SAVE JOBS AND CREATE MORE JOBS: UPP is fully aware of the impeding decision by the PF Government to put ZESCO and ZAMTEL on sale to foreign investors. We are also aware of the massive retrenchment programme, which is expected to be in high gear next year. The budget speech for 2017, currently being worked on has been predicated on austere economic measures.
I will be dealing with these issues in phases, but today I will restrict myself to the myopic and misguided PF economic policy on ZESCO. I will deal with ZAMTEL and the public service in due course.
The plan by the PF is to lay off many ZESCO employees, direct ERB to increase electricity tariffs (cost reflective as the recycled MMD Minister of Finance said a week before he was appointed) and then put the corporation on sale in separate units (distribution, kafue gorge and kariba).
Clearly, the PF is asking itself wrong questions which are now putting us on a course of solutions that will be gravely injurious to ordinary Zambians and the economy.
One late President of Zambia (MHSRIP) once counselled me when I was MP, “when by God’s grace you become President of Zambia be careful on the policies that affect 1. Energy, 2… 3…”. I have deliberately left out 2 and 3 because I want to see where the PF intends to steer the statecraft. I am spending sleepless nights reviewing many issues over my beloved country, your country, our country.
There can never be a nation without the people. It’s therefore wrong to start solving the energy crisis by firstly making ZESCO viable for a foreign takeover so that Zambians can pay the price. The starting point should be making Zambian families, workers, marketeers, farmers and SMEs viable so that their capacity to pay high electricity bills is increased. Any economic policy that loses sight of this imperative will make families worse off while making the cartels of the elite richer. How will Zambians who are retrenched and jobless pay high tariffs? How will the already struggling SMEs pay high tariffs? In the end, the expected foreign owners of ZESCO will produce electricity and export it to more viable economies in the region.
The people of Zambia did not “vote” for the PF so that the PF can carelessly implement policies that will reverse the little gains our nation has recorded.
As MP, I discovered that there is a nation within a nation. One nation is a “fools paradise” in which leaders decide to live in luxury at the expense of Main Street (ordinary Zambians). In this fools paradise leaders make decisions for their benefits first. These benefits include the contracts that their companies will get, the scholarships that their children will get, the allowances that they will be paid, the cheap loans they will direct CEEC to give them, the houses that they will direct NHA to allocate to them, the trips that they will make overseas to tour the world in the name of learning (lessons that are never replicated in Zambia), etc.
Worse still, if funds are not adequate, they quickly borrow so that Main Street can pay through high taxation – meanwhile politicians pay less taxes by increasing non-taxable allowances on the pay slips. I refused to be part of this “fools paradise” hence my resignation 3 weeks before huge mid term gratuities were paid.
In the other nation (Main Street) are ordinary Zambians paying high taxes to sustain the “fools paradise”.
In the Main Street are diseases, unemployment, dancing when handouts (blindfolds) are distributed during campaigns, high illiteracy levels, street vending under unsanitary conditions (levies are however collected by councils everyday), etc. As if this was not enough, political cadres who are hired as “instruments” by leaders to beat up whoever speaks against practices that threaten their looting programme, actually live in the misery of Main Street. The same “instruments” have also been deployed on social media to hurl vitriol against leaders who have divergent views.
Meanwhile, a notion of “if you can’t beat them join them” has emerged. Surprisingly, this is not only coming from practitioners of a politics of the “belly”, but also some people in the Main Street. Whoever attempts to propose alternative plans for the birthing of a prosperous new Zambia is told to “just join” them.
What we are about to go through, under the PF, in the next five years will be so rough that Main Street will pay the heaviest price ever. Remember, we have US$9.75 billion public debt to repay as a nation (the borrowing by the PF in 5 years represented an increase in the rate of borrowing by 176% as compared to the period before). This is an albatross hanging on the necks of the Zambian people who have to pay it back. Leaders know only too well that it’s none of their business to worry about it. If anything, they have to spend lavishly on oath taking, heavy pay, contracts with personal benefits, and trips overseas which will contribute to more debt.
As Main Street repays through high taxes and tariffs, profligate spending among leaders will continue after all they are the FIRST IN THE QUE to be taken care of – I did not know until I learned, during my study of LLB, at UNZA that expenditure on constitutional office holders was a charge to the treasury and as such they are the first to be paid under whatever circumstances. This reminds me of how some MPs and Ministers would shout at the National Assembly Motel, “…Today there is an outbreak of money! Money!….” This would happen when too much was received in allowances every two weeks. I would go in my room to literally weep for my country. My news conferences to call for sacrifice among we the leaders did not yield any results. I still have a letter from Mr Speaker to exculpate myself for exposing matters of privilege (as they call it) in public and yet it’s the public that pays taxes.
Today, I have no regrets that I walked out of luxury by resigning because the wrongs that we maintain will come back to haunt our children. Someone must pay for every evil – if we don’t, then future generations will pay. It would be selfish of this generation not to sacrifice and work for my children, your children, our children and those Zambians who are yet to be born.
I shudder at the litany of what’s in the offing for the Zambian people. I mean the impending increase of 300% electricity tariffs, fuel by 50%, and the removal of subsidies on agriculture which will force mealie meal prices to skyrocket more than 100%. This, was supposed to take place in 2015, but was put in abeyance so that it could be a post 2016 election surprise for the people of Zambia. If indeed this happens, it will be pure political gaming on the electorate.
Politics can no longer be taken to be a game because even by definition it is not so! Politics is the art of science of government and certainly seeking to lead the people has never been and will never ever be a game.
UPP shall remain watchful and our official statements shall be made through our respective shadow portfolio ministers immediately the PF unveils its policies for 2017 as well as after the budget presentation.
Meanwhile, we are thankful to the people of Kanyama Constituency for the thunderous welcome that we received yesterday during our inaugural national mobilisation programme “CHANGE 2021”. This marks the beginning of our thanksgiving and grassroots re-organisation tours in all the 156 constituencies.