By Chipenzi McDonald, Lusaka Zambia
Last week, I received a report that one DC from some district in Zambia unilaterally undid a Council resolution on toilet levy. This DC announced a reduction in council imposed toilet fees of K2 per person user to K0.50 with immediate effect without the council knowing or request to reconsider such a resolution in the face of Cholera outbreak.
This DC went further to direct all citizens in that districts not to pay the K2 but K0.50 to the toilet attendants. This was a pure mark of a violation of the constitution of the republic of Zambia. I say so because the DC has no right under the current laws to impose taxes, levy et al on people. I am further supported in my view by Article 161 of the Constitution which states that “a local authority [not a DC] is competent to levy, impose, recover and retain local taxes, as prescribed.”
The blatant disregard of the Constitution by this DC shocked me to the nerves because this was/is not the role of a DC to meddle or interfere in the operations of the local authority as guided by Article 152 (2) which states “the national Government and the provincial administration shall not interfere with or compromise a local authority’s ability or right to perform its functions.” Therefore, the DC’s functions are not even constitutional while the local authorities’ are.
Local Authorities, like National Assembly, operate on resolutions and not directives and any adverse resolution made can be petitioned by citizens who include the DC and it can be reversed by a full council meeting that deliberated on it. This view is supported by Article 156 of the Constitution, which states “councillors shall be collectively and individually accountable to the national Government and residents in their wards and districts, for the performance of their functions.”
The DCs are not even accountable to the residents but to the appointing authorities and one wonders why they become so powerful and allowed to interfere in the sovereign will of the people to an extent of breaching the Constitution. There is need to orient some of these DCs especially that some of them have little formal education to read and understand the constitution apart from understanding party slogans.
The Local Government Association of Zambia (LGAZ) must preoccupy themselves in creating a conducive working environment for the councils and demand for the abolition of the DCs’ office rather than asking for more levy opportunities which can be overruled by the DC.
Let us protect constitutionally established offices from executive capture
The Writer, Chipenzi McDonald, is the Executive Director GEARS Initiative Zambia