[By Chambwa Moonga in Mpika]
THE President’s speech didn’t have a vision to encompass the challenges that Zambia has, observes Harry Kalaba.
Meanwhile, Kalaba, a former foreign affairs minister, has requested for the “bill” in the case of ministers illegally staying in office in 2016, “so that I can pay back.”
Last Friday, President Edgar Lungu was at Parliament buildings for the ceremonial opening of the fourth session of the 12th National Assembly.
The President spent most of his speech ‘blaming’ climate change for Zambia’s socio-economic hardships.
Asked to ‘gauge’ the presidential speech, Kalaba said: “this issue of apportioning blame on climate change is not right”.
“We all know that even Botswana, South Africa are having climate change. [But] how come the power deficit in Tanzania is not as it is here in Zambia? We’ve not had power here in Mpika from 06:00 hours and this is past 14:00 hours! How can you have an economy thrive where you have power absence for more than 12 hours? Production has collapsed in this country,” Kalaba, the Democratic Party (DP) president, said in an interview in Mpika on Sunday.
“Even the thing of comparing countries that ‘because this and that country have the same problem, therefore we should not be talking about it’ is not right. Zambia is our home and we should find our own solutions to our own challenges.”
He agreed that effects of climate change were real but that Zambia should have planned for such.
“We need to begin investing in solar energy, thermal energy, bio-mass. [But] we are not doing that. All that is happening is corruption right, left and centre – there is no plan for the future of this country,” he observed, with plain regret.
“So, the presidential speech was not giving any hope to anybody. Honestly speaking, his body language and what he was presenting to the nation was severely at contrast. The price of mealie-meal is over K100 now [but] I didn’t hear the President even talk about measures that are going to mitigate the prices of mealie-meal. He was very absent on that score, unless I missed it.”
Kalaba said President Lungu’s speech lacked hope and clarity.
“The President’s speech didn’t have a vision to encompass the challenges that we have. It lacked the urgency of time. We have learnt that desperate times require desperate measures. But tell me one desperate measure that President Lungu gave in his speech he delivered in Parliament,” he said.
“It is business as usual; he speaks, laughs, makes jokes. This is not time for jokes – Zambians are suffering. We all saw President Lungu in Parliament for who he is; he is not the one to take us out of this quagmire.”
Kalaba noted that to redeem Zambians from a despondency path, “it would have to take a party like the DP which understands that when you have challenges like the ones that we have now, you need to have a focused leadership that can take you to the next horizon.”
On last week’s decision by the Constitutional Court that its earlier decision that ministers who illegally overstayed in office when Parliament was dissolved in May 2016 would have to pay to the treasury, Kalaba said: “I have been vindicated.”
“You’ll recall that when I was foreign affairs minister, I was the only minister who wrote the Secretary to the Cabinet, telling him that the Constitutional Court has ruled that we stayed in the offices illegally. They called me all kinds of names…. I’m not in the habit of trying to undermine the authority and that’s why I wrote the SC (Secretary to the Cabinet) telling him that I want to pay back and that letter was not responded to,” Kalaba explained.
“Again, when I resigned as a member of parliament, I wrote the SC telling him that I was following up on a letter that I wrote to him sometime back in September/October 2017. I never got a response from Cabinet Office.”
He added that now that the ConCourt had maintained that all ministers who stayed in office illegally should pay back to the treasury, “we all have to pay back.
“I’m still telling the SC that please, before I die can I have the bill that I owe Zambia so that I can pay back? I want my children to move in this country with their heads high. The executive must be seen to be in the forefront of respecting judicial judgments. So, for me, I’m going to pay back as soon as they tell me the modus operandi,” Kalaba said, stressing that he would pay back even if it meant selling his house or vehicle to raise the needed amount.
“It’s not a question of money but principle. Don’t tell me those people who have been jailed don’t like freedom; it’s not like they had excess freedom and wanted to give up some freedom. No! But they were in conflict with the law and they found themselves in jail. So, even for me, since the courts have said I need to pay I have got no other way but to pay back. I’ll have to go and ask relatives, friends and say ‘I have a bill of K20,000 or K40,000 which I have to pay back…’ Then we’ll have to put the monies together. That money has to be paid back!”
Meanwhile, Kalaba prayed at Fire for Fire Ministries Church in TAZARA area of Mpika on Sunday.
He later went to pay a courtesy call on headwoman Chitulika within Mpika.
Chitulika village is the home of late PF founder and president Michael Sata.