Opposition Patriotic Front (PF) leader MICHAEL Sata has vowed to stamp out corruption and warns that former presidents who act outside the law should not expect to get away with their mischief, according to the Post newspaper.
And Sata says Zambia is ripe for major change.
Giving a special lecture at the University of Oxford on Monday, Sata, who presented a paper under the theme ‘Road to presidency: How to be a successful opposition leader in Africa’, said a PF government shall vigorously fight corruption by ensuring that provisions in the anti-corruption legislation were strengthened and fully implemented.
“These efforts shall include the reinstatement of clauses which were recently deliberately removed from our anti-corruption law, which has the effect of exempting from prosecution the wrong-doing by the official, simply because the law was not applicable when they were in office. Public officials, including former presidents, who act outside the law, should not expect to get away with their mischief,” Sata said. “The Anti Corruption Commission shall be revamped and strengthened and so shall the judicial systems that will be needed to give effect to the national laws. If and when we shall find it necessary, we shall not hesitate to seek appropriate assistance from Britain and other Commonwealth countries which operate a similar judicial system to our own, to assist us in dealing with cases of corruption.”
He said given the scale of the scourge, and its entrenchment, PF may find it necessary to set up a special court to deal expediently with white-collar and abuse of office crimes.
He said the recommendations of the Auditor General shall be implemented within the first 90 days.
“Let no one be left in doubt as to my party-led government, and about our firm determination to stamp out corruption in our country. A country that goes round the world begging for assistance can’t afford to waste it. In any case, corruption is a major contributor to our poverty,” Sata said. “Through the proposed planning and fiscal (Budget) Act, we shall seek to eliminate the misapplication/diversion of public funds to unplanned activities or projects. We shall seek to eliminate supplementary budgets caused by abuse and lack of fiscal discipline.”
He said in their endeavour to stop abuse of office, PF shall consider the proposal to “name and shame” culprits of theft.
He said PF was committed to reducing the high cost of government.
“To contain reckless borrowing, debt-contraction and any borrowing for public projects shall require parliamentary authorisation and their application restricted to high pay-back projects and programmes,” Sata said. “A PF-led government shall seek to enhance the country’s ability to achieve and sustain balanced-budgets, but shall restrict use of external support, through grants and loans, to capital projects only; Zambia must live within the financial resources that it generates.”
He said PF would also overhaul the entire taxation regime.
“Simplify taxation and reinforce tax collection to achieve improved collections. I have often been challenged on how PF will enable citizens to have more money in their pockets while lowering taxes.
My simple answer to that is that we shall achieve substantial revenue increase by stamping out corruption, misuse of funds, streamlined government operations costing-saving schemes, reducing cost of doing business,” Sata said. “I believe that the foregoing measures shall lead to higher employment levels, achieve savings for government and business, and improve performance and efficiency. Our economic policies shall be based on smart partnerships to achieve mutual benefiting position for investors and the government providing appropriate resource.
“There can be no justification why Zambia should have one of the highest taxation levels while at the same time industries that are making the most profits, such as the mining industry should hardly pay taxes, yet they exploit a non-renewable national resource.”
He said there shall be no nationalisation policy, but there shall be need for re-alignment of private versus national interest, based on smart partnership.
He said the private sector that promotes national and individual interest shall be encouraged bearing in mind the need for equitable contributions by all taxpayers.
He said Zambians would be offered similarly attractive investment opportunities and incentives as their foreign counterparts.
“Let me state categorically that while Zambia can at this point in history not be said to be a rich country, it is equally true that it is neither a poor country. Our belief in PF is that the country is richly endowed with natural resources but the economy is poorly managed,” Sata said. “The focus of our economic policies and the thrust of our actions shall be directed to achieving a balanced budget which should contribute to reducing the level of inflation and interest on borrowing.”
He said PF shall seek to make Zambia a food-basket of the region, due to the country’s comparative advantage.
He said PF fully recognised that investors sought good returns on their investment.
“We accept and do not have any difficulty with that expectation. We shall seek what they desire to see or apply in their own (home) countries. Investors will continue to freely externalise their profits, but we shall insist on capital investment that will stay for longer than what has now become the tradition of changing ownership every five years,” Sata said. “I have often been asked how PF can put more money in the citizen’s pockets. Our concept is this – no economy can grow if the consumers in it are poor. Who will buy the commodities and with what if the people are poor. We need to be smart in the way we operate the economy. The Zambian government should not develop its national economy for someone else. It must start with benefiting the nationals first.”
He said workers rights need protecting, fair wages must be paid and a much safer working environment provided.
He said PF shall ensure respect for national laws as they seek to implement an orderly transition.
“We have already established both a “think–tank” and a “transition management team”, whose assignments have been to prepare a ‘Programme of Action’ for a PF government, during the first 90 days and later for five years,” Sata said. “Not only have the teams drawn from our party manifesto, but are carrying out wide consultations with other stakeholders. We seek to create an all embracing government that achieves consensus, and that having done so, moves decisively to implement sound programmes that the people of Zambia have always sought.”
