National Restoration Party (NAREP) President Elias Chipimo has demanded that President Lungu must come clean over the handing over of 10% of the Black Mountain to the Jerabos.
Addressing a media briefing in Lusaka on Friday where he touched on a number of issues, Mr Chipimo accused the President of merely using the Black Mountain issue as a public relations stance to hold onto his slim chances of surviving the political storm that is brewing.
“Make no mistake, we need to ask the question: what deal has been done with the Jerabos? The President is merely using this as a public relations stance to hold onto his slim chances of surviving the political storm that is brewing,” he said
Below is Mr Chipimo’s full press address
2 March 2018
Eight years ago today, we launched our party at Mulungushi International Conference Centre. I will quote some of the words I used then in my launch address because I believe they still ring true today:
“Our politicians seem to have no long-term vision or plan to take us to new heights as a nation. At a time such as this, every Zambian should be asking the question: what can I do for my country? Many of us sit idly by as our politicians fight with each other; when the nation is being torn apart at the core. We can no longer blame only the politicians for the state of politics in our country. We must all examine our lives and see where we have individually failed our nation. Each one of us regularly faces the choice about whether to embrace or reject a culture of hate; whether to embrace or reject a culture of violence; whether to embrace or reject a culture of insults. Each of us can decide to do the right thing when it becomes clear to us that our action can make a positive difference. We cannot take satisfaction in blaming corruption and intolerance on our political leadership when in our very own homes; in our very own workplaces, in our churches and social communities, we remain small dictators that reject correction and wise counsel from the people around us who see our faults all too clearly. When we ourselves lie to, steal from and cheat one another daily.
And this is where the change and transformation of our nation must begin. It must start from within; with each one of us seeking to understand the role we have played in harming our common interests. With each one of us seeking to understand how we can make things better. We must ask ourselves what it is we have to do to be more responsible citizens and create the Zambia that we all wish to live in.”
We meet again at a time when I wish I could be the bearer of good news about what is going on in our nation but, sadly – although expectedly, nothing much has changed. If anything, things are much worse. We are still plagued by mediocrity, corruption greed and neglect. We are still consumed with politics of division rather than unity and we are still witnessing the relentless pursuit of power at any price.
If the current administration was wise, they would open their eyes and ears to the open rebellion from the people who have had enough of the greed and manipulation of the nation’s resources. We see this with the private media who have become victims of greed and neglect as epitomised by the TopStar deal; we see this with the rush to promulgate the new Health Bill into law that will place an even further burden of tax on already highly taxed citizens who hardly have any decent income to speak of; we see this in the handing over of Kitwe’s famous “Black Mountain”; in the blatant and abhorrent campaign tactic of desecrating children’s school books with the portrait of a president; in the desire to usher in a new national airline without the requisite accountability framework in place and without thinking about our strategic interests. We also see a government that wants to do plausibly good things but lacks the credibility to be believed it can be trusted to look after interests other than those of a few individuals whose sole aim appears to be to hold onto power even if this means undermining the rights of ordinary citizens and depriving them of the right to a free and fair election.
As you see, the list of issues is a long one. So let us tackle them one by one.
We have now entered the so-called digital migration era. This was supposed to be a time when our local media could flourish under new rules and regulations that would enable them to broadcast their content across the country at minimal cost and educate and inform the nation while making a sensible commercial return.
Sadly, as with all things that the current administration has been able to lay their grubby hands on, this is slowly turning into a nightmare for the hard-working men and women in the private media sector. To date we have had no explanation as to why ‘Phase One’ of the digital migration cost only $9.6 million and covered 6 provinces and yet ‘Phase Two’ somehow required a loan of $273 million to cover only 4 provinces. There can be no logic or justification for such an astounding difference and an explanation must be provided to the people of Zambia.
We know that Mr. Chishimba Kambwili was privy to a lot of things and can easily provide the requisite data as to what really transpired in this matter. We are ready to work with him to bring the evidence to court in a civil action and will be engaging with him to see how we can bring this issue to the full attention of local and international audiences. We demand answers to some very troubling questions:
– Who was the $273 million paid to?
– How was it utilised?
– Why was it acquired on behalf of a foreign company, which is 60 per cent owned by non-Zambians?
