President Michael Sata has reportedly announced that his government will purge all civil servants to replace them with members of the ruling Patriotic Front party. The process would appear to be underway, as opposition Members of Parliament have warned the PF government against the continued firing of senior civil servants at the Cabinet office.
This promise and practice is in keeping with the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions who fired two senior prosecutors who, in his estimation, questioned the merits of his appointment. Both the Chief State Advocate and her Deputy, who had worked for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions since 1997 under a series of different Directors, have now been re-deployed. A source from within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reported to media that ‘there is a general feeling among workers that Mutembo Nchito wants to run the office with impunity as he has always strived to persecute people especially those seen as his enemies’.
Public servants are to be impartial. The suggestion that a government could ‘purge’ an entire public service in order to replace them with party loyalists grossly fails to understand the role of a civil servant who advises government without fear or favour. The term public service captures the thought that the civil service is in the service of the people of Zambia, not the Patriotic Front. Political parties come and go an come in and out of power. Yet, a permanent civil service ensures the continuity of government and the necessary expertise to run a country and to advise a President and his ministers.
The actions past and proposed of the PF government are short-sighted and reaffirm a willingness to put party before country. What is to happen following the next election? If it is won by Sata, are all civil servants to remain? If one by another party, are all to ‘purged’? And if one by own faction within the Patriotic Front, is the new leader to replace all civil servants with those loyal to him within the PF?
The recent statements and actions of President Sata disclose not only a flagrant violation of constitutional tradition, but also a short-sightedness and commitment to bad policy that can only be explained by the view that, in his government’s eyes, power trumps principle and party comes before country.
Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights
London, United Kingdom – 13 November 2012