NATIONAL RESTORATION PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE RECENT OUTBURSTS BY THE HEAD OF STATE AGAINST SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
“TIME TO RAISE OUR STANDARD OF GOVERNANCE”
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
If anyone is in any doubt about the state of confusion we find ourselves living in as a nation today, they only need to reflect on what transpired at state house earlier this week.
In the space of less than 20 minutes, we were forced to witness a public dressing down of senior government leaders and civil servants, a policy reversal on mineral export tax that has no doubt completely baffled the mining community, and the re-assignment of a talented but clearly ‘out of favour’ permanent secretary to his sixth official posting in less than 2 years (before he was retired the following day).
All this might be considered normal if there were not so many other things going wrong in the country.
While the republican president no doubt has his reasons for his actions and comments, it should now be abundantly clear even to the most ardent of supporters that the patriotic front (PF) administration is in total disarray. How else does one explain a president berating officials in public for action they have already taken and announced to the world; action over which one would have expected appropriate prior clearance to have been sought and obtained.
For several weeks now, in the midst of threatened strike action by essential and non-essential workers, pressing hardships as a result of the hasty and uncoordinated removal of subsidies (particularly in rural communities), a lamentable scorecard on job stimulation, continuing unabated corruption – the list goes on – we have been forced to witness public in-fighting amongst the PF’s most senior leaders.
The president’s public outbursts against his ageing deputy and senior civil servants were a clear indication that when the president wants to speak, he does.
It does, however, raise a troubling thought: how accessible is the president to his own ministers and civil servants if he can publicly complain about such important decisions being taken against his will?
The signs are that there seems to a serious breakdown in the normal functioning of government.
What the president may not realise is that this erratic behaviour – and there really is no other word to describe it – is costing the nation dearly and making a mockery of the national budgeting and planning process.
Nobody in their right frame of mind, had they been given a preview of what we are witnessing today, would have cast their ballot in favour of a political party that would turn not only against itself, but against its own people.
Nobody of course, other than those that stand to gain personally by being closely aligned to those in power. With the recent and on-going in-fighting and erratic decision making, we are undoubtedly witnessing something close to what the famous English playwright William Shakespeare described in his play: “Macbeth”.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It is a story about destiny and ambition and tells the tale of a man who becomes king of Scotland after being tricked by three witches into murdering the ruling monarch.
Upon seeing the body of the murdered king and reflecting on what this will mean for the nation of Scotland, one of the dead king’s loyal generals – speaking almost to himself – utters the following words:
“Confusion now hath made its masterpiece”.
We are undoubtedly witnessing a “masterpiece of confusion” in our national leadership. What is most surprising, however, is not the confusion, but that anyone is actually surprised that it is occurring.
Let us stop and ask ourselves two sets of questions. The first is: where are we as a nation and how did we get here?
Make no mistake about it, we are where we are because we chose as a nation to be here.
Nobody was forced to vote at gunpoint in the 2011 general elections. This is fate we chose for ourselves – collectively.
So many were so desperate for change at any cost, they did not scrutinise the practicality of the promises being made to win their support, nor did they care to assess the delivery capacity of those making them.
The PF promised jobs, lower taxes and more money in people’s pockets. By their own estimation, they have failed to attain more than 30 per cent of their own low target for job creation.
Currently, only 10 per cent of employable Zambians have a decent job.
The remaining 5.4 million are struggling to fend off poverty. If we continue at the rate we are going, nearly 2 million new unemployed will be added to this number by the time the next election comes round.
Their chances of any hope of relief has been dimmed by the erratic decision making that has plagued the current administration from day one in office.
As regards taxes and money in people’s pockets, the state of affairs is enough to drive one to tears. At every opportunity (except for raising the PAYE threshold of non taxable income), the PF have taken money away from the citizens, directly and indirectly.
The 2014 budget does nothing but consolidate the general philosophy of the pf administration: spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax!!
The PF administration set out 7 targets in its 2013 budget. They appear to have failed to achieve a single one, going as far as over-shooting their projected budget deficit by nearly 100 per cent!
The unplanned, uncontrolled, uncoordinated government expenditure has resulted in the average Zambian being punished with higher and higher taxes and more and more user fees. Money for development projects is now in such short supply, we are forced to embark on yet more borrowing just to fuel more erratic expenditure. The problem is not the shortage of money but the shortage of quality leadership at relevant levels of our governance. After the president’s recent outbursts, it will not surprise me if one or two of his more competent ministers consider resigning.
What is required of the government is the following:
Better accountability in our public procurement (which would, for example, include the immediate removal of the roads development agency from state house control and the establishment of clear and transparent guidelines on procurement)
Greater competence and stability within government (which would require civil servants to be hired on merit rather than partisan, tribal or family connection and for the endless hiring and firing of civil servants to be brought to an end)
More order, consistency and inclusiveness in decision making (which would require political tolerance as well as better and broader consultation with stakeholders before important policy decisions and changes to legislation are made).
Having determined where we are and how we got here, the second set of questions we need to ask ourselves is: why are things not changing for the better and how do we get ourselves out of the current mess? I believe we must start by accepting that we are each responsible for making our country better.
This is no time for blame. This is a time for constructive politics. Being constructive requires us to accept what is wrong and to call it so. constructive politics moves us from the politics of personality to the politics of character.
From insults to issues. From condemnation to constructive engagement.
For when we focus on blame we miss the chance to apply our minds to finding solutions and we avoid accepting our own role in the problems confronting us. leadership is required at all levels of society. As we move towards 50 years as an independent nation, we need to reflect on the type of leadership that will be appropriate for meeting our current and future challenges. We need leadership that can identify causes and consequences and set out a vision of where we ought to be as individuals, as communities and as a nation.
We need leadership that can keep its promises and raise the standard of our governance in order to build a country that can finally emerge from the mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect that it has become so accustomed to. we will raise our standard of governance when as individuals we raise our sense of awareness about the responsibility we all share for the state of the nation we find ourselves living in today.
I thank you and may God’s grace be with you all.
Elias C. Chipimo president national restoration party 1 November 2013