[By Chambwa Moonga and Oliver Chisenga]
COSMAS Musumali says the issue of the PF buying off Socialist Party candidates is intensifying.
Three weeks ago, Dr Musumali, the Socialist Party general secretary and first vice-president, exposed a “shameless” PF act of wanting to buy off its member of parliament and councillor candidates.
Dr Musumali accused the PF of having reached out to 25 of its (SP) adopted candidates to cajole them to pull out of the race.
Featuring on Hot FM Radio’s Hot Seat programme on Tuesday, Dr Musumali said the buying off of Socialist Party candidates had continued.
“It’s annoying, it’s pathetic and it’s a whole joke. It’s a mockery of the basic tenets of democracy in this country. The issue of corrupting and giving money to people has not stopped. It’s actually intensifying,” he said. “Out of 156, we have lost two people. It may sound like it’s a small number but it’s significant enough. It’s a question of principle! If democracy is about choice, choices are not made by buying off people.”
He said they were even polite by saying the PF are persuading them.
“They are not persuading them [but] they are blackmailing them. They are using their poverty or misery to buy them off. They are succeeding in a small way. But it’s a very harmful practice,” he said. “Our opinion is that it won’t stop; we have complained, we documented some of this corruption that is going on countrywide.”
Dr Musumali noted that the Socialist Party was being specifically targeted.
“This is coming from the PF and this is supposed to be the strongest party in the country. A party that has got all the wealth!” he said. “So, where is this fear coming from? Why this desperation?”
Dr Musumali also spoke about the Socialist Party’s full participation in this year’s Presidential and General Elections.
“Full participation means you don’t leave out any constituency, any district, any ward, and that’s what we are up to. We’re going to present to the Zambian masses the required number of candidates – 156 members of parliament, 116 mayors and council chairpersons and over 1,800 councillors,” he explained. “If you talk about preparedness, the Socialist Party is the most prepared party in this country. As of today, we are working on the logistics that are needed for such a massive undertaking, and we are not doing a bad job at it. Zambians should expect a party that’s well organised, that’s committed and that wants to give an option, in terms of running this country.”
Asked how bad the Grade 12 requirement has affected the Socialist Party, in its adoptions, Dr Musumali responded: “honestly, it did hit us hard.”
“The interpretation or re-interpretation came rather late. Being the Socialist Party, we are part of the masses of the poor, the humble people. A good number of our candidates did not meet the grade, according to the re-interpretation of the Grade 12 qualification,” he noted. “So, we had to go back and make changes, and we are making changes. As of this morning, we are almost there.”
On whether or not Zambians are for socialism, Dr Musumali simplified the concept of socialism.
“Is Zambia ready for more equity? The answer is yes. That’s what Zambians yearn for. Do Zambians want justice? Yes, every human being want a sense of justice. Do Zambians want peace? Yes. Zambia is becoming a very violent country [and] we are destroying our country,” he said. “Justice, equity and peace are the pillars of our manifesto. Our understanding is that you can’t have justice, equity and peace in a capitalist society, the way we have it today. Only a socialist inspired society can guarantee us those three basic tenets of justice, equity and peace. So, when you talk about socialism, it’s not an abstract.”
Meanwhile, Dr Musumali said the problem that Zambia is facing today is not exogenous or something from outside but a failed leadership.
He said the Socialist Party’s manifesto puts stabilisation of the economy as one of the key pillars of bringing wealth to the people.
Dr Musumali noted that if the economy was not doing well, and the macro-economy was not stable, it destroys the incomes of the people.
“Your salary of K5,000 today with inflationary tendencies is not K5,000 anymore. It’s less than K4,000, it has been destroyed. You cannot provide goods and services to the people, you cannot eradicate poverty if you don’t control the macro-economy,” he said. “And again there are two key policy instruments areas; one is the fiscal policy and the other one is your monetary policy. And we have elaborated this from time to time in details. What is lacking is in Zambia is the discipline and it’s purposely done so especially in an election year. We are now running to the IMF. We are like beggars telling the IMF that give us $1.2 billion, when that flow comes in we will have enough dollars and it will help us get the kwacha to appreciate and that might moderate inflation…we want it easy but five years we have not taken action and believe you me they will not take action because taking action means let them cut on their privileges, taking action means that they have to be prudent in the use of resources but they are not ready.”
