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Strengthen State institutions to fall back on, Syakalima tells govt leaders

DOUGLAS Syakalima on Wednesday told those in the government to strengthen State institutions for them to fall back on when they are out of power.

He told the House that such was not a threat to anyone but merely a fact of history.

Syakalima, who is Chirundu UPND member of parliament, was debating committee of supply, head 12: Office of the Public Protector, in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

“Colleagues, I call upon you; history is replete – let us create institutions of the State that will help society, not to make those who are not in government feel they are not protected. At the end of the day, governments change [but] the State remains,” Syakalima advised.

He complained that budgetary allocations to the Office of the Public Protector were dwindling every year.

“Her Honour the Vice-President (Inonge Wina), the challenges you have talked about of this institution, you said them last year. One would have expected that you don’t say them anymore!” Syakalima said.

“Three years down the line, you have been saying the same things. They don’t have office space, you said it last year, they don’t have vehicles, you said it last year. So, why did you come back again to come and say the same things? What is your motivation?”

Syakalima pointed out that Zambia’s challenge ever since the PF formed government in 2011 was that they did not like oversight institutions.

“If they had a way, they could have closed the Anti-Corruption Commission, if they had a way they could have closed DEC (Drug Enforcement Commission), if they had a way they could have closed FIC (Financial Intelligence Centre),” he debated.

Syakalima noted that the Office of the Public Protector, despite under-funding, was a constitutional one.

“How do you close them? Don’t fund them! You (PF government) have made these other institutions moribund because you don’t fund them. These are institutions which could have been helping people who are helpless,” he said.

“Many people don’t go to court even when they are under strange things because they are unable to find a lawyer to represent them. These are institutions where people could have been running to if you had funded them adequately [and] if you had decentralised into provinces and up to the districts. But our people are mistreated and they have nowhere to run to.”

Syakalima was displeased that in 2019, for public awareness activities, the Office of the Public Protector was allocated with K123,000 and that K84,000 was given in the 2020 national budget.

“Which public awareness [can be done with such amounts]? This is not even worth a vehicle! So, how do they reach out in all the 10 provinces and the 116 districts?” he wondered.

“The Act says they can hire investigators but they have to pay them. So, where do they hire them from?”

Syakalima told the government that it was denying Zambians justice.

“Make these institutions normal, to become strong because you’ll need them on your way out. You will still run to the Office of the Public Protector [and] they will tell you ‘we have no vehicle to investigate.’ It is rosy today because you are in power… [But] history has taught us, especially in Africa, [that] when people lose power they run around like headless chickens or headless rats,” said Syakalima.

“When you are in power, learn to protect yourself and protecting yourself is to make sure that institutions of the State are strong so that when you are out, you have a fall back. The very people today that escort you with guns will be the ones to deal with you. But you must have a fall back.”

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