ELIAS Chipimo Jr has observed that Zambia has deteriorated into an era of grand corruption where it can now start annual celebrations of the scourge so that citizens can compare notes.
And the National Restoration Party (NAREP) leader says under PF President Edgar Lungu, Zambia has evolved into a country that is completely intolerant of any dissenting views.
Meanwhile, Chipimo has noted that there is no serious overture around the issue of Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema dialoguing.
Chipimo, who was the guest on Hot FM radio’s ‘Hot Seat’ programme, pointed out that corruption was now “just part of our culture” in Zambia.
“I have been saying it for a long now [that] we should just have a ceremony, the same way that we have Chilanga mulilo and amatebeto. Just have a ceremony for corruption so that people can come and sit together and say ‘eh! This is how me I do corruption, ah! Me this is how much I made.’ You compare notes because it’s part of our culture. We are descending to a point now where we’ll even be able to be open about it where people will just be…The same way that you produce results of a tender in a newspaper; you’ll put that corruption, 20 per cent. We’ll just be writing about it and nobody we’ll see it as strange because this is what is happening [in] the public sector, private sector and ordinary life,”
“We are deteriorating. We are going into an era in which we have never been before! For all the faults that we can point to the Kaundas during the times that they were in power, corruption was not their issue. We’ve gone into an era where even a small child thinks that corruption is a normal thing.”
Asked whether Zambia’s human rights record was deteriorating under the PF government, he responded: “It is! There is no doubt about it. When you compare what the PF is able to do and what non-PF is prevented from doing…”
On the dialogue between the Lungu and Hichilema that is highly anticipated by the public, Chipimo observed that the “stronger side” seemed inert on the matter.
“There is no overture around the issue of dialogue, even around the issue of prayer, around the issue of allowing these people just to hold a rally. Even for the President to go out of his way and say, ‘I’m waiting to speak to my young brother Mr Hichilema,’ nothing of the sort has come out! Instead we have had complete silence,”
“But this peace is not just for two parties [but] it’s actually peace for the whole nation and it is a dialogue that must actually involve a broader set of stakeholders because we are all impacted. Right now, if I want to get a permit to go and explain to the people in Chibolya what TPG (NAREP’s Twenty Per cent Generation platform) will mean to them and how it will uplift those people out of poverty, I’ll not be granted than opportunity.”
Chipimo added that the process of dialogue among political rivals in the country must change the culture of “the approach of impunity”.
“There has to be willingness on the part of those who are at the centre of the obstacles to peace. I have always said [that] when there is a dispute between two parties, the one who should make the first step to bringing about peace should be the one in the stronger position. The ones in the stronger positions are those who are holding power, which is the PF – they should be the ones to say ‘let us humble ourselves for the sake of unity in this country.’ [But] I think that they are not serious about peace; whether it’s arrogance, whether it’s believing [that] they don’t need to do it or whether they want to take advantage that they can prevent anybody…,”
And Chipimo said mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect were vices that created problems in Zambia.
“At the foundation of those four things is ego [and] even the Bible refers to it – the desires of the flesh. This is really what is going on here; people forget that they are put in power in order to serve others – we are not put there in order to make ourselves rich. We do it because it’s a service that we have to perform to the people of this country and that’s why elections take place – it’s not to put somebody in power so that he becomes super mega wealthy and then uses his wealth in order to continue to perpetuate his rule,” he noted.
“That is not why elections should take place and unfortunately, that has become the norm. It’s now so normal that you even sound strange when you talk about things like corruption! When you say that ‘we can’t be spending a million dollars on a fire tender,’ when you threaten to fire somebody who makes fun of a contraption that looks just like a wheelbarrow and he calls it a wheelbarrow and then you want to start to remove him from his office. Look, this is not what we signed up for; this is not what our independence was fought for. We have to raise the profile of the responsibility we have to honour our true freedom-fighters.”
On whether President Lungu had failed to uphold freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, Chipimo said intolerance of dissent had continued to exist under the current government.
“I must commend the former president Rupiah Banda because the one thing that he did was [that] he allowed that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. He didn’t like it but he allowed it. He was groomed to be a diplomat….. But something changed after the fall of Mr Banda! Even with Mr [Michael] Sata, he was much more open, much more accommodating. But we seem to have now evolved into a country that is completely intolerant of any dissenting views. They even imposed a state of threatened emergency and it was completely unnecessary. Up to now, do you know the outcome of the investigations of the so-called arson attacks? Do you think they are going to tell us which government officials are involved in the mukula tree scandal?”
“So, yes rights have been eroded! And you know what makes this particularly bad? It’s not so much that it’s worse…. The intolerance that continues to be there means that you can manipulate people into believing that you are doing good things for them when, at the end of the day, you are simply enriching yourself and entrenching your ability to retain power. Now that is dangerous because we are moving into an era where 50 per cent of the population in this country is below the age of 15 and these young people, where are they going to get jobs? If we don’t have a government that cares, we’ve got a time bomb that is waiting to explode – it’s ticking right now! These youths are not going to remain quiet for long. As we go towards 2021, we have to create 375,000 jobs every year to be able to accommodate the ranks of young people who are coming into the job market and each year we don’t do it, it doubles the number. So there is a time bomb here waiting to explode and as the economy starts to bite, you are going to see the impact of what it means to be desperate and not to have hope.”