information, comment or criticism on any matter of current political interest, or which concerns the political action or positions of the government or of any
member or group of members of politicians.
The nature of a civil servant’s role is such that a civil servant must maintain a reserve in political matters, in order to ensure confidence in the political impartiality
of the civil service. The restrictions placed on civil servants in relation to politics and political activity are designed to ensure that a civil servant does not do anything
that could give rise to a perception that his or her official actions are in any way influenced or capable of being influenced by party political motives.
Clearly, in our multiparty political dispensation, civil servants should outgrow their classic role as implementors of the orders given by politicians as their masters. They should now play an increasingly important role in the exercise of authority – a role which depends to a great degree on politicians themselves.
Of course, politicians should be in charge of policy‐making and should possess a dominant role over high‐ranking civil servants, who are mere implementors of policy.
The relationship between the administrative and political elite should not show competitive traits, a win‐lose situation. Both high‐ranking civil servants and politicians do in fact have a role as important and irreplaceable actors in the policy‐making process.