15 August 2017

Zambia: Political Party Funding Bill, Right Step

The abolishment of a one-party state in Zambia more than two decades ago has led to an upswing of political parties in the country over the years.

This is a clear indication of democracy bearing fruit in Zambia, a country renowned to be a peaceful, worldwide, which is another democratic tenet.

Zambians are free to form political parties. Unfortunately, most of the political parties are somewhat 'white elephants' and rarely participate in elections.

The notable major challenge for most political parties' failure to participate in elections or other activities is that of lack of funding.

President Edgar Lungu's Government, being a proponent of democracy and committed to enabling it to continue to thrive as well as to prevent the country from reverting to a one party state, has pledged to present the Political Party Funding Bill to Parliament.

True to President Lungu's expedition to champion democracy, Justice Minister Given Lubinda last week launched the consultative process for the Political Parties Bill, 2017 and receipt of submissions started.

Among other issues, the Amended Constitution of 2016 provides for a law which will establish a fund to provide financial support to political parties with Parliament representation, prescribe sources of funding for political parties and stipulate the amount of money to be used for campaigns during elections.

This means that political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs) in advocacy work would have to come forward and make submissions On the matter.

The process would culminate into a one day stakeholders meeting for political parties and concerned stakeholders while the Draft Bill would be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament.

We, therefore, delighted that this consultative process is important in a democratic nation such as Zambia because it does not only promotes dialogue among political parties, but improve understanding of the articles of the Constitution that need to be legislated, as Mr Lubinda also puts it.

Owing to Government's gesture, the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) has come on board to also recognise the fact that the proposal to present the Political Party Funding Bill to Parliament is a right step.

What this means is that, once the Bill is enacted into law, it had long term benefits.

Among them include; giving practical meaning to Article 60 (1) and (4) of the Constitution by ensuring that Zambia's party system are anchored on both national character and financial integrity.

This is as observed by FODEP executive director Chimfwembe Mwenge that such development is building Zambia's democracy by safeguarding the integrity of elections through financial transparency, credibility and disclosure.

However, like FODEP observes, we are equally optimistic that, although the Bill would have financial implications, it had the potential to do a lot more good than harm by ensuring the survival of the country's democracy and the party system in the long run.

Despite the Bill, being long overdue after failing in Parliament before it was time Zambia had learnt from other countries by progressively applying such laws.

We, therefore, join others in challenging Zambians and stakeholders, including the political parties to debate and support the Bill from a constructive point of view and not what others would venture into by politicising it.

We feel this could also be a platform to promote transparency like the Government is recognising it in law formulation and the consultative process which is vital to building consensus and to enhance stakeholder participation in the country's governance process.

The Government would be receiving written and online submissions from stakeholders which would be consolidated into the Draft Bill which Cabinet would approve while the Bill would be subsequently published.

Political parties should, therefore, post submissions through the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) while other concerned stakeholders and ordinary citizens could submit through the Nongovernmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) as recommended.


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