UPND leader Hakainde Hichilena was on Radio Phoenix’ s ‘Let the People Talk Programme’ when information minister Chishimba Kambwili phoned. What followed was a disaster.
If you should ever read something in full, this is it.
Here is the full exchange :
CK: “I want to ask Mr. HH but first and foremost I want to advise him that this country will only develop when all of us start aiming at developing the country and not aiming at removing one government from power in order for us to come into government. This issue of the devaluation of the kwacha has been caused largely by fall in commodity prices. Zambia depends on copper to bring in foreign exchange. Ehhhhhh, ehhhhh, Brazil depends on its teal to bring in foreign exchange. South African depends on commodities like platinum, gold etc to bring in foreign exchange. The rand in South Africa has depreciated from $1 to ZAR5 in the last six months to $1 to ZAR14. The Zambian kwacha has depreciated from K5,000 to $1 to $1 to about now, ZMW12,000. This is because the economy of Zambia depends on copper. For many years, we have not diversified our economy and tell me what could have been done in the last three months to diversify the economy that could have come on board for us to cushion this problem that we are experiencing if you are saying PF has failed.
Secondly, load shedding is all over the region. There is load shedding in Zimbabwe, there is load shedding in South Africa, there is load shedding in Malawi, there’s load she..are you telling me that it is PF which is the government in all these countries? In South Africa for example, the rand has dropped. We have never heard the opposition political parties saying it is the ANC that has caused the depreciation of the rand. In Brazil, the Brazilian money has depreciated. Yesterday I was listening on.. on..on sky. In Australia, mines have been put on care and maintenance because of the fallen commodity prices and their currency has depreciated. We have never heard the opposition saying the ones who have caused this are those who are in government. Why do you want to mislead the nation on issues that we expect that you know that they have been largely been caused by these external factors in the global economy. You call yourself an economist. Somebody has asked you a simple question, tell us three things you would do so that they can give impact on the power generation. And he has also asked you three things you can do to make the Kwacha pick up, you have failed to answer. You’re politicking, no in Zesco they have employed cadres. Are you telling me that employing cadres is what has caused load shedding? Be factual and do not mislead the people of Zambia. You see, if we are going to behave like this, this country will go into what is known as political instability. Where because of deceiving the people, they’ll change governments every five years and once that happens, nobody would want to invest in a country which is politically unstable. Because you come in HH and when these factors that are beyond your control also happen, you’ll also fail to sort out these issues like the foreign exchange and all that. What we need is for you people in the opposition and us to work together to ensure that we invest in other sectors of energy and preserve in other sectors of energy. It is not going to take a year or two. How long does it take to make a coal fired power generation plant? A minimum of 36 months. 36 months is 3 years. How long have we had these problems? In the last four months. Let’s stop misleading the people.
HH: ” First and foremost I am very glad that Mr. Kambwili has called and his call confirms, what he has said on this radio confirms his limited understanding, complete limited understanding. It has confirmed the poor quality of minister he is and I will show you why just now. He says if cadres are employed in Zesco, how does that cause load shedding? This is how it does. You remove an engineer who works at a generating plant or in transmission line or distribution, then you replace them with an unqualified cadre because he is a PF cadre. What that does, you have taken away the skill that allow zesco to improve the generation of electricity based on installed capacity, which may arise from poor maintenance because you brought in a person who has no skills. Kambwili doesn’t understand that and it very clear he doesn’t understand and this very sad. He shouldn’t be a minister. The contexualization is that when you remove skills or the people you don’t like because you suspect they support UPND and replace them with unskilled people, your ability to maintain the integrity of the assets is impaired. When that is impaired, it reduces the amount of electricity you can supply to customers and then leads to load shedding Mr. Honourable Kambwili sir. You got it wrong.
Next, he talked about load shedding, it is everywhere in the region. Let’s talk of South Africa, load shedding is in South Africa because of the demand, the increase in the demand for commercial and industrial use, economic activity. That what you want, it’s not the case in Zambia. The existing demand is failing to receive electricity, and is not because of growth. If you have a challenge of shortage of supply of electricity because you’re growing more, there’s demand because you’re producing more goods, it is fine in finance and in economics because you have a market which you need to work on a supply side. It is simple, he doesn’t understand.
Let me serve him a little bit of grey matter, what PF could have done in 3 months?? What is he talking about? He’s been in government for four years. He’s going to a full term. What three months is he talking about? He doesn’t realize he has been in government for four years.
Honourable Kambwili, you talked about re introducing national service in 2011, 2012. To you 2012 and 2015 is equal to 3 months? You have been in government for a long time. It is not my brother. In four years you can do a lot. Because you have no plan, you have no program you think it is three months, that’s why you’re crying for 2016, you ned to deliver.
The issue to say the rand has depreciated as well and therefore it is ok for the kwacha to depreciate. It is total ignorance. Lack of understanding. Here is the situation, the South African economy and the Zambian economy are fundamentally different. We are an import dependent economy. South Africa has a huge export element. When you’re a central bank governor or minister in charge of finance in south Africa, there are times you want your rand to depreciate a little bit so that you make your exports competitive. When you make your exports competitive on price in foreign terms you can export more. We call it in finance and economics, you make your exports more elastic. Kambwili, my brother please respect those who know more than you in certain areas. Even here, when we improve our exports we may begin to tinker around the currency in order to drive more exports and we earn more revenue which revenue you’ll need to support your industries and your jobs. There is a deliberate reason you do certain things. Learn to hear from those who have done things different from you.
If you’re an import dependent economy and you tinker around, the way you introduced SI33, I told you that you’re going to damage the kwacha and you have damaged the kwacha. You have damaged the economy. Did you listen to me? No! What did you call me? You call me politicking, I wasn’t politicking. I was telling you based on knowledge. And what I told you has happened. Don’t cry.
You’re saying Zambia is a mono economy, copper. My advice to you, don’t hide behind that. What should you do? Do what Botswana has done to their economy, when the price of diamond is good, the Botswana economy offload more diamonds on the market. They work on a productive sector and they earn more money, increase their international reserves. That’s why Botswana has high foreign reserves which you need on a rain day. When you do that, you’ll be able to have high international reserves. You have been eating into the reserves you found from MMD. You’re consuming everything because you like extravagance. We’re saying to you cut your costs. Don’t compare yourself to Botswana. Don’t use examples you cannot defend. You’re actually damaging yourself.
Next, you talked about let’s aim for development not for changing government. Now, what is leadership? It is not aiming to change government, it is aiming to improve Zambia and the people discharged with the responsibility of improving Zambia are those in leadership. To use their vision, to use their skills. You have failed to use your vision, you have no vision. Your president said you have no vision. You have no skills as you have demonstrated on this score and therefore, you need to be removed so that those who have skills to use the better days when copper is selling properly and like someone said, can you manipulate the London Metal Exchange? No, but I will manipulate variables at my disposal. You then use an instrument called windfall tax which you denied when we told you to reintroduce in 2011-2012. You called us jokers. In fact, you called us lunatics. Which the late credible President Mwanawasa introduced and if it was left there, it would have added to the reserves which you have blown up and eaten through travel allowances. You would have been in a better position to support the mines through incentives when the copper prices are low. That comes from leadership. That leadership in the PF is not there. That’s why you need to come out. I’m asking Zambians, register as voters.”