New State House: for what, for who?

Like most Zambians, we were shocked by the decision of Edgar Lungu’s party (the Patriotic Front) and government’s decision to build a new State House.
This is a project that was initiated by the party (the MMD) and government of Rupiah Banda. But they didn’t stay in government long enough to implement it. When Michael Sata won the elections in 2011 he threw away this and other projects of the Rupiah government that were seen not to be in the interests of the people and a priority to the needs of the country.


But it seems Edgar’s thinking and sense of priority is much more closer to that of Rupiah than of Michael. Everything Rupiah wanted to do but had no time to do, Edgar is accomplishing them for him and for himself.

We have respectfully and, without prejudice, read the reasons being advanced by Edgar’s minions for the need to build a new State House. In life, it is very important to be clear about things. The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life. And, indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires. Without ethics, we have no future. This is to say,  without them we  cannot be ourselves. Ethics determine choices and actions and suggest difficult priorities. Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. The mark of a great person is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones. And the principle of priority states that you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and that you must do what’s important first.


We are not at all contemptuous of comforts, but they have their place and it is not first.
With average national poverty levels of 60.5 per cent and in some areas of over 70 per cent; with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, it is very difficult to accept a new $ 20 million State House as a priority. With a physician density of 0.16 per 1,000 population (that is 6,250 people per doctor), two hospital beds per 1,000 population and over 1.2 million Zambians living with HIV/AIDS without a line in the national budget for their care, a new State House cannot be a priority.  And the great majority of our people live in squalor with very poor sanitation and without access to services required in an organised society. The list of the very urgent needs of the great majority of our people is endless.


We must see to it that all our politicians and all our people constantly bear in mind that ours is one of poorest countries in the world. To get Zambians out of abject poverty and make Zambia prosperous will need  intense effort, which will include, among other things, the effort to practice strict economy and combat waste, that is, the policy of building up our country through diligence and frugality.

The principle of diligence and frugality should be observed in everything. Zambia is endowed with many natural resources, but she is still very, very  poor. It will take several decades to make Zambia  prosperous. Even then, we will still have to observe the principle of diligence and frugality. But now we must particularly advocate diligence and frugality,  we must pay special attention to economy.


Our politicians must not take a short view and indulge in wastefulness and extravagance. Thrift should be the guiding principle in our government expenditure.
A dangerous tendency has shown itself of late among many of our politicians in government  – an unwillingness to share the hardships of the masses of our people, a concern for personal wealth, fame and retaining power at any cost. This is very bad.



Our politicians in government should be modest and prudent, guard against extravagance, and serve the Zambian people heart and soul. Their point of departure must be to serve the people whole-heartedly and never for a moment divorce themselves from the masses, to proceed in all cases from the interests of the people and not from one’s self-interest or from the interests of a small group. Their duty must be to hold themselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy of theirs must conform to the people’s interests, and if mistakes occur, they must be corrected – that is what being responsible to the people means.
And without imitating others, let’s learn from how others have progressively dealt with such matters.


We are being told that our State House which was built in 1935 is too old to be used.  The United Kingdom’s 10 Downing Street has been in use since the late 1600s and the United States’ White House since the early 1800s.

By the 1950s, the material state of 10 Downing Street had reached crisis point. Bomb damage had worsened existing structural problems: the building was suffering from subsidence, sloping walls, twisting door frames and an enormous annual repair bill. The Ministry of Works carried out a survey in 1954 into the state of the structure. The report bounced from Winston Churchill (1951 to 1955) to Anthony Eden (1955 to 1957) to Harold Macmillan (1957 to 1963) as one Prime Minister followed the other. Finally, a committee set up by Macmillan concluded that drastic action was required before the building fell or burnt down. The committee put forward a range of options, including the complete demolition of Number 10, 11 and 12 and their replacement with a new building. That idea was rejected and it was decided that Number 12 should be rebuilt, and Numbers 10 and 11 should be strengthened and their historic features preserved.


Clearly, annual repairs of K2 million cannot justify the building of a new State House. This building is not beyond repair. If the repairs are carried out by competent contractors and without corruption, they can be carried out in an efficient, effective and orderly manner. We are not living in the era where the power or authority of rulers, kings or emperors was measured by the size of their castles, pyramids. Is Zambia going to be better  governed as a result of a new State House?



Look at where former Uruguayan  president José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano stayed! And this is a country that is better than Zambia in all economic and social indicators.



Our conclusion is, therefore, that Zambia doesn’t need a new State House. And Michael was right in rejecting the project for a new State House initiated by the Rupiah regime. We call on all honourable Zambians to reject and vigorously oppose it. This is nothing but a scheme to waste and steal taxpayers’ money. It’s also an indicator that Edgar is seriously seeking a third term. Edgar would never build a new State House in which he was not going to live even for a day!



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