KELVIN Bwalya Fube says climate change has nothing to do with the economic and social crisis the country is currently going through but decisions made by those in authority.
Addressing the media yesterday at his office, Fube, who is aspiring for the presidency, in a comprehensive analysis of the Zambian situation, catalogued many things that had gone wrong in the last 18 years, particularly the last eight years of the PF government.
Fube was one of senior PF members and played a bigger role in installing President Edgar Lungu as PF president in 2015.
He noted that when PF assumed power in 2011, Zambia’s economy was growing at an average rate of 6.7 per cent per annum but today it was at 2.1 per cent.
“On the PF assuming power in 2011, the dollar to kwacha rate stood at about K5 in rebased currently. Today the rate stands at over K13 to a dollar,” Fube said. “Total debt levels stood at US$3.5 billion in 2011 but today total official debt stands at about $15 billion. Some World Bank reports say our debt is actually more than US$19 billion.”
Fube said the cost of living had also risen sharply from K2,923.00 in 2011 to over K5,500 today.
He said one could buy a 25 kg bag of mealie-meal at K48 in 2011 but now the same quantity was being sold at K150.
He noted that mealie-meal had experienced the highest rise in the country’s history.
Fube noted that in 2011, petrol pump price stood at K7.64 a litre but was now K15.98.
“Some farmers who supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency more than 12 months ago have not been paid what is due to them…. Agro dealers who supplied agricultural inputs under the e-voucher system have not been paid…. Many have had to close shop with many Zambians losing jobs in the process,” Fube said.
He noted that the government was still owing local contractors and suppliers for goods and services supplied and many have had to close business.
“Today we have over four million Zambians looking for decent employment with very little prospects. About 375,000 new jobs seekers are being added to the Zambian job market every year. Yet our country is creating only about 80,000 jobs every year,” Fube noted. “This is a social time bomb waiting to explode.”
Fube said the cost of all essential commodities and services had increased, probably at the fastest rate in Zambia’s history.
“This has put a lot of pressure on families whose incomes are not growing in line with escalating costs,” he said. “Many Zambian households are struggling to afford two decent meals a day. It is not fiction that Zambia is the fourth hungriest nation in the world! Zambians are going hungry!”
Fube said most Zambian households were failing to send their children to college and university.
He said the choice often comes down choosing between sending a child to college or feeding the family.
He said with no guarantee for a job after a university education, the choice, though heartbreaking for a parent was obvious.
“The family will have to eat to stay alive,” he said. “Many Zambian households are experiencing an increase in the adult dependants syndrome. This is a development where young adult Zambians have worked hard to attain certificates, diplomas and degrees but can’t find jobs and therefore remain dependants in the homes of their financially stressed parents,” he said. “We have more than 50,000 trained Zambian teachers, nurses, technicians and lawyers traversing the streets searching for work with very little luck.”
Fube said for many hardworking Zambians in the informal sectors, it had become increasingly difficult to find cash on the streets owing to the fact that for some reason “we deliberately structured our economy to drain it of liquidity”.
He said mechanics, traders, hairdressers, restaurant owners, bricklayers and many other small businesses were not making as much money as they used to.
Fube said the hundreds of thousands of families relying on agriculture found themselves cash strapped and very inconvenienced because the government delayed paying them for the maize they supplied to FRA.
He said it was commendable that President Lungu’s leadership had not shied away from admitting that the nation was going through tough economic times with painful impact on many vulnerable families.
“What is of greatest concern however, is that some amongst us do not seem to want to face the demon that has brought our nation to its knees economically. Fully cognisant of the effects of climate change, we need to get to grips with the reality that 95 per cent of our troubles as a nation have to do with the decision and choices we have been making in the past 18 years,” he said. “Of course, with the biggest impact coming from the decision made in the last eight years alone. We have to admit that at leadership level, we have made grave mistakes that have brought our nation to the current economic troubles. Failure to admit the mistakes will see us trying to burry our heads in the sand and proceeding with the business as usual attitude when we actually have an economic and social crisis in plain sight!”
Fube said Zambians must accept and agree that politicians in power made a conscious decision to give 80 per cent of government contracts amounting to billions of dollars to foreign companies.
He said a group of Zambians somehow, somewhere made a decision not to pay for the insignificant 20 per cent allocated to local contractors.
“Instead they decided to pay foreign contractors expeditiously through prompt external debt servicing. Zambian builders have built Chalala, Chamba Valley, Salama Park and the many upcoming suburbs all over the country,” Fube said. “Yet some of our fellow Zambians in government made a decision that houses for the police and soldiers should be built by the Chinese at exorbitant costs. Why?”
Fube said a group of Zambian decided that it was okay not to pay agro-dealers and farmers for over two years.
He said some Zambians in positions of authority somehow somewhere made a decision that services and goods that should ordinary cost US$1bn should instead cost the citizens three times that amount.
“Our government procurement system has been corrupted. My fellow Zambians there is no denying that these decisions were made and records and public pronouncements exist to that effect. The PF government headed by His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu made these decisions,” he said. “Things didn’t just happen on their own. No! People made decisions and these people must take responsibility for those decisions. Climate change has nothing to do with this.”
In contrasting illustration, Fube said Dr Kenneth Kaunda and his generation served Zambia to the best of their abilities, setting a standard for patriotism, national service and integrity.
He said Dr Kaunda and his team of politicians set a benchmark against which the current and future generations need to continuously measure ourselves.
He added that the undertakings attained by the Kaunda leadership in education were still unmatched 55 years after independence.
“We can all agree that the generation of Dr Kenneth Kaunda served this nation to the best of their abilities. They have set a standard for patriotism, national service and integrity against which we, the current and future generations need to continuously measure ourselves,” Fube said.
“It is still a commendable feat that after independence, with only 109 Zambians holding tertiary qualifications, the generation of Dr Kenneth Kaunda still managed to put in motion a national agenda that saw Zambia transform into modern state at a decent pace. Do not be mistaken; the accomplishments attained by the KK leadership in the area of education are still unmatched 55 years after independence. Dr Kaunda built more schools and took more people to school than any single Zambian president has ever done after him.”
Fube further noted that even with the deliberate focus that the PF had put on infrastructure development, Dr Kaunda’s achievements were still unmatched.
“I want to educate our younger generation that the infrastructure development executed under the Kaunda leadership far exceeds our recent exploits. The KK leadership laid a strong foundation on which we continue to build our nation. We must proudly acknowledge this legacy. Today one observes with much grief the irresponsible promotion of political and tribal polarisation that is threatening to tear our nation apart. Yet in spite of being given the tag of running an authoritarian government, Dr Kenneth Kaunda provided decisive leadership that neutralised tribal polarisation and forged us into the One Zambia, One Nation era,” said Fube.