Since my return to the house I notice that the furniture remains the same but the sitting arrangement has changed quite remarkably. Many dear friends like Hon Chenda and Kapeya have become very quiet back benchers with the exception of Hon Masebo, who continues to be an active speaker. I am yet to observe the performance of the Kasama MP who once joked about lining the long journey to Kasama with 50 kwacha notes. And as such, the journey to Kasama analogy by Hon Kambwili last evening, was not lost on me. It needs preparation.
I am extremely pleased to be back in the house myself especially as a back bencher. After serving as a Minister and as a senior opposition member, it is very refreshing to have the view from back here, as a back Bencher of a Party in Government, and to have the freedom to speak and to speak freely. Former speaker Hon Amusa Mwanamwambwa never failed to remind us that Parliament is from the French word Parley which is to talk..we are all here to talk and be heard. Whether what we say is sensible or not is a matter for the public to judge.
The last two years were not about me..nor were they about my two colleagues Mr Maxwell Mwale or Mr Sililo.
The last two years for me were always about the People of Petauke who had no representation in this house. Our democratic dispensation designates 150 constituencies for elected representation. We carried on for two years as though it was normal to have only 147 elected representatives in this house. We must never allow this to happen again and we all must be in the forefront to address whatever lacunas are in the law that made this situation possible.
It is illogical that when an MP dies the law dictates that an election must take place within 3 months but in the case of a court process, the law is silent on the period to dispose of the court process, meaning it can become an almost endless road, with no regard to what impact this has on the electorate. It is wrong and must be corrected so that no other constituency in future faces such a dilemma.
The public perception is that the situation rendered the house weak in that it cannot protect itself from political abuse through courts and by inference it can not protect the people it is suppose to serve, the electorates…a situation that must be corrected if indeed the house has to continue to enjoy it’s position as the true gathering of the People’s representatives.
The 12,833 votes in the Petauke Central by-election are a clear demonstration of the peoples will. The 12,833 votes demonstrate very significantly what history has taught us time and time again…that power only lies with the people. That any power we as individuals mentally fabricate as our own or believe we posses, is only so, because it has been bestowed upon us by the People.
The PF 12,833 votes in Petauke central are also a reflection of the political adage that there are no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. It was very clear after the January 20 Presidential by-election that the PF could rebrand from being seen as a Party for One tribe or group to a Party for all Zambians, that the PF could change from being viewed as an intolerant party to a party with divergent views but a common cause and that is improving the lives of Zambians. Today the PF has received support from many notables including former President Rupiah Banda, former UPND Vice President Richard Kapita, former MMD leader and recently a UPND sympathiser, Dr Katele Kalumba, the business sector and many citizens. It is under the PF that the first female Vice President has been appointed.
The message from the People of Petauke, voters and non-voters alike, is that they will continue to work with any political party, as long as it remains relevant and responds to their permanent interests ..because after all the People of Petauke do not feed, no educate their children purely by chanting names of political parties whether it’s UPND, MMD or even the PF. The people of Petauke want to work with a Party and leadership whose social and economic Programmes interface with their permanent interests. At this point in time, the people of Petauke have put their trust in the PF Party which is in Government. The Residents of Petauke however, welcome passionate, sound and respectable debate any day but will ignore inconsistent opposition and shallow debate as the by-election revealed. In this regard, I am a bearer of a message for the Executive and the House from the People of Petauke:
To the Office of the Vice President, the People are anxious, especially in outlying areas to receive relief food. Bad rains coupled with inadequate fertiliser supply has resulted in very low yields for most peasant farmers. I also urge the Ministry of Finance and the FRA to address the outstanding payments to farmers regarding work done with the Petauke Farmers Union during last seasons buying period. The farmers of Petauke are urging the Treasury to pay them on time this year.
I am happy to note that compound D fertiliser is already in Petauke with 55340 bags in stock. This is a massive improvement from the 26000 bags supplied last season. An equivalent of the same is expected soon of Urea. The message must be very loud and clear to the minister of agriculture from voters in Petauke..we get seed and fertiliser in adequate numbers and on time and the PF will continue to get the Petauke vote… I appreciate that Petauke Central has other needs but it’s difficult to talk about infrastructure when food security is threatened. It’s even more difficult to talk about weaning peasant farmers off the FISP when for the last 2 years the farmers have been poorely supported. I argue that consistent FISP support for a minimum of 4 years and with fairly good rainfall and efficient procurement by the FRA and the private sector, is the only way we can put more money in farmers pockets and help them diversify to other cash crops. Supporting small farmers who make up 70% of Zambia’s labour force has a trickle down effect in each district with farmers buying roofing sheets cement, etc. It also provides for household social security with farmers becoming able to send their children to school and access health care. Attention must also be paid to dams and dip tanks to encourage cattle keeping.
We are however, very pleased that the Prison Servce will erect a milling plant in Petauke as part of Agri-business investment. There are many other opportunities in hospitality, private education, housing construction, storage, and processing of groundnuts in Petauke which investors are welcome to exploit.
Mr speaker, currently the 2014 CDF for Petauke Central has not been received. I recall clearly that CDF was instituted so that decisions to enhance the lives of our People can be made quickly at local level. With only 34 boreholes dug in 2014 in the whole Petauke district, there are still many areas where people share water with lives stock in Petauke Central such as mataya and isaki boma. It must be possible in our country after 50 years to have a One Village one Borehole program. That is the least our people expect from the Minister of Local Government.
