National Restoration Party
It is now 2 years behind us since Zambia ushered into office the Patriotic Front administration. Over the 2 years, so much has been said and so little done that one is left wondering- Zambia, where to? On the back of promises that hoodwinked Zambians into believing a paradise was about to be created in Zambia, the PF’s victory sparked historic celebrations across the country as the jobless youths, the disempowered farmers, the retirees and the struggling businessmen and women began the 90 day countdown to the new dawn. It is now 730 days and lo and behold; where are we? Where are we headed to?
One of the issues that endeared the Patriotic Front Leader, Mr Michael Sata, to the Zambian people was his condemnation of laws that were applied selectively and meant to disadvantage opposition parties. Mr Sata was very vocal on the Public Order Act when he was in the opposition and we all expected his government to liberate Zambia from this archaic law once he had the mandate to do so. Two years down the line:
· Opposition parties cannot assemble freely and all kinds of reasons are sought by police to deny us permits to meet the Zambians. A NAREP in door meeting was unceremoniously stopped in Kitwe, a week ago the Pastoral Centre in Kasama was surrounded by police in riot gear as early as 07:00 hours to stop another NAREP in door meeting
· Parties that have attempted to peacefully demonstrate against the illegal holding of office of the Acting Chief Justice have been denied that right while the PF can match the length and breadth of the city without a permit; they can match and damage public institutions- Northmead Basic School- without restraint
Although we have done it before, we wish to appeal to the PF administration to have a moment of silence, get a score-card and rate themselves on how they have performed on just this one thing. With this harassment and selective application of the law, what should the ministers be telling us?
Two years down the line, the freedom of association, the freedom of speech are under serious threat. An opposition leader cannot walk freely and mingle with the citizens on our streets for fear of being harassed by the so-called PF supporters. President Chipimo and his team were harassed by cadres at a bus station on Kafue Road, he was denied entry into the Radio Mano premises in Kasama in full view of policemen and women. PF, are these the liberties you promised Zambia on your march to serve us? NAREP wishes to appeal for serious introspection in your rank and file- where are you taking Zambia? What legacy are you creating for yourselves? We must never forget that Zambia is our common denominator and it is the responsibility of those entrusted with the powers to govern to ensure that we remain a shining example of a free society where the rights and freedoms of all citizens are guaranteed. We have come a long way and those who are old enough to remember will not wish we get back to a situation where – IT PAYS TO BELONG TO THE RULING PARTY. So what should the ministers be telling us when it is believed that some of them are behind the harassment of those with divergent views?
With all the work done by the numerous Constitution Review Commissions, we will have a new constitution that will address what Zambia has been asking for over the years in 90 days- so we were told. Two years down the line- where is the new constitution? President Sata should not forget that friendships were broken in his party over the constitution making process because he did not subscribe to what he termed a costly process that was unnecessary because everything required for the constitution was available. Sir, you constituted your technical committee nearly two years ago, millions of the new kwacha have been gobbled over the process and Zambia is waiting. We all know what we want in that constitution. Can you rise to the occasion and do what you promised. Surely the famous former ‘rebel’ MPs are having a good laugh. Do not be surprised that your ministers are quite, they have nothing to tell us. They cannot all be talking about link Zambia and Pave Zambia everyday; we expect much more than the road rhetoric. When are we getting our constitution?
‘More jobs’ was one of the catchy phrases as you appealed for Zambians to give you an opportunity to form government. 730 days behind us; how many jobs have been created and I mean jobs not just sweeping the streets or a 2 day contract to cut down trees where a new road is ear-marked. In a natural resource laden country, half the work of creating jobs is done but you need capable leadership to do the other half. Your failure to create jobs is as a result of the following:
· Continued exportation of raw materials (timber, minerals) and importation of chairs and razor blades made from our timber and minerals. NAREP in office will focus on value addition in word and deed.
