CIVIL Society Organisations have said they will listen intently to President Edgar Lungu’s address today with the hope that it addresses the many challenges Zambia is facing.
The CSOs have asked President Lungu to provide a full disclosure on the Chinese debt and other loans accrued.
They said they had noted the constant denial by chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya of “the ever more apparent debt distress the nation is currently undergoing”.
The CSOs also said they remained gravely concerned with the disjointed manner that the constitution-making process was being undertaken by justice minister Given Lubinda.
They have called for a clear roadmap of the process by the government as well as full information of the provisions of the Constitution that are to be amended.
On behalf of CSOs, ActionAid Zambia (AAZ) country director Nalucha Ziba said in his address, the Head of State set the pace and tone for the country’s development trajectory.
She said the address was supposed to articulate broadly to the nation the government’s development agenda under the President’s leadership.
“As Civil Society, we have noted with deep concern that these addresses have become an academic exercise that seek only to fulfill the constitutional obligations,” Ziba said. “A critical analysis and review of the previous speeches will prove that government tends to make broad sweeping pronouncements that are then not followed up by a detailed implementation mechanism. The promises therefore remain only as records in Parliament and newspaper headlines without any tangible outcomes to positively impact the majority poor, especially the vulnerable women, youth and children. The speeches also avoid the critical issues that are concerning the public.”
She reminded President Lungu that the Zambian people would closely monitor his pronouncements “especially at this critical time of our country”.
“We will also look out for updates on previous pronouncements during national addresses,” Ziba said. “We would also like to remind the Members of Parliament that begin to sit for the 3rd Session of the National Assembly, that they have an honorable responsibility to represent the wishes and aspirations of the Zambian people. We therefore call upon the MPs to always put the people’s interest at heart as they debate on various issues and as they implement their duty to legislate. At this critical moment in our country, Zambia needs leaders that will put the country first before any other consideration. Our MPs should remember that they are Zambian first before they are members of any political party. We therefore expect them to make laws and decisions that will benefit all Zambians and not only a section of society.”
She further said it was clear to all that Zambia was in a debt crisis.
Ziba said while the government had continued to reassure the country that the debt remained sustainable, “we are perturbed by reports suggesting that the country may lose some of its assets because of the unstrategic and unsustainable borrowing that has happened since 2011.”
“We have noted with concern reports that key strategic public institutions are in danger of takeover if the country defaults on its debt repayment commitments,” Ziba said. “There is therefore need for absolute transparency with regards of the country’s debt commitments. It is especially critical for the President to ensure that there is full disclosure by the Ministry of Finance as regards the national assets that have been listed as in danger of take over. These are ZESCO, the new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport Terminal and ZNBC. Civil society also seeks clarity on the status of NRDC [Natural Resources Development College} that is reported to have been sold to a Chinese entity. NRDC must remain an institution of learning. CSOs demand that the selling off of strategic national institutions that belong to the people of Zambia collectively stop.”
She said it was the duty of the government to state with evidence the actual position regarding the named national assets.
“For as long as there is no evidenced counter-information coming from government in the public domain, the nation remains distressed,” said Ziba. “Civil Society also demands that government provides a clear position about the country’s debt burden to China and more importantly, the terms attached to such debt contracting. Debt is contracted on behalf of all the Zambian taxpayers and they thus have a right to know how much has been accrued to them and how these resources have been utilised. We urge President Lungu, to provide full disclosure on these and many other issues currently causing alarm among the Zambian citizenry as he addresses Parliament tomorrow.”