JUDICIARY and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (JAWUZ) president Peter Mwale says Zambians should brace themselves for untold suffering and misery under the PF government.
During the Labour Day commemorations in Lusaka on Monday, PF’s Edgar Lungu said to prevent the economy from complete collapse, Zambia has no choice but to increase electricity tariffs. He said the increase in tariffs was aimed at addressing the economic challenges the country was facing.
“The need for us to increase electricity tariffs cannot be compromised or negotiated. I am afraid, if it means you voting me out in 2021, please do so. I will not make decisions just to keep myself in office because there is life beyond my term of office,” said President Lungu when the ZCTU asked him to help in reversing the 50 per cent tariff hike effected on May 1 to forestall suffering on many civil servants.
But Mwale said Lungu’s statement on the increase in electricity tariffs was was disappointing and shocking.
“With what is happening in our country right now, we should brace ourselves for the untold suffering and misery. It is very shocking and disappointing that his excellency can come out in that fashion because what we expected is something else…For us as JAWUZ, we are actually very disappointed. We thought that the President could not have commented on that matter. He was supposed to leave the process to Zesco, ERB and the stakeholders. Now, why we are very worried is that it is very clear then that the statement from His Excellency President Lungu means that even what is going on actually doesn’t make sense… I don’t think that hiking of electricity tariffs is the one that is going to improve the economy.”
He said the economy could only improve if there was prudent management of resources.
Mwale said it would be unfortunate if the economic recovery programmes would disadvantage the poor workers.
“You can clearly see that the cost of living is already high. That is why even the labour movement through ZCTU, we said that the hiking of these tariffs has come at a wrong time. Whether the consultation process is going on or not, it is clear that Zesco has already made a decision. I don’t think that Zesco, ERB and the stakeholders can go against President Lungu’s position on the tariffs. Imagine if they are saying that 50 per cent hike! In fact, it is 75 per cent; that is something that will be way above the reach of the majority Zambians. That is not a secret. Even us as a union, we are opposing that seriously. We are on firm ground opposing that and it should not be entertained,” he said.
Our appeal is to the President. He should have left the process to Zesco, ERB and the stakeholders,
Mwale said President Lungu should have consulted before making such a pronouncement on electricity tariffs.
The President shouldn’t just make pronouncements. He should get down on the ground and consult ordinary members in society. We know that the President is not paying anything to Zesco because everything is free, including ministers and others. But the majority Zambians, it’s not free. That is why we are saying already we are struggling to pay the existing tariffs. In fact, we could have asked the Head of State to order Zesco to withdraw those proposals and order for a reduction in the tariffs. It is shocking that we are now reaching those levels where the aspirations of the poor workers in Zambia are not being heard. No reasonable Zambian can agree with Zesco to hike the tariffs,
“As JAWUZ, we are now getting ready for more suffering and misery because already the cost of living in Zambia has skyrocketed…almost everything is going up in this country. What is happening in this country is very disturbing. We are saying that, let the President find it in his heart, he is a parent, to reverse and tell Zesco not to hike the tariffs. Zesco should reverse the tariffs because we have suffered enough in this country and this will just worsen the situation.”
And Mwale appealed to the government to expedite the process of negotiations for new transport and housing allowances.