If we removed the Black Mountain from Kitwe, Sampa and Kang’ombe are just the same

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By Prince Ndoyi

I want to comment on the move by Lusaka Executive Mayor Miles Sampa to introduce measures to cut costs at the local authority to create cash surplus for workers’ wages.

Some of the immediate cost cutting measures announced by Sampa include an immediate stop to the purchase of snacks for management meetings.

Ofcourse Lusaka residents have called Miles Sampa a mad man and many other sorts of names. Others have written him off, in comparison to his Kitwe counterpart Christopher Kang’ombe. I think that Miles Sampa cannot be compared to Kang’ombe, because if we hypothetically removed the Black Mountain from Kitwe, Sampa and Kang’ombe are the same! Those so called Jerabos who are also cadres would have been in markets and bus stations, seeing that there wouldn’t have been any economic activities to keep them away from stations and markets. Making Kitwe and Lusaka the same.

The dynamics between the two are different, in that while Kitwe cadres are busy as jerabos, here in Lusaka there are no mines hence they are in the bus stations and markets.

Indeed on this move Miles Sampa has scored and must be encouraged to do more other than the many publicity stunts he is known for. Like going to Roan and Sable and choosing not to pay for the meal, purely a publicity stunt gone wrong.

But it is true that unlike Kang’ombe, Miles Sampa should do more than these superficial cost cuts on biscuits, samoosas, fruits, chicken, sausages, drinks that are arguably insignificant and too negligible to create a real surplus for the council to pay salaries.

The real problem that councils face in the local government of Zambia is the inability to raise money/generate revenue to meet their financial obligations like paying salaries for council workers.

Many councils today are struggling to meet monthly wage bills, because of utmost laziness and cadre politics at the expense of civic duty.

My comment is that commendable as it maybe, this action taken is good but largely superficial. What Miles Sampa and his fellow civic leaders need to do is to reform the laws that help them restore full council control of revenue collection from markets and bus stations like Intercity. Lusaka sits on many lucrative big markets and bus stations that the council deliberately has no direct control over.

I am of the considered view, that’s this is the only sure way and guaranteed way councils will raise enough revenue to meet monthly wage bills and clear salary arrears.

Lusaka City Council is supposed to be a self sustaining economic entity and one of the richest. It needs to be aggressive with revenue streams and collection.

The current status obtaining allows for criminals to extort money from legitimate local government operations, and if the capital city is defaulting on its legal revenue points what about small councils like Chifunabuli, Kabwe etc. It is unacceptable.

All councils have the potential to pay all the unionised employees using locally generated income without waiting for Local Government Equalization Fund. But some councils themselves are the worst when it comes to misuse of their resources and corruption scandals. Some senior council workers posses plots and wealth that cannot tally with their income.

The solution does not only lie in cutting those small snack costs as in the case of Lusaka. As much as that money saved will help, it is too negligible, the best solution is to increase the revenue base. And I believe Miles Sampa knows where the real revenue is but is too afraid to go that direction because of the risks involved not only to his office but to the party he belongs to as well.

Lusaka City Councils’ City market, Soweto market and intercity bus station are sharing earnings with cadres which continues to be unfortunate. The late MMD President Levy Mwanawasa managed to rid the stations and markets off cadres. But the cost paid by the MMD government in Lusaka was high, MMD lost political control of the council and constituencies.

My word to Miles Sampa is that I totally agree with him that a lot of resources are wasted in avoidable expenses and non productive meetings held by the councils. The only wish is that it is supported by upright council employees. It seems the recent trip made by the Mayor to New York is beginning to reposition him on a different trajectory. We don’t want to be caught by surprise again with another worthless stunt that will undo these noble efforts.

No matter what we say, all things held equal Miles Sampa has a lot to learn from Kitwe’s Christopher Kangombe in managing a politically charged district like LUSAKA.

In conclusion I want to state that with the new law signed where residents in the district directly elect their Council Chairpersons and Mayors, it is hoped that these elected officials have the sort of “BALLS” to stand up against party cadres/politics and protect the peoples interests that elected them. Or else, the local government will continue to be used like toilet paper by the central government on whom they depend like parasites thereby rendering the decentralisation process a failed project.

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31