Dr Musumali said once they destroy the economy, poverty increases and they go back to the people with the so-called empowerment packages.
“It’s a joke, it’s a mockery of the whole democracy,” he said.
He noted that having disempowered Zambians the PF government was going back to the same people giving them handouts making them the biblical Lazarus with chiefs party of the scheme.
Dr Musumali warned chiefs that they were taking away their dignity.
“When a chief is turned into a cadre, they have to sing songs, they have to ululate to the government, to corrupt leadership, their dignity disappears, and it’s a shame. The same way the colonial government tried to destroy the traditional system by co-opting the leadership into its evil system, they called it indirect rule, is the same way the current government is trying to do it. They are not interested in chiefs not at all,” he said. “If they were interested the issue of devolution that our Constitution talks about would have been tackled in a much more systematic and much more fair way but that has not happened.”
Dr Musumali said if the PF was interested in chiefs and traditional leadership structures today, the issues of the land Act and governance would have been organised in a way that makes sense and helps the country develop or move in the 21st century as well as give dignity to everyone.
“But what happens, our chiefs are being paraded, they are being made to speak a language, and they are made to sing. It’s a disgrace, huge disgrace,” he noted. “Can chiefs play a revolutionary role? Yes, they have to. Can they be centres for building equity, for building peace, for insuring there is more justice in the country?…that’s their role. As the Socialist Party, we value the contribution of chiefs, chiefs who play huge roles. If you take out chiefs, you are literally destroying the capacity of this country to govern itself. If you take away the church leaders you are also demeaning, you are also taking away a huge portion of Zambian governance. We have to innovate around these institutions that we have. You can only use what is there and we have the chiefs today but what’s happening is not empowering. What is happening is buying them off and its unacceptable, it’s a shame.”
Dr Musumali noted that it would take ages to outdo what is happening.
He said the Socialist Party had started in a small but systematic way engaging the traditional leaders and that it was learning from them as well.
Dr Musumali said there was a good number of chiefs that is very uncomfortable with the system that is going on today just like church leaders.
“Just like we said that our councillors, MPs are being bought, that’s the same system, same practice that is happening to the traditional leaders, the church people. It’s shameful, it’s cheap! When money is distributed, you are buying people, you are corrupting people and then the questions that Zambians are not asking is that these monies said mostly that it’s a contribution from the President but where is the President getting the money from?” he asked. “Zambians know how much a president earns. Zambians know the entitlements of a president, so where is the President getting the money from that he is giving to the chiefs, what budget is he using? There is also a moral question to this. There is government that is supposed to take care of the chiefs and there is a ministry, a department that takes care of chiefs but that’s not the one that is being used. This is a slash fund, this is money that is being said to be coming from the President. Suddenly the President has become a billionaire! He has become rich and he is able to give traditional leaders, chiefs and cooperatives everywhere. Where is the money coming from? It’s evil”
He said if there are donors giving the President money, Zambians are obliged and it’s their mandate to know who is corrupting the Head of State in turn mortifying citizens.
Dr Musumali said the PF government had betrayed the Zambian people in a big way.
He recalled that the PF got into power on a pro-poor platform and promised a change from what the MMD was but that they have made things worse compared to the previous regime.
“It has betrayed the people big time. It was the poor masses that supported the PF. It was that humble person from Misisi, from Kanyama, from Chavuma, from Muchinga, from Kaputa, that carried the day for the PF but it is these same people that have lost out big time during the reign of the PF,” said Dr Musumali. “And in the history of Zambia, when its properly written, the PF will go down as a party and leadership that caused lot of misery to our people – that betrayed the trust of our people.”