On the formation of PF, Sata said he left the MMD after coming to the conclusion that they were not taking the country anywhere.
“Unemployment in Zambia stands at 80 per cent among the youth who are the majority of our population. MMD leaders including former President Mr Chiluba were more concerned about enriching themselves at the expense of the ordinary citizens. He even bought 1,000 suites and 300 pairs of shoes as the court records will show! I refused to be in the company of looters and dealers,” he said.
On the electoral system, Sata stressed the need for reform saying had he not restrained his supporters after the 2006 elections the situation could have easily led to the Ivory Coast type of problems.
“A similar pattern occurred in the 2008 presidential by-election where I was reported to have lost the election by 1.99 per cent, with Mr Banda declared a winner with 40.2 per cent and myself with 38.64 per cent. This shows clearly that the electoral system is in need of reform to align the presidential vote with the wishes of the majority of the voters,” he said.
He said it was his belief that the opposition collectively, and PF in particular, had actually done better.
“How much better is almost impossible to say as this has been compromised as a result of lack of transparency on the part of the electoral commission in the whole process. It is curious that guests from within and outside the country are invited to the inauguration of the new president way before the final declaration of the results,” Sata said. “Regrettably, the Chief Justice, who is appointed by the President, is also the returning officer, and the person entrusted with the swearing in of the new president and is also the same person to whom any appeal against the electoral malpractices, must be lodged.
“It is against this background that we are now insisting on the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT), a process to which the government is violently opposed to and any other systems of verification including those related to the number of ballot papers that have been printed.”
On challenges facing the opposition, Sata cited government intimidation as among them.
“The intimidation is incessant and has major effects; Law enforcement agencies including the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), the police, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the intelligence are used to curtail the freedom of assembly and association, police arrests and intimidation against the opposition, the public media are used as vehicles of personal slander and hate speeches,” Sata said.
“Government programmes are abused for campaign purposes even before the commencement, before announcement of election date. And of late, government and ruling party-induced physical violence is used to disrupt operations and programmes of opposition parties. Recent cases bear evidence of this. All these methods which are against the electoral legislation are used to cripple the opposition especially their leadership.”
He also said there was a challenge of resource mobilisation, human resource and media coverage.
He further said based on his experience, the factors of success consist of courage in the face of adversity and staying the course despite the pain, frustrations and impediments on the way, including knowledge and experience of previous events and the functioning of governance systems.
He added that the personal characteristics of the top leader were equally important.
“A leader should have resilience and must be able to stay the course and should be able to establish and maintain strong relationships with groups outside the party structures such as faith based organisations and civil society organisations, media, the labour movement and international community,” Sata said. “…being able to offer checks and balances and credible alternatives to the status quo, by holding government accountable and ability to mobilise resources for party operations, particularly that in our country opposition parties are not funded from public resources.
“Clearly, besides this, there are several other aspects which make for a successful opposition leader especially winning the elections and being able to offer appropriate solutions.”
He said the mood in Zambia was synonymous with the demand for change which occurred in 1991 when Zambia led the way in changing a government by the peaceful ballot in Southern Africa.
“We are poised for similar change this year and I call upon all peace loving countries and institutions to come and observe our elections to give support to what must be a democratic transparent process, whose results are credible enough that we can all accept them as we did in 1991. The international community must help to put in place mechanisms that avoid conflict and not to come later to resolve a conflict as happened in Ivory Coast and Kenya,” he said.
He said economically, the majority of Zambians continued to be worse off even as the macro-economic environment was reported to be good because the benefits were not reaching the majority.
“Many of you at this gathering, may not be aware that in fact Zambia was already a middle-income nation status, at the time of its independence in 1964. Currently, rural poverty has reached alarming levels of as high as 84 per cent,” Sata said. “Although current urban poverty is reported to average 34 per cent, it is in fact much higher than that figure when one reflects on the statistics of the low-cost (peoples) townships. Because of this, most of our citizens have had to resort to survival businesses and tactics, hence the emergence of plastic and tin-clad business stands along most city and country roads.
“Inspite of the claims by the current government that the GDP growth figures are averaging 5 per cent to 7 per cent over the last five years, yet the level of inflation has ranged between 8.5 per cent to 16.6 per cent, during the same period, much higher than the growth levels. The cost of living for an average family of eight people comprising father, mother and six (6) children, in Lusaka, according to a defined food basket has been about £460 per month, while the government’s permissible minimum wage currently is below £50 per month.”
He said Zambia was ripe for a major transformation both in political, economic and social terms that should bring about prosperity.
He said PF should seek to expeditiously, within 90 days, move to address the need for a people – driven constitution.
He also pledged to resolve the Barotse Agreement issue.
And Economic consultant Bob Sichinga said he had volunteered to assist because he wanted Zambia to move forward.
“I get concerned when I see corruption and poverty of our people. Mr Sata is capable to lead this kind of transformation and change the country needs,” he said.
And Dr Kasuka Mutukwa said with a visionary leader, Zambia “can make it.”
Veteran politician Simon Zukas was among the many Zambians that travelled to Oxford to attend the special lecture.