HAKAINDE Hichilema says he has not rubbish the peace talks between his party and the ruling PF.
And Hichilema says Zambia is in a crisis.
Speaking on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, the UPND leader said what he did not want was for the peace talks to remain a PR exercise.
Asked if he had rubbished the peace talks between his party and PF, Hichilema said, “I did not. You need to say who is responsible for making citizens operate fairly without segregation, to stop violence, to trade in the market…it is the police, so you expect the Inspector General of Police, the Home Affairs Minister to basically say there will be no more violence in the markets, and anywhere. If that doesn’t work, you get somebody in the presidency to say ‘there will be no more violence, no segregation NDC, UNIP, MMD, UPND, PF…anyone who commits a crime, the police will act professionally and fairly. It will end. President [Levy] Mwanawasa did it. We need to graduate to dialogue…a proper dialogue which we have been yearning for to cover all these things; breakdown in the rule of law, the human rights restoration, we stop victimisation of civil servants, there are so many things we need,” Hichilema said.
“We need to create an environment where elections will not become a source of violence but a source of pleasure, to choose quality leaders as we have discussed here. Let me use this opportunity to say we have never been against peace. What we want is to be serious, we just don’t sign things and tomorrow…remember after that peace accord which was signed, the following two days there was a by-election in Nalikwanda and people were beaten there. In Kanyama, we were supposed to have a rally, the PF took over our rally ground when they were supposed to be in Mandevu and our people were beaten there. I am saying that there is no condition we are placing, we need a proper dialogue. When we work towards peace, we must work properly so that we are not just playing a PR exercise. We are putting things in the rails so that we make sure that when we are through with this process, dialogue, there will be no violence against any person. We can talk to each other maturely, we can meet in the church, sing together. What we want is a united Zambia and not just a united Zambia, one which is developing, giving jobs and people should afford three proper meals a day.”
He said there was need to root out violence in the country.
“First and foremost, we all need peace in this country, there is no exception. It is not just political violence we are talking about, we need to root out violence in politics; elections, in the markets. If you are not PF you can’t trade in the markets; you are thrown out of the markets. That is not good because some people don’t even belong to any political party. But because they don’t wear a PF Chitenge, they are thrown out of the market basically meaning their children will have no money to buy mealie-meal, to go to school. We cannot allow that in a country. There are many forms of violence; we have a history of citizens who are worshipping being attacked by political party thugs. We cannot continue like that,” Hichilema said.
And Hichilema said Zambia was in a crisis.
“The economy is not growing under the PF. It is shrinking and that is the main source of pain in our people. We have a very big problem. The debt is chocking our economy. Today from US$1.6 billion of debt, we are sitting on US$9.3 billion external debt just within this space of time under the leadership of PF. In the seven years PF has been in office, they have been borrowing US$1.1 billion every year on average. If there was proper use of the money, you will have seen the economy growing at seven, eight per cent. It is not. That alone is telling you the money is being wasted. It means PF are borrowing to eat, for consumption instead of investing. We in the UPND don’t believe in excess borrowing. We want to focus on growing the economy so that we can create opportunities. When we borrow, we should use the money prudently. Don’t put the money you borrow in ventures that don’t bring money. This is what PF has been doing. As you know now, we are failing to pay back the loans. This government has never had a plan to pay back the loans. This is a clueless government, we have said it before and I feel vindicated but that doesn’t make me happy. It makes me unhappy because we could have avoided this situation,” Hichilema said.
“You don’t borrow to steal the money. Most of the money has been borrowed to be put in expensive roads, which are of a poor quality as a conduit for corruption. We have never seen these levels of corruption before. The cost at which PF has been borrowing money is another problem. We were lied to by the PF that IMF was going to give us a loan. An average home cannot afford three meals, send children to school, pay bills…we are in a crisis. Once a household cannot send children to school…citizens are not working; that’s the stress, that’s the melt down we are talking about. As a result, we as citizens cannot create jobs. There are no jobs and citizens cannot earn an income. The PF has created this problem.”
Meanwhile, Hichilema said his party was not losing popularity.
Asked to comment on the by-election results, Hichilema said: “There is no need to be despondent [as a party]. We just need to understand the history of our country. It must give hope to the people of Zambia. The hope should not only be for the UPND and I ask the UPND members to remain strong. Understand that ruling parties do these things to shower up artificial support. Today, it’s worse because people are even scared of going out to vote. Citizens must gather courage and continue exercising their democratic rights. The pattern is clear; from way back the 1980s.”
He further said PF had no capacity to implement austerity measures announced recently.
“There is also no thinking through. These measures were announced, did you notice what happened next? It was just a PR exercise because the IMF said to them: ‘You are borrowing too much, you are spending more than you ability to generate the revenue, you are allowing corruption to continue, the travels amongst public workers is too high, the cars that you drive are too expensive, too many per person when citizens are walking to work because they cannot afford minibus fares because the price of diesel has gone up, price of electricity has gone up…everything has gone up. So, when they were told by IMF they came back and announced those measures as a PR exercise. In a normal governing party, policy measures announced are followed by implementation measures…specific measures,” said Hichilema.
“Have you heard any progress report to date? Nothing! To show you that they were just playing to the gallery, they should have gone to the 2018 budget to say the measures we have announced will impact the budget this way… They have just gone for US$500 million budget if you like adjustment…supplementary budget. Why have they gone to ask for US$500 million from Zambians who are already suffering, have no food in their homes, whose children are not in school, not working? Why have they asked Zambians to pay another tab of US$500 million after announcing so called austerity measures? US$500 million is a lot of money. That is evidence enough that there is no austerity measure…it is window dressing; it is the usual dununa reverse and who suffers? It is the citizens.”