ZAMBIA has been held captive by a very powerful cartel, which has dried up national reserves, Andrew Banda has charged. But Banda says only people themselves can revive Zambia’s deteriorated economy. He said the gap between the rich and the poor was increasing at a very rapid speed because of poor management of national resources. Banda, who is a longstanding member of the UPND, said Zambians rescue the country by making the right choices in the selection of leaders.
He pointed out that high crime levels and prostitution among young women in the country was as a result of the economic challenges that citizens were experiencing.
“If the country takes the direction it has taken now, we will not get anywhere. If you remember very well at the time the Patriotic Front got into office [in 2011], this country had US$3 billion in reserves; the exchange rate was at K4.60 to a dollar, mealie-meal was at K35 per 25kg bag. Look at where we are today! We are owing over US$10 billion. These are facts that are there, apart from other funds that are owed such as the Eurobond. Nobody wants to lend us money anymore. The question is, where have all these monies that are meant for public services gone?” Banda asked.
“We have the FIC [Financial Intelligence Centre] report which clearly states that over the last two years $1 billion has been misappropriated but look at the reaction by those that are supposed to act on that report by investigating! Look at how they got angry. This country has been held captive by a cartel, which is a fraction of the population, which is getting powerful every day. I am talking about the core team, the most powerful, their relatives, their friends, associates, and otherwise.”
He recalled that when the PF came into power in 2011, they promised “more money in your pocket and lower taxes”.
Banda wondered whether Zambians have more money in their pockets as promised and also whether they have lower taxes. He said to the contrary, people had no money in their pockets and were highly taxed.
“PF duped the poor with more money in the pocket. Zambians must ask themselves: ‘Do I have money in the pockets?’ It is only Zambians themselves who put them [PF] in power who have the solution,” Banda said.
“The burden of proof squarely lies on Zambians themselves. Nobody can change this [but] Zambians themselves. This whole thing lies in leadership, but the choice is for the Zambians. It’s not Andrew Banda and his colleagues, who are going to choose leaders of this country, no. It’s like in marriage; when you marry a wrong person, you have to face the consequences.”
He said Zambians must not be divided on tribal lines as their problems were beyond tribe.
“When an economy is destroyed the way it has, households start feeling it and that is the case today. The implication of that is marriages start breaking, the levels of crime start to rise – as you can see what happened in Mumbwa, where a Chinese was murdered. Even in Chiptata there are armed robberies today. Only two weeks ago, there was an armed robbery at Kapata Market where an innocent young man was shot dead, among other vices. That is as a result of poverty. Levels of prostitution have increased because of poverty and there is anarchy everywhere,” he said.
“Austerity measures that have been instituted do not affect the cartel I am talking about, they are affecting the ordinary Zambians. In any case, are they adhering to them? There are jets that are being bought, there are districts that are being created, they are still travelling, now they want to bring back deputy ministers.”
Asked why he had kept quiet amidst these challenges, Banda said, “I kept quiet because I wanted fellow citizens to see for themselves the things we have been warning them about like poor education, poor medical services, poor agricultural services, poor energy services, poor accommodation, poor sanitation services, unemployment – which are all human rights by the way. They are now manifesting.”
“It is irresponsible for some of us, including all Zambians, who have been in politics for a long time to keep quiet for fear that if we speak, we will be arrested, intimidated or seen to be enemies of the state. To the contrary this is mere advice, which should be acknowledged or accepted by those in power. It must be acknowledged and accepted by those in power. We must stand up and be counted,” he said
Banda wondered why Zambia had been rated the fourth hungriest country despite having abundant natural resources. He wondered why Zambia should be hungry when it had 23 million hectares of agriculture land, 45 billion cubic metres of surface and 64 billion cubic metres of underground water. He said there was need to correct the mistakes Zambians have made and reclaim their national glory.
“How can a country like ours with less than 17 million people be the fourth hungriest country in Africa, after Chad, Central Africa Republic, Madagascar? I must say something is wrong there. And yet in 2011, Zambia was fifth fastest developing economy in Africa after Mauritius, Ghana, South Africa…” Banda said.
“Then someone says we are not responsible [for the state of the economy, that it is a global; phenomenon, always playing a blame game. Then who is responsible? It’s like in a home, if there are no amenities, you start blaming your neighbour for that! The blame is yours. What is wrong with us?”
Banda said advice has been given on the KCM issue but those in power were insistent on proceeding with liquidation because of vested interest.
He also said personal interest was behind the insistence on establishing a national airline when many were struggling and even folding.
“We are failing on the ground, how can we perform better in the skies?” asked Banda.