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Rupiah wept for the nation, not for himself – Mulusa

LUCKY Mulusa says former president Rupiah Banda’s tears after he lost the presidency in 2011 have been justified by the poor state of the economy.

He says Felix Mutati and him, when they joined the President Edgar Lungu’s government, tried to assist the PF on how not to govern wrongly

“So, by the time when we joined them five years later, the wheels of development had already started coming off,” Mulusa explained.

Featuring on Hot FM’s Red-Hot Breakfast Show yesterday, Mulusa who is the newly formed opposition Movement for Democratic Change interim secretary general, said Banda cried for the nation and not for himself.

He said the MMD was running the economy effectively as could be attested to by the reasonable prices of commodities such as fuel and mealie-meal that time compared to today.

“Running a government is like running a relay. So, you’ve got one runner with a baton in the hand, who runs and hands over at a particular point in time to the other. So, the first runner is actually in front of the rest of the competitors; and that’s where we were as the MMD then. When we handed over that baton, we actually gave them a very good pole position,” he said as one of the presenters reminded him that the mantle was taken from MMD after people rejected the then ruling party. “But that’s what the Constitution says. It calls for an election, and when you lose you handover gracefully. Of course, there was regret, and if you notice RB cried. I’m sure he cried for… he wept. Yes, he wept for the nation, and those tears were actually right, looking at where we are today.”

Mulusa outlined various parametres on which the current government could be weighed against the previous one.

“Let me just refer to a couple of parametres when the PF took over from the MMD in 2011. And [Lusaka lawyer and PF member Kelvin Fube Bwalya] KBF has been able to line them up very, very well. You know, we had the kwacha to the dollar, I think operating around K5.04 to a dollar. We had fuel well below K10.00 – around five kwacha [per litre]; we had investor confidence running very high,” Mulusa explained. “And that’s why the initial Eurobond of US $750 million was four times oversubscribed. It was oversubscribed, and that was an indication of the investor confidence that had been cultivated and left at a particular level and handed over to the PF. Economic growth was running at 7.5 per cent. And if MMD had still been in power we would have been talking about that particular growth actually breaching 10 per cent.”

He said first finance minister in the PF led government Alexander Chikwanda could not complain about an empty treasury because he found it full.

“Now, today nothing of those fundamentals are in place. So, they were gradually destroyed. And that’s why every single finance minister, except for honourable Chikwanda, has actually cried that, ‘I have inherited an empty treasury’,” Mulusa said. “But ba Chikwanda never said he inherited an empty treasury because the MMD government was running the economy effectively, efficiently, and was growing it at an impressive trajectory.”

Asked why people should trust him and Mutati when they both served under President Edgar Lungu and were part of the problem, Mulusa exonerated himself.

“At the time that we joined the government of the Patriotic Front, the foundations had already been created. You will recall in 2011 when both president Mutati and myself were in parliament, our debates always tried to assist the PF on how not to govern wrongly, and the records are there. So, by the time when we joined them five years later, the wheels of development had already started coming off,” Mulusa explained. “And what we did in terms of our participation is assist slow down degeneration of the welfare of the nation, and also try to promote good governance practices. We did our work and we did it well. So, it’s not right to say president Mutati or myself were part of the problem. We actually slowed down the problem. And I will explain how we slowed down the problem.”

He said the PF prioritised wrong projects for political expediency.

Mulusa said it’s because of such misplacement of priorities that the country was in the current mess. “When I became advisor to the President, I re-sequenced project implementation. I made sure that projects, actually in terms of road construction, were done in a manner where we would start with roads whose value contribution to the economy would actually cross-subsidise the creation of social roads. But before that it was the other way round,” said Mulusa. “And that’s why you’ll find that if you go across the country, you’ll find that most of the road works from 2011 under the Link Zambia 8000 was actually driven through political expediency rather than economic expediency. And that’s why roads that contribute so much to the economy like the Kafue/Mazabuka Road, the Solwezi/Chingola Road took long to be completed. But other roads were quickly completed and they were financed through loans. Now, when you get a loan, implement a project that will contribute cash flows to repayment of that loan so that you don’t overburden the economy. The economy has a carrying capacity. And this economy’s carrying capacity was reached as early as 2013.”

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