By Mwansa Mushimba
While touring Luangwa district in January 2017, President Lungu threatened to get rid of all non performing civil servants in a bid to accelerate development and service delivery. He promised to make use of government lawyers to counter those officers who will challenge their looming dismissals.
True to the President’s word, the purging has been implemented and many officers have been irregularly retired, fired or rusticated. Those perceived to support or to belong to the major opposition political party (UPND) have been targeted in this evil scheme. Others targeted are those who chose to be professional and ignore parochial orders from PF politicians.
Firstly, the President’s mention of using state Lawyers against those victimised as a result of the purging is admittance that some sort of illegality is involved. As a lawyer and the custodian of the constitution, President Lungu knows so well that Lawyers are not there to defend and champion illegalities but rather to defend and seek for justice. Nevertheless since he (President Lungu) is keen to implement one of the PF’s sinister schemes, he cannot leave anything to chance and hence his propensity to embrace illegality.
The reason advanced for the purging scheme of enhancing service delivery is a scapegoat for PF’s mediocre performance. It is folly to attribute government inefficiency to sabotage by some civil servant elements when it is the political leadership that is failing to perform because their priorities are selfish and do not rhyme with national development aspirations. Choosing to use this irregular route of solving civil service problems is myopic, simplistic and devious.
On the other hand, the truth of the matter is that the PF leadership after the demise of President Sata decided among other things to purge the civil service and reserve positions for its cadres. This is because they have no vision and no clue on job creation that they promised the youths and the easy way out is to create vacancies for them in the civil service irregularly. They also want to put political cadres in strategic positions both in the civil service and parastatal companies like ZESCO and ZAMTEL in order to take total control of the state machinery and push their selfish agenda unchallenged.
Because of the purging exercise, strange things have happened in government institutions and parastals and as a result professionalism has been compromised. For example, the unprofessional conduct of the Police service of firing live ammunition at unarmed and innocent citizens perceived as enemies of the PF is not coincidental. After the Inspector general (IG) Stella Libongani and several of her senior officers were purged and replaced with PF cadres, both professionalism and impartiality have been thrown out of the window in the Police service. The current cadre IG (Kakoma Kanganja) is simply dancing to the PF “Dununa reverse” tune by using the Police service to fight PF’s perceived enemies.
Promoting and transferring the Chief executive of ECZ , Justice Irene Mambilima who showed traits of morality and professionalism, was to pave way for shameless and unprincipled PF cadres like Justice Esau Chulu and Prisicilla Isaacs to rig elections in favour of the ruling party. I still fail to understand why the learned Chulu and Isaacs who authorised a known Ugandan criminal to access election results in a restricted area and conducted election minus form 172 (on which all stakeholders sign to authenticate the results) and who deliberately announced wrong results in favour of the PF, still continue to be at the helm of ECZ as if nothing happened!
The real reasons for the alleged under-performance in the civil service are complex and varied. Among the major reasons is the chronic underfunding of budgeted for programmes and activities simply because monies are misapplied to serve the selfish interest of the ruling political leadership. This has especially come to prominence since the PF came into power. The sudden invasion of the maize crop by army worms that reduced the entire government to fire fighting is an example of government’s failure to fund pest and disease monitoring and surveillance functionary of the Ministry of Agriculture. Instead resources are spent on unnecessary ministerial and Presidential travel, excess ministers and unnecessary positions of District Commissioners (who are irrelevant in the presence of Executive Mayors and District Chairpersons).
The other of the many reason for the alleged under-performance in the civil service is the non-fulfilment of conditions of service. For example, other personal emoluments like leave travel benefits are selectively paid on the basis of patronage while the majority do not get it until long after retirement if at all lady lucky smiles upon them.
With the PF in power, the civil service has been heavily politicised. All Permanent Secretaries and now Directors and many senior positions are all political appointees. This has created a suffocating atmosphere under which civil servants operate. Faced with a multitude of mostly artificial challenges that appear impossible to solve, the civil servants resort to quietly implement a go slow protest and pretend to work.
However, the Civil service rules and regulations are clear and issues of dismissals are well articulated. If the performance appraisal system is implemented to the later, all the non performing officers can be dealt with within the confines of the law. Where an Officer transgresses the law he must be charged and made to exculpate himself. In all these, Ministers have no authority to fire civil servants. However, the Republican President can retire some civil servants on public interest. But these are rare and exceptional occasions.
Unfortunately those being purged are mostly being retired in national interest by the President upon recommendation from his ministers and his partisan Permanent Secretaries. President Sata was also under immense pressure from his ministers to fire civil servants via the same route but he stood his ground and refused to sign many of such dismissal letters when he proved the element of victimisation. The current President is signing such dismissal letters en mass simply because he is the architect of the evil purging scheme and he is taking advantage of his immunity from prosecution.
In this regard therefore, Union leaders worth their salt and that are patriotic and care about the integrity of the civil service should pursue all cases of victimisation of their members as a result of the purging scheme hatched by the Republican President with the urgency it deserves.
Responsible officers in the civil service like the Secretary to the Cabinet and Permanent Secretaries should realise that one day they will be required to account for victimising innocent civil servants. Meanwhile the politicians who order them to perform such illegal activities (because they have no authority to fire civil servants) do not sign anywhere and will go scot free.
Finally it is clear that the ruling PF political leadership does not care about the welfare of the citizenry. It is only bent on using any form of illegality to fulfil selfish objectives. The longer the PF leadership stays in power therefore, the more grievous damage it will cause to the entire national fabric. It is therefore the PF regime that must be purged and not the civil servants!