Friday, March 23, 2007

Masebo condemns politics in markets

Masebo condemns politics in markets
By Emily Mujuda and Speedwell Mupuchi
Friday March 23, 2007 [02:00]

LOCAL government minister Sylvia Masebo has said that involvement of political parties in markets was an impediment to smooth operations of markets and bus stations. Giving a policy statement in Parliament on the markets and bus stations Bill on Wednesday, Masebo said political factors greatly influenced the overall management framework of markets and bus stations in a negative manner. She also said the presence of associations in markets and bus stations negatively affected the smooth running of the public utilities because they became competitors of councils in management and control of the institutions.

"In the case of Lusaka and Copperbelt towns, it was found that in some cases the local authority was completely sidelined by these associations which in itself weakened the authority of councils who by law are the legal owners and managers of these facilities," she said.

Masebo said it was obvious that the current legislation, management structure procedures employed by councils had not coped well with the current demands of markets and bus stations. She said the proposed market and bus stations Bill would bring the act in line with modern market trends that would promote the efficient operations and management of markets and bus stations in the country.

She observed that despite infighting between drivers, or bus operators, congestion, accidents and crime to some extent, political activities had become everyday events in bus stations. "Mr Speaker, the proposed markets and bus station Bill provides that all markets in Zambia shall be under the control and management of local authority," she said. "It has also been found necessary to come up with an optional management system of markets and bus stations, hence the establishment of management boards in the proposed legislation."

Masebo stated that the market and bus station board would be responsible for recruitment of management teams composed of members with requisite expertise in managing markets and bus stations. "It is important to note that well managed markets/bus stations as envisioned under this system will create the necessary enabling environment which will attract flourishing business which can be re-invested in the improvements of markets and bus stations while at then same time allowing the local authorities have additional income," Masebo said. Masebo said the proposed Bill and model for management of markets and bus stations was aimed at attaining financial self-sustainability of markets, hence the removal of subsidies from local authorities.

Acting chairperson of the committee on local government and housing and chiefs' affairs Regina Musokotwane presenting a report said the Bill was very serious and could fracture the very foundation of democracy and economic behavior if not handled properly. She said it was appropriate for Parliament to enact a good law to address the chaotic manner in which markets and bus stations operate. Musokotwane said the committee supported banning of market associations from operating in markets on the basis that it would prevent them setting bases in markets and bus stations. However, she said the committee was concerned with the power which the Bill proposed to give to the local government minister.

She said some aspects of the Bill did not support the spirit of the decentralisation policy, in which the participation of sub-structures was cardinal. "They are also concerned that vesting too much power in the minister will not only overburden the minister but also slow down the decision-making process in markets and bus stations," she said.

The committee proposed amendments to certain clauses requiring persons to be in partnership with a local authority, payment of levies prescribed by local authorities and submission of business plans for market or bus station for five years to the local authorities with approval of the minister. Musokotwane urged the government to take into account the interests of bus operators with regard to high levies once the proposed bill became law. She said the committee recommended for public interest to be protected by allowing fair competition among suppliers of goods and services at markets and bus stations instead of introducing a pricing ceiling for food articles sold in markets.

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