PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says those asking him to be tolerant of divergent views should also tell “the other guy” to do the same.
And President Lungu says while he is willing to have political dialogue, he will only do so when those who have challenged his victory accept loss.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has insisted that there is economic need to hike electricity tariffs.
Speaking when he graced labour day celebrations in Lusaka this morning, President Lungu explained that he would be happy if those who keep on agitating for political dialogue could extend such calls to opposition political stakeholders in the country.
“Social dialogue is important…this applies to even politicians who talk about political tensions in the country. If only there was dialogue in the political arena, we would be more at peace than we are. This is because people think that by telling me to be reasonable, to dialogue, to be tolerant, we will get somewhere like that. We cannot get somewhere like that [but] tell the other guy also,” President Lungu said in apparent reference to incarcerated UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. “Everyone who wants to comment on this subject wants to tell me to be tolerant but the other partners in the game are not being told to be tolerant. I will be very happy if the people who are calling for peace in Zambia can find time to talk to all the stakeholders in political activities to also behave and respect others [and] that way we’ll get somewhere. There is room for dialogue [and] room for dialogue in this case [is that] you just accept the results and wait for 2021. Not to say ‘no, there is tension in the country…’”
And reacting to workers’ call, through their representatives, that electricity tariffs ought not to be increased by 75 per cent, President Lungu refused to yield to such pleas.
“There is need for us to increase electricity tariffs. It is a painful decision but we have to take it. Otherwise our economy will totally collapse! There will be no jobs to protect [and] there will be no economy to talk about. I will ensure that this is done; we just have to agree on the modality. But to say we cannot increase the electricity tariffs…,” he said.
President Lungu said the nation required serious transformation in the way it approached development.
“It is especially true in relation to this year’s theme which challenges us to ‘secure decent work for sustainable socio-economic development’,” he said.
President Lungu said effective leadership at all levels was key in achieving successful transformation.
He said the nation could not relax and assume all workers were comfortable in their work places.
President Lungu said the PF government attached great importance to promotion and realisation of decent work without which, no sustainable socio-economic development could take place.
“We are determined to actualise decent work for all by implementing policies, strategies and programmes that will foster sustainable socio-economic development. This will significantly contribute to realising employment creation, human development and broad-based inclusive growth,” he said.
“In this regard, special attention has been placed on increased investment in infrastructure development such as roads, schools and health facilities across the country to lay a firm foundation for increased investment in other areas of the economy and henceforth, create the much needed jobs for our citizens. In addition, we continue to invest in the agriculture and tourism sectors that have the highest potential to create wealth and employment for the majority of the people, if we all embrace high productivity.”
President Lungu said high productivity would not be attained without transforming the way people think and do things.
He said his government intended to create, at the minimum, 200,000 decent jobs annually.
“For us to attain this goal of higher growth in employment, government has finalised the Seventh National Development Plan, which is underpinned by appropriate policies and structural reforms to be implemented over the medium term,” President Lungu said.
He said as a member of the United Nations, Zambia was determined to realise sustainable development goal number eight on decent work and economic growth.
“To actualise this diversification focus, government is promoting and supporting artisans and small scale miners. This is coupled with capacity building initiatives to enhance their skills and competences. Government has also received financing worth US$30 million from the African Development Bank towards implementation of the skills development and entrepreneurship project. This project is aimed at supporting financing and implementation of industrial yards in selected districts where value addition programmes will be undertaken specifically, the cassava commercialisation initiative,” President Lungu said.
He said apart from supporting skills development and entrepreneurship, the project would also create more than 16,000 jobs for Zambians.
And President Lungu said the country’s social protection system had not adequately addressed the social security needs of all Zambians.
He noted that social security had been confined to the formal sector while the majority Zambian workers were in the informal sector.
“To this effect, my government has constituted a technical working group to design the roadmap and strategies to also cover the informal sector. These consultations have reached an advanced stage,” President Lungu said.
“Currently, the National Pension Scheme Authority and Workers Compensation Fund Control Board, with the technical assistance from International Labour Organisation, are piloting schemes targeting workers in the construction industry.”
He said the government was also working towards implementing strategic interventions to promote gender equity in the workforce including the health and safety of mothers and children.
President Lungu explained that the interventions would ensure no obligation for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers to perform work which was either prejudicial to their health or their children and guaranteed maternity and paternity leave.
On social health insurance, President Lungu said the government was in the process of setting up and implementing an inclusive mandatory social health insurance scheme that would enable all citizens access quality health services in a timely manner and without financial hardship.
He urged Zambians to uphold values, principles and beliefs that bound them as a Christian nation.
“Let us continue to pray for the preservation of these positive attributes and contributions of all Zambians for it is by working together, respecting one another’s ideas, values and putting the interest of our nation first, that we will achieve even greater success,” said President Lungu.
“Let us work together, let us respect authority, let us be united as a nation and say no to any acts that would lead to dividing this peace loving country. God has time for everything and for everyone. As workers, let us preach peace through our motto of ‘One Zambia, One Nation’.”
The Labour Day celebrations were themed “Securing decent work for sustainable for socio-economic development”.
Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president Nkole Chishimba said this year’s event was held against the backdrop of heightened socio-economic difficulties being faced by millions of Zambian working people and their families throughout the length and breadth of the country.
He highlighted that Zambia lacked economic diversification.
“It is even more confusing when we are told the economy has registered some growth but this improvement does not translate into enhanced standards for the people,” said Chishimba, who further said the level of political tension, which had gripped the country was worrying because it would ultimately negatively affect productivity levels.