Strategies of growing local government, municipal, city councils
Published On August 3, 2022 » 918 Views» By Times Reporter » Business, Columns
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Local governments, municipal and city councils in Zambia, have this year increasingly taken a key role to play in implementation of Zambia’s national economic development policies.
Thanks to whooping increase in the New Dawn Government’s Constituency development fund (CDF) that was raised from K1.6million to K25.7million per constituency in the 2022 national budget.
As I always say if politics isn’t your business, you keep politics out of your business.
Politics isn’t my business and I’m certainly not discussing politics
Remarkably, it’s very important to bear in mind that for many African countries including Zambia, local governments play a key role in the implementation of national economic development programmes and policies to strengthen economic growth.
Essentially, local authorities are in the centre of service delivery rather than on economic development policy.
On the contrary, in practice, Central national Governments do not always recognise the centrality of local governments in implementing national economic policy.
Isn’t that the reality?
Over the last three decades from 1990 to 2022, who has ever heard of the workers of mainstream Ministry in Lusaka going for a month, three or six months backlog without a salary being paid on time?
On the other hand it’s an open secret that over the last 30 years, municipal and city council workers go for months without receiving their salaries!
How many times have citizens heard or read of Kabwe Municipal Council for example collecting an average of K7, 500 to K15, 000 Hills park property developers and not demarcated the property owners the land since 2015?
Imagine, the ground rent and rates that have been forgone by both Kabwe municipal Council and the central Government for not intervening in such maladministration and corruption?
Yet, day in day out, local Governments including Kabwe Municipal Council frequently complain of collecting low revenues and their workers having a backlog of unpaid salaries, no monies to meet daily service delivery costs and so forth!
How else, do local Governments want to raise revenue when they are failing to overcome same and similar chronic artificial challenges?
This real life example of Kabwe Municipal Council is a typical representation of many developmental challenges facing national socio-economic growth in local Governments around Zambia.
In March 2021, media reports reveal that Council Workers in Chipata had gone for eight months without receiving their monthly salaries!
Think of it, further reports quoting the Zambia Local Authorities Workers Union, ZULAWU Chipata Branch Chairperson Milimo Mumba said Chipata City by March 2021 facing challenges to meet costs of delivering services.
This was because the equalization fund for the City had remained One Million Seventy Thousand Kwacha, despite being declared a city from its Municipal town council status.
Therefore, the council’s wage bill had stretched beyond the City Council’s revenue collection limit, resulting in workers not being paid and other service delivery costs not being met or not being carried out altogether!
At that time Mr Mumba called on then Republican President Edgar Lungu, to come to the aid of the workers to settle the unpaid salaries.
In April 2022, media reports revealed that Republican President Hakainde Hichilema had expressed surprise that Lusaka City Council officers had not been paid their salary arrears for 15 months at that time.
The Head of State said this during a cleaning exercise to mark the first Kenneth Kaunda Day in honour of the late First Republican President Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda.
Mr Hichilema also said his government has been very organized in addressing issues affecting councils.
The Head of State further said it’s unfortunate that the council workers protested against the non-payment of their salaries but called for patience saying the ministry of finance was aware and that he will ensure that is corrected.
Are national strategies of making City and municipal Councils viable entities workable?
Why should local City and Municipal Councils always be at the mercy of the Head of State to help them find monies to bail them out in paying their worker’s salaries?
What’s the long term solution in sight?
What Strategies has Government put in place to address these hurdles?
What strategies would make the implementation of these strategies workable?
In the last seven years I have spent most of my life striving to acquire enough land in various locations to develop high cost housing properties, small farming holdings and so forth.
Essentially, acquiring land through a straight-forward process in Zambia is a night-mare.
It has been through these tedious, heart-rending processes that I have taken time to use my business research skills to study how municipal and City Councils operate, Government Decentralisation strategies, strides in the decentralisation processes, challenges and workable strategies in over-coming these strategies.
In the recent past I stumbled into ‘Corporate leaders’ both locally and abroad who have had the opportunity to be have been trained in countries like China, Malaysia and Singapore, where particular developmental strategies that Zambia has been attempting to replicate has been successfully implemented.
From the outcome of these research interactions, in the next to week’s article series, I would like to share suggested practical insights and models that how local City and Municipal Councils could harness to foster Zambia’s industrialisation, and socio-economic development.
Of course, the discourse will inevitably delve into some of the salient challenges that Local municipal and City Councils have to overcome.
For now, it’s important to note that despite major strategy efforts in recent decades, many African local governments including Zambia’s still have low administrative and fiscal capacity.
Research reveals that on average, only an estimated 13 per cent of expenditure on Civil Servants salaries and wages in the public sector in many African countries is allocated to local governments- City and Municipal Councils.
To worsen the outlook of the scenario in Zambia, about 30 years ago, council owned houses were sold to sitting tenants across the country.
Additionally, these local authorities lost out on having to provide water utility services across the country.
All these were a traditional source of revenue for local Governments to enable it effectively carry out its mandate – service delivery to the grassroots.
Thus, this is akin to local municipal and City Councils having to learn to be left handed in an old age!
Look out for another exciting edition of next week’s article and find out strategies that Local Governments in Zambia could increasingly adopt to get municipal and city councils out of the quagmire that they are facing!
For comments e-mail: Mobile +260977403113 +260955403113
The author is the Managing Consultant at G. N Grant Business Consultant, a Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) holder, with a Specialism in Strategic Planning, and a candidate for the Herriot Watt University (Scotland) Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

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