· Unsupportive policies on strengthening local enterprises. Contrary to your empowerment promises for locals, your government has continued to allow investors taking over small businesses that would propel Zambians to better economic levels. We still have investors selling broilers at Soweto market, investors selling second hand clothes
· Poor agricultural policies. The agricultural industry is supposed to be the biggest employer in this country given the natural potential for the industry to thrive. Under your administration, the industry has hit its lowest ebb. You have allowed importation of edible oils to such an extent that processors of oil seeds such as soya beans and sunflower have been blown out of business. This has led to a loss of market for oils seeds among the farmers and made farming less attractive and increased unemployment in this value chain. You will recall that as an opposition leader you visited the Mulungushi Textiles in Kabwe and lamented that the infrastructure was going to waste with Chinese keeping pigs in some of the offices. You promised to revive the industry once you assumed office. NAREP wishes to remind you that the situation has not changed. The cotton growing industry is dead leading to loss of jobs and loss of an economic activity by the farmers. So what do you expect your ministers to be telling us?
NAREP has a comprehensive plan for creating jobs which has been shared widely. We appeal to you to take time to study this plan for the good of Zambia. The 25 year old youths, who voted for you, will still be jobless at 30 when you exit office if you do nothing about their situation TODAY.
In your infamous 90 days rhetoric, you spoke about how load shedding would be a thing of the past, you condemned the mobile hospitals claiming that you would ensure the current health facilities are well stocked and new ones constructed, you criticized the education system as being out-dated and irrelevant, you lambasted the MMD government for having the highest fuel prices in the region. 730 days behind us, your record speaks for itself:
· Load shedding today is more frequent than it ever was. As I write this statement, there is no power in Chilanga. Your shuffling of management at ZESCO seems to have only benefitted the job holders. Ask the people in Matero, Mandevu, Mtendere what their budgets for charcoal and candles are owing to the unprecedented load shedding. What should your ministers be talking about? When NAREP talks about renewable energy, it is because we have a plan to put to rest load shedding and its challenges. Today, people trading in fresh products such as milk and meat face huge challenges to keep the products fresh due to routine load shedding.
· Health: Just to remind you that people are still getting prescriptions for panadol. We agreed with you when you promised access to health for all citizens. So what should your ministers be talking about when there is no panadol in health facilities, when facilities are running out of ARVs?
· Education: This is an area where we expected a lot of energy and redirection. Our education system is still irrelevant and unresponsive to the changing times. You have only succeeded in removing the term basic and replaced it with primary while everything else remains the same. The Early Childhood policy is still in draft. We do not seem to know whether we are going or coming. So what do you expect your ministers to tell us?
· Need we talk about fuel prices? You remember how you mocked the MMD government by getting on a bus on the pretext that fuel was too expensive, how you went to fuel stations carrying a 20 litre container. The on lookers really believed you would deal with these issues decisively but what have you done. Fuel prices have hit the roof. Your ministers spent money to explain to us the benefits of higher bus fares for the poor, higher milling prices, higher mealie-meal prices. How could we believe you when you could still afford a bloated government? Yes your government is bloated- check the figures. How could we believe you when political expediency for inducing by-elections was stronger than economic prudence? What should your ministers be telling us?
In addition to the above, your government seems clueless on how to deal with the following:
· Street vending
· Paying retirees
· Printing of ballot papers overseas
· Wrangling in your government at the expense of attending to the development needs
· How to make Zambia a regional food basket
Notwithstanding, your below par performance, we appreciate the successful hosting of the COSAFA tournament, your passion for working on the road network and the harmonization of salaries in the civil service. You could do a lot better if you paid attention to your government’s numerous challenges in addressing people development and addressing service delivery. NAREP will not speak for the sake of speaking but we will continue to demonstrate that Zambia needs more than just speaking.
We thank you for demanding a more vibrant opposition but wish to call upon you to level the political playing field. This harassment of opposition leaders, stifling of traditional leaders’ voices and promotion of unprofessional police conduct will only take this country to an age we have already passed. Your government has an opportunity to live, to love and to leave a legacy but as things stand there is much introspection required of you and your government. When you begin to meet the aspirations of Zambia, your ministers will not need to be poked into talking. For now, pardon them, there is nothing worth talking about.