FINANCE minister Alexander Chikwanda says the government is keeping a close eye on Germany just as that country is doing on Zambia following local opposition political parties’ reports of infringement on their rights.
And Germany’s federal minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebiel says the opposition and the ruling party need the same rights to address their political points to the people in the country.
Chikwanda was responding to a question from a German reporter, who said the delegation earlier met leaders of opposition parties who complained of government’s infringement on their right and freedom.
But Chikwanda cautioned Germany that Zambia was also keeping an eye on them.
He said Zambia was one of the most civilised countries contrary to reports by the opposition political parties that the government was infringing on their rights.
“Much as you are keeping an eye on us, we also keep an eye on you and we don’t take kindly when you begin beating foreigners on account of race, so we shall keep an eye on each other. You will never find xenophobia. If we carry a litmus test, you will find that we are more civilised,” he said. “Go and tell the Germans that you went to the most civilised country, where you don’t find xenophobia.”
Chikwanda said the government was committed to upholding the rights of all citizens but stressed the need for all Zambians to act responsibly.
“This country is committed to maintaining the rights of all the citizens. The opposition parties can’t function in a more agreeable environment. It’s a question of both of us being responsible. It’s their right to lobby, but in Zambia, there is a mechanism for freedom not because it’s a move for us getting aid but we want to pass on this legacy to posterity. There is civilisation in Zambia, unlike in your region where colour is an issue. We are a much civilised country, and nobody is beaten here for being a foreigner like they are beaten in many countries including your own. We believe in freedom, not for purposes of getting aid but because we believe its right for ourselves and even those of us who are in government, one day we will be in the opposition,” he said.
And Chikwanda said the country was targeting double-digit growth to enable it to lift Zambians out of poverty.
“At the moment, government has taken the decision to remove subsidies, which is a very risky decision politically, but we hope that responsible opposition parties will support government to try and get Zambia’s economy streamlined and entrench fiscal responsibility. We are working hard to try and grow Zambia at higher rates than the six, seven per cent we have talked about to double digit, about 10, 11 per cent and make an impact on poverty reduction,” said Chikwanda.
Niebel urged Zambia to put in place measures that would enable it to get better contracts to reap more benefits from the mining sector.
“Underlined principles of not only taking care of human rights, but also rights for minorities, opposition party rights…and it is very important to find a way to use the mining sector for financing your own budget than you can do at the moment and we could give a helpful hand to have better contracts in the future for more income, revenues for your country to invest in your country,” said Niebel.