Opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says the unprecedented levels of poverty and high cost of living among Zambians under the PG government was way unacceptable.
Speaking when he addressed leaders at various levels of party structures of more than 200 defectors from PF, MMD, and FDD in Lusaka’s Mtendere township in Munali constituency over the weekend, Mr. Hichilema said the PF government was slowly consigning Zambians to their early graves.
“Not long ago, PF government which claims to be pro-poor removed fuel and mealie meal subsidies, a few months ago, they again increased fuel, today as I am speaking to you, they have increased ZESCO electricity tariffs which means the cost of all commodities will go up again,” Mr. Hichilema said.
He said there was hunger in Mtendere and various townships in Zambia and it was time a more responsible and responsive government was put in place in 2016.
Mr. Hichilema said it was clear the PF did not care about the suffering of the masses and the PF leaders in government were involved in serious economic sabotage going by the way they have allowed the Kwacha to depreciate.
“I was listening to the radio the other day, Zambians are now mourning the late Zambian Kwacha. Zambians are even demanding for a day of national mourning for the late Kwacha. They are demanding for all national events to be preceded with a minute of silence in honour of the late Zambian Kwacha. That may sound like a joke but the situation is very serious,” he said.
Mr. Hichilema said at the rate the damage to the country’s economy was going, Zambians may soon end up buying a loaf of bread for K50 and one tomatoe or onion for K20 or more.
“Many of our people are jobless, but the situation is also stressful and depressing even to those who are working because they are forced to buy a few things they can afford today, because prices of essential commodities keep increasing everyday,” said Mr. Hichilema who mainly spoke in Nyanja.
“You look around, how often do you see wedding ceremonies in our communities these days? How often do you meet vehicle convoys honking in our streets for wedding ceremonies? Our young men and women in our compounds are now scared to enter into marriages due to high cost of living under the PF government,” Mr. Hichilema told the cheering audience shouting aleisa aleisa.
He said a number of Zambians that were depending on salaula and other imported goods for survival have been seriously affected by the weakening Kwacha.
He also said the UPND will not stop demanding for a new people driven constitution which Zambians have been calling for many years.
Mr. Hichilema, who addressed the meeting under a small tent at someone’s home, complained that he would have loved the meeting to be held in an open air and relatively bigger grounds but the oppressive situation could not allow.
“I have been told that some of the people could not be brought here to interact with us due to limited space under this small tent. This is how the PF are limiting our freedoms of speech and assembly now and yet they keep claiming there was no opposition in the country,” he said.
As Mr. Hichilema was addressing, police officers in plain clothes came to the UPND party member’s house and attempted to stop the meeting but the residents and defectors chased them away.
“We have called Mr. Hichilema for a prayer meeting here. We are worshipping with him over poverty in the country. So please you are either free to join us in our prayer meeting with him or leave us alone,” the residents told the police.
The police were alerted by Mr. Justine Chipoya from State House who was driving a State House white Mitsubishi Pajero registration number ABX 3850.
He said the UPND was the only alternative for Zambians and it belonged to all members on an equal basis both new and old.
He urged UPND members and the defectors to feel free and interact with various party structures and recruit more members from bus stops, markets, learning institutions, from their homes, churches, and places of work.