By KENNEDY LIMWANYA –
THE year 2002 has ended just a few days after the Zambian people were informed that President Hakainde Hichilema had assented to two bills which led to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty and the law pertaining to criminal defamation of the president.
The Penal Code (Amendment) Bill Number 25 of 2022 which Mr Hichilema assented to repealed all provisions that provided for the mandatory death sentence The other law repealed was Section 69 of the Penal Code Act 87 which pertained to criminal defamation of the president.
In a Facebook posting on December 23, 2022, Mr Hichilema said the changes were in line with the campaign promises the United Party for National Development (UPND) made while in opposition to amend laws that inhibited democracy, good governance and human rights.
“Fellow Zambians, during our campaigns for the presidency, we promised to amend all laws that inhibit the growth of democracy and good governance, impede human rights and basic freedoms. Today we have delivered,” Mr Hichilema said.
The repeal of these undemocratic laws came just 17 days after the head of State had assented to the National Pension Bill into law, providing an option for members to make a partial withdrawal from their contributions which were made under the National Pensions Authority forerunner, National Provident Fund.
The law also revised the penalty rate from 20 percent to 10 percent for members’ delayed payments of contributions. In explaining this decision, Mr Hichilema explained that it was one of the commitments he and the UPND in opposition made to enable employees start investing part of their pension funds early during their working lives.
About three weeks earlier, on November 11, 2022, the president had signed statutory instrument number 70 of 2022 to enable defence force members on United Nations and other multilaterally-sanctioned peace operations get 100 percent allowances.
In the past, defence force members on UN operations could only have access to 50 percent of the allowances while the rest went to the government.
The repeal of bad laws and signing of various statutory instruments will be remembered as some of the highlights of the year 2022.
The year also witnessed the re-introduction of the free education policy aimed at ensuring that even the poorest of the poor attained an education which is a great equaliser.
Until it was implemented, the idea of provision of free education had seemed like political rhetoric would just end on paper.
But it came to pass and many children from poor families are in school although the challenge of adequate classrooms also needs to be tackled.
In the area of job creation, more health workers, teachers, agricultural extension officers and officers in the Zambia Army, Zambia National Service, Zambia Police and Zambia Correctional Service were recruited.
As regards the constituency development funded which, in the 2022 National Budget, was increased from a paltry K1.6 million to K25.7 million, there was another increase.
In the 2023 Budget, it was raised to K28.3 million to further ensure that more resources were taken from central government to constituencies.
Earlier, on May 4, 2022, the Zambian media fraternity received a rare boost when Mr Hichilema attended the National Media Conference an interacted with journalists at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
The year 2022 also saw an enhanced fight against corruption when Mr Hichilema removed Director of Public Prosecutions Lilian Siyunyi and replaced her with Anti-Corruption Commission director-general Gilbert Phiri.
On a sad note, the year 2022 will be remembered for the demise of Zambia’s fourth president Rupiah Banda who succumbed to cancer of the colon on March 11, 2022 in Lusaka.
As the new year begins, it can only be hoped that Zambia will experience more happy than sad news. (The author is Times of Zambia Features Editor)