I know that some people will argue that I was in Government before and indeed I was..but we in the past administrations do not claim to be the preserve of all wisdom. It is why I am here and those who have the responsibility are in the front seats on your right Mr speaker.
Let me touch the elephant in the room and that is power. First, that I am happy ZESCO has produced a better schedule now where we have power early evening. With the electricity challenges being faced, I shudder to think about when all of Zambia will be powered. Much economic gains through taxes can be made by government with more power nationwide to allow for more investment. Clearly this has not happened fast enough. In Petauke, ZESCO has plans to street light Tasala 1-10 residential areas and Stambuli road. We wish to have this done like yesterday. And since the whole country has been so dependant on hydro power, generators seem to be the alternative for most businesses and households and am glad to note they are duty free. They should help to lessen the pressure on ZESCO Petauke’s proximity to Mozambique and Malawi must also be considered for gas pipeline and provincial fuel depot through the Nacala corridor as a long term measure.
Current statistics show that 90% of Zambians are my age: 45 years and below. The majority are in the 20 to 35 years old bracket. This is a time bomb if not attended to. Many youths find formal higher education difficult to access with very limited places available or unaffordable for them.Getting a job, a decent job is also a torturous road. The Ministry of Commerce has to think outside the box and provide hope to our youths in Petauke. I have met many grade 12 as call boys at the bus stations who turn to drinking due to frustration. Many end up dying of aids before they are even 30. These are someones children, whose mother and father once had hope that they would do well in life. We all have a responsibility to do something about the hopelessness our youths feel. The empowerment funds in Commerce and Youth and Sport have to be targeted and yield tangible results.. An extra effort has to be made to truely make these funds accessible to young people through creating data bases in each district and following up on accessibility and impact on development in our communities.
And the big message for the Minister of Sport is that there are football players too in Petauke who given a chance can represent Zambia. Football resources from Government cannot just be about the line of rail. We love football too in Petauke and we also want a stadium appropriate to the district.
In the last 3 years township roads have been worked on in Petauke, 12.5 km out of the planned 19 km so far. That is still not enough. There are many feeder roads to be improved such the kaulu/Chileka, Mumbi/mungongo Minga/kasonde, chitimba/kanjala, ukwimi and luamphande roads just to name a few. And that the works on the great east road have taken too long is the message for the minister of communication and transport. May the Minister also clarify why mobile network is usually poor in Petauke. We demand better and expanded mobile network for the people considering the tariffs paid.
Petauke Central is a vast constituency..while 2 new high schools have just been completed, access to primary education is still a challenge. Many children are still in the most rudimentary classrooms. I urge the ministry of Education to accelerate construction of the one by 3 classroom blocks and teachers houses. This will also lessen walking distances for voters as many voting centres in rural areas are schools.
In health, just like in education, we urge that the 4 to 5 km radius requirement for school and clinic accessibility be continued and enhanced. Sitting here in Lusaka, it is very difficult for many of us to imagine, a pregnant woman in labour or a very sick child in the middle of the night, 30 km away from a health centre with no transport. Only divine intervention can be the answer.
We must consistently ask ourselves how much we have achieved in terms of the MDGs in reducing poverty, and improving accessibility to education and health.
After almost 80 meetings during the campaigns, one issue was prominent second only to water problems: the cash transfer flaws. First, many aged women and men claimed they had been left off the list when officers visited the communities. But it also seems that there is a confidence issue with the whole process that must be addressed soon. The Ministry of Community Development must also have a proper data base on the very old and most vulnerable boys and girls who need support with education and health matters. Statistics, good data is the only way to make informed decisions. I suggest the Ministry embarks on a district data compilation plan and Petauke would be very happy to be a pilot.
Recently some Women groups in my constituency received 2000 kwacha cheques as empowerment grants. These are usually large groups of 30 to 50 women and they end up just sharing the 2000 because its too little to be used for a meaningful business venture. I urge the ministry of Gender working with Community Development to review and propose the most effective way to support our Women’s groups in the 2016 budget. In outlying areas women need more than cash but actual linkages to markets for nuts, organic chickens goats etc.interface with business is the real answer in my view.
Finally on a matter so close to my heart. The rate of child defilement that goes unreported in many parts of Zambia is also worrying in Petauke. Legislation must be improved and tightened to punish the perpetrators and protect the victim. The police and hospitals also need training on evidence gathering and storage and how to deal with both victims and culprits considering our culture orientation.. Let’s not fail to help a 10 year old girl who comes to us for help after being raped by a teacher or relative because the police or family prefer to look the other way…let’s not deny help to that boy who is being sodomised because it is more comfortable for us to just look away. Society has a responsibility to the very young and very old who can’t attend to them selves. Courts at district level have to be sensitive to these matters is the message to the Minister of Justice.
I thank my whole campaign team in Petauke, colleagues hon kawandami and kapyongo and all those who came through. And to state that it is possible to have violent free elections. I thank most sincerely President Lungu and Vice President Wina for their support. I also thank my friends, supporters, my family and most of all, my Son, without whose patience, I would not be here today.
I thank you Mr Speaker.