Former Patriotic Front secretary general Charles Chimumbwa has challenged party president Michael Sata to surrender the houses he acquired during former President Chiluba’s housing empowerment initiative.
Mr Chimumbwa said Mr Sata should be sincere and honest and speak for the poor.
He said Mr Sata is one of the beneficiaries of the housing empowerment scheme initiated by Dr Chiluba.
Mr Chimumbwa was reacting to Mr Sata’s letter to President Banda in which he has stated that the decision to write off outstanding debts on parastatal houses is not supported by any legal provisions.
Mr Sata said if implemented, the initiative would deplete Government coffers and it would be difficult to pay pensioners.
“When Mr Sata benefited at a time houses were being sold as low as K10,000, there was no issue of draining Government coffers, and how does it become illegal now when it was not at that time?” Mr Chimumbwa said.
He said President Banda’s move to write off debts owed to Mukuba Pensions and Zambia Railways should be welcomed by all well-meaning Zambians.
“The problem is that the opposition feels that if President Banda continues working like this, they will be rendered irrelevant politically,” he said.
Mr Chimumbwa said most of the houses whose debt has been written off are occupied by former workers of parastatal companies, some of whom never got their retirement packages because the companies were liquidated.
“How does Mr Sata expect these people to pay for the houses? What Mr Banda has done is to help these former workers as they wait for their pensions to be processed,” he said.
He said opposition parties have nothing to offer the people of Zambia other than unrealistic criticism.
“In fact, the opposition should have been the first to push President Banda to write off the debts, but they are now opposing even what makes sense,” he said.
Meanwhile, chief Government spokesperson Ronnie Shikapwasha has said President Banda is a caring leader who always thinks about the welfare of Zambians.
Lieutenant-General Shikapwasha in an interview yesterday slammed Col Panji Kaunda for criticising President Banda’s idea to write off debts on parastatal houses.
Gen Shikapwasha said the initiative is part of sustainable development through expanded access to land, housing, basic services and other infrastructure.
And Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA) overseer Peter Ndhlovu urged Mr Sata to stop politicking and concentrate on constructive criticism.
“The people of Zambia should now see that some leaders have no heart for the poor. The people who benefited from President Banda’s goodwill have been struggling to pay for the houses and there is nothing wrong with helping them out,” he said.
He said Mr Sata is not fit to lead Zambia.
“He always says he speaks for the poor people but his statements and actions are totally different. He is not consistent with his words and actions,” Bishop Ndhlovu said.
He said any citizen who feels for the poor must congratulate President Banda on the move to write off outstanding balances on various properties.
He urged politicians to criticise positively and not destroy the nation.
“I would like to dare Mr Sata to go to the Copperbelt and tell the beneficiaries to reject this empowerment and let’s see how the beneficiaries will react to that,” he said.
Bishop Ndhlovu said Mr Sata is one of the architects of the housing empowerment initiative under Dr Chiluba.
And MMD chairman for local government and environment Brian Chituwo said it is important for citizens to give credit to the head of State for writing off the debt.
Dr Chituwo said the housing initiative was initiated by Dr Chiluba and that President Banda has just continued implementing the policy.
Dr Chituwo recently attended a conference in Nairobi whose theme was “Sustainable development through access to housing, quality services and poverty reduction”, where ministers discussed the importance of increasing access to housing as a means of reducing poverty.