President Lungu’s Year in Office

president lungu
president lungu

President Lungu is marking one year at State House this weekend and we are all counting the cost. It is clear to see who are the few that have more money in their pockets after nearly 5 years of PF Government.

Austerity has hit the Zambian people but seemingly not the PF leadership, with at least 17 Presidential trips abroad and countless social engagements over the past year. Yet President Lungu has only had time for one press conference and we are still waiting to hear his vision for the country.

While Zambians face job losses, rising food prices and erratic load shedding, the PF attempts to divide us and turn us against one another in order to distract from their failures in office. Such an approach shows a complete disregard for our future as a nation, and a self-serving attitude at the heart of government. Here is a reminder of just five of the biggest missed opportunities under the PF:

Power sector – The failure of the PF to maintain existing infrastructure is central to on-going load shedding and pressure to increase prices. Under Lungu’s management the PF not only failed to prevent the current crisis but there was not even a warning shot fired on the matter! They were too busy looking elsewhere. As long as ZESCO continues to be manned by PF cadres, problems will continue and investors will stay away. Lake Kariba is not the only source of water to generate hydro electricity in Zambia. We could have built a number of mini hydro stations along the Luapula, Chambeshi and Kafue rivers in the northern part of the country. It only takes at most 18 months to build a 100 MW power station.

Economic diversification – The PF has talked about diversification but there has been no action to follow. Where is the vision for our tourism sector? Where is the vision for agribusiness? These sectors can be great sources of job creation and revenue. Instead the PF has continued to focus almost solely on mining where it has failed miserably, alienating investors through chopping and changing policy and betraying workers with empty promises. In only 12 months Edgar Lungu has managed to make the kwacha the worst performing currency in the world, under his watch we have the highest inflation in 10 years. The rating Agencies have downgraded our economic outlook. The PF has borrowed massively, mostly for consumption, and the borrowed money is largely unaccounted for. We could have placed diversification high on the agenda and used borrowed money to invest in production to create more jobs and wealth. From the time Lungu took over in January the PF has added to the debt stock an amount of over US$2 billion of external debt.

Governance – The PF failed to put the full constitution to the people of Zambia through referendum as promised. They have also failed to reform the Public Order Act and have since used it to persecute opposition figures. Freedom of expression has been curtailed with public media operating under instruction from PF leadership. ZNBC, Times of Zambia and the Daily Mail are heavily indebted and insolvent. We could have allowed the media to operate professionally. Under the PF threats against private media are the order of the day.

Agriculture – Despite the fact that over 80% of Zambians are engaged in the sector the PF has failed to give it much attention. It is a great shame irrigation has not been advanced so that farmers do not always have to wait for rainy season to farm. Meanwhile failure to address productivity leads to increasing prices. We could have invested in systems to efficiently distribute farming inputs, extension services and increase yields per hectare. Lowering the production cost will reduce food prices.

Investing in our people – The PF has not empowered our people through investment in education and skills training, improved access to credit, and the simplifying of processes to start out in business. This is what we mean by investing in our people, not simple hands out just before by-elections and then nothing for the next 5 years.

The economic turmoil we are seeing now, with depressed growth, rising prices and various redundancies is what comes from a Government with no vision, that is slow to respond, has inconsistent policies and self-serving. Regardless of political affiliation a Government must be responsive and accountable to its people. It’s time those at State House realised a country does not govern itself, there must be someone to steer the ship who decides the best route to take or it won’t stay afloat.

Hakainde Hichilema
UPND President