IF there is ever one issue that garnered consensus in Zambia, it is the removal of deputy ministers, says Dickson Jere. Jere, former president Rupiah Banda’s press aide, emphasised that deputy ministers did not sit in cabinet. He said when the substantive minister was out of station, they did not act in that position but instead another cabinet minister from another ministry sits in. Jere is one of the many voices that have criticised the reintroduction of deputy ministers by the just ended National Dialogue Forum.
“Honourable deputy minister Sir! Between 2003 and 2005, I was one of the commissioners appointed by president Levy Mwanawasa to draft the new constitution of Zambia. I, and the rest of the team, traversed the entire country to listen to Zambians as to what they wanted in the new constitution. One issue that garnered unanimous position was the issue of deputy ministers,” he said.
“The majority of those who addressed the commission on this subject preferred that the office be abolished, as its continued existence could not be justified. Read our final report at page 348 of the Mung’omba Report. So, if there is ever one issue that garnered consensus in Zambia is the removal of deputy ministers. They were too many and did no work at all. Deputy ministers do not sit in Cabinet.”
Jere maintained that deputy ministers just sit in offices, drink tea and read newspapers whose relevance could not be compared to that of permanent secretaries.
“And when the substantive minister is out of station, deputy ministers do not act in that position but instead another cabinet minister from another ministry sits in. So deputy ministers just sit in offices, drink tea and read newspapers. Worse off if they have a stingy cabinet minister, they suffer, as they will never even see any brief on what is happening in the ministry. You see, you cannot compare the work of permanent secretary to that of deputy minister,” he said.
Jere said the two were in different categories. He said a permanent secretary was a professional civil servant hired supposedly based on his education qualifications and experience while a deputy minister was a politician with mostly no known experience in the field. Jere, a lawyer, insisted that the proposal of bringing back deputy Ministers should be removed from the draft constitution.
“At most, that proposal of bringing back deputy ministers should be removed from the draft constitution! The people already spoke! What more do you want mwebantu.”