PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says as he sometimes drives around Lusaka city at night, he sees more and more areas of darkness due to load-shedding.
Meanwhile, President Lungu told some disinclined members of parliament that if they are not willing to have the Constitution amended, “we’ll refine it.”
President Lungu said this during the ceremonial opening of Parliament yesterday.
This is the fourth session of the 12th National Assembly.
The President arrived at Parliament buildings at about 10:05 hours and as per tradition for such an event, there was an execution of a 21-gun salute, march and fly pasts by defence forces.
At about 10:37 hours, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini led President Lungu into the Chamber.
Once he had sat, President Lungu said his state of the nation address provided an over-arching guidance for all dutiful holders, “beginning with my entire Cabinet and all government officials to work closely with the people….”
He then told the House to stand with him in observing a minute-long moment of silence, in honour of Patricia Mwashingwele, the Katuba UPND member of parliament, who died in May this year.
He then congratulated the new members of parliament in Joseph Chishala (Roan NDC), Charles Mambwe Chalwe (Bahati PF), Aubrey Bampi Kapalasa (Katuba UPND) and Dr Bwalya Ng’andu (nominated).
President Lungu’s speech was themed ‘accelerating sustainable development for a better Zambia amidst the impact of climate change.’
He noted that Zambia was facing a very serious problem.
“We have a situation which we cannot run away from. It is over a decade ago that we all heard of climate change, even in this Parliament. We all heard the term El Niño and the El Niño effects that started causing devastating effects around the world through changes in the climatic conditions,” President Lungu said.
“These were signs and symptoms of climate change. Did we, as a country prepare for this adequately? My government has not been spared by the adverse effects of climate change.”
President Lungu pointed out that “as I fly” within the country, he sees drought-stricken areas on one side and flooded ones on the other.
He added that he had seen how climate change could create varying conditions with negative effects within one country.
“I have further seen small businesses such as makeshift stalls, locally known as tuntemba, shutting down as they fail to cope with business due to load-shedding. How can a bakery owner run a business if their manufacturing process power is turned off at the same time water runs out?” President Lungu said.
“I see mothers and children in compounds walking long distances in search for water and queuing for it in the few places where it is available. Mr Speaker, as I sometimes drive around the city at night, I see more and more areas of darkness due to load-shedding because our dams that generate power do not have water.”
At household level, the President indicated that food was being wasted in homes due to low voltage and consistent turning on and off of power.
“I have heard of people failing to leave or enter their homes because their electric gates malfunctioned due to power failure,” he noted.
“It saddens me and I fail to imagine people living in highly densely areas walking in darkness to and from their work places. Surely, this poses a serious security risk on our people.”
President Lungu also underscored that he was aware of some health facilities going without power for long periods of time.
“I begin to wonder how our health workers are looking after our patients without water and electricity which are both extremely important and a human necessity within the management of patients,” President Lungu said.
“In view of that, I’m directing the Ministry of Energy, from midnight tonight, to prioritise power supply to hospitals and health centres. Further, the Ministry of Energy [should] prioritise power supply to our water supply operations. This is a very serious matter that should not be taken lightly.”
He stressed that the reality of climate change was currently posing challenges on the world.
“Climate change is real. It’s a phenomenon that the entire world is facing in different ways, according to the world patterns of different regions,” President Lungu noted.
“I would like you to fully understand that this is not my problem alone or the problem of the government alone. I would like to appeal to you that we join along in this sustainable development of our country; we mitigate the effects of climate change.”
The President indicated that his government was committed to ensuring that it fought vigorously the effects of climate change for sustainable development the country.
“It does not matter whether you are [in] government, opposition, private sector or indeed in the civil society; all of us are affected by climate change. This is nature! But even if it’s nature, we need to join hands and to see that we can do much together,” President Lungu stressed.
He said Zambia was faced with water, energy, and crop failure in selected parts.
“What does a resilient nation do in such a situation? It realigns itself to newer ways of sustainability to understand the changing environment,” he said.
President Lungu directed the ministries of Lands and, Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection to take a lead in ensuring that Zambia’s water sources and the land adjacent to such areas were not adulterated by corporate entities or individuals in the name of development.
Such a presidential directive prompted shouts of ‘forest 27’ by a few members of parliament.
“Ministers and permanent secretaries of the above mentioned ministries should ensure that the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) realigns themselves to effectively carry out their mandate and produce the required results, today and not tomorrow,” President Lungu directed.
“From today henceforth, I shall not see a house or indeed a factory being built adjacent to our water resources, depriving the majority of our Zambians of usage of this resource. Clearly, no government wishes to have dams that are generating power [getting dry.]”
Meanwhile, President Lungu said conducive governance environment was critical for achieving sustainable development, “even in the midst of climate change.”
“Good governance cannot be left to chance. This important ingredient of democracy starts with the law, of the supreme law of the land – the Constitution,” President Lungu said, further claiming that his government had demonstrated to Zambians that it was “indeed” a trustworthy one – on its governance pledges.
“Yes, successive [governments] have come and gone yet the constitution-making process has remained a process. It’s only us who brought….”
He added that the PF enacted the Constitution in January 2016, even at the risk of losing power.
“People were scared of 50 plus one but we got it in and we scored. This selfless act on our part is enough testimony that we mean every word we say,” he said.
President Lungu told the House that it was for that reason that he was appealing “to all of you to support the current process we are in.”
“Yes, we are back, once more, with the process of refining it. We are back for one reason; because my government is a listening government,” claimed President Lungu.
“If you don’t want to refine it, we’ll refine it. Zambians clamoured and claimed for refining the Constitution. We heard them; we set the process and that matter is before you, ladies and gentlemen, to do the needful.”