– Where were the payments made?
– What was the actual cost of ‘Phase Two Implementation’ of the digital migration if ‘Phase One’ cost only $9.6 million?
– Who signed the relevant documentation and on what basis?
– How is it that a digital signal carrier has now become a content provider as well as a pay TV channel at the expense of local media and production companies?
These questions need answers.
We must demand an audit before we can be compelled to pay the ever increasing taxes being imposed on us. If our taxpayer monies are being spent in a reckless manner, why should we have to have to carry the cost of other people’s corruption and greed and mediocrity? Why should we be charged a tax to maintain health services when our ministries are authorized to spend $288,000 on individual ambulances that are worth less than a quarter of that price? Why should we squander our hard earned resources to pay over four times the value of fire tenders and then be made to pay for the cost of maintaining our roads. We demand our rights as citizens to a full audit of the monies that have been spent in our name as a nation.
The current administration is going all guns blazing in its attempt to introduce a Health Bill to pay for health services and infrastructure. We appeal to our colleagues in parliament to stand up and for once defend the Zambian citizen and taxpayer. If there was something worth protesting about, it would be the attempt to place an even heavier burden on an already heavily burdened citizenry that has already has to suffer the intolerable cruelty of a selfless and uncaring administration and is now being asked to pay for its reckless lack of fiscal discipline.
We are all already burdened with debt from the Eurobond and the numerous loans from China that are building our roads and infrastructure along with the personal homes and properties of some of our leaders through overpricing and laundering. Should we really be required to bear the indignity of being stripped of what remains of our meager earnings after being pummeled by an economy that appears only to favour those with Grand connections?
We reject the attempt to place a further burden on us through this indirect tax. If the current administration of the PF is at all serious about raising funds, let them plug the loopholes that are allowing their most sacred cronies to benefit from their connections and channel the savings into the sectors that most need developmental support.
Here we go again. The long-suffering youth on the Copperbelt have once again been duped into believing a Party that is desperate to hold onto power actually cares them for. They were fooled once in order to extract their vote and they are being fooled again into believing the PF actually cares about them. Make no mistake, we need to ask the question: what deal has been done with the Jerabos? The President is merely using this as a public relations stance to hold onto his slim chances of surviving the political storm that is brewing.
I have visited illegal miners and spoken to families whose sons have died digging up material in unsafe locations just because they are desperate to make a life for themselves. If the PF really cared about the Jerabos or any of the youth struggling to make a life for themselves on the Copperbelt, they would not treat this matter as lightly as they have. We want our people to own large-scale mining licenses in the future. This will come about by investing in the young people and putting in place partnership arrangements that will ensure they are fully and properly trained to engage in productive and sustainable mining practices that will build them up to even greater ownership roles in future mines. This is why NAREP is proposing implementation of the TiPanGeni initiative for genuine empowerment that will build skills and create wealth in all communities across the nation.
The recent presentation of the land policy has ended up in disaster for the simple reason that the Chiefs – the original custodians of the land predating our colonial history – have seen the real intention behind the proposed changes. We have a government that does not regard traditional authorities as the best guardians of the land and yet is prepared to give away valuable and precious land to foreign investors in unthinkable ways. Our land must be carefully managed and protected for future generations and not parted with on the pretext of attracting investment. This requires collaboration between the government and the people and between the government and our traditional leaders.
President’s portrait on schoolbooks
When we rejected the one-party state, we rejected along with it, the idea of a leadership cult. The approval through silence of our head of state to having his portrait on the covers of our children’s schoolbooks is a reflection of the level of impunity with which many of the decisions that emanate from State House seem to be made. Appointing ministers who have election legitimacy cases pending before the courts, allowing a campaign to be run using the portrait of a man who may be disqualified from standing because he has served his time in office all point to a lack of respect for our judicial institutions and undermine our standing as a nation. The new minister of finance may well be qualified for the job but what message do we send when she has an election nullification case pending before the courts at a time when our financial stability as a nation and our ability to pay back our debts when they fall due has hardly been worse? These decisions are not made in the interests of the people. They are made only in the interests of the Party in power and its leaders – although not necessarily in that order.
While the idea of a national airline is emotional and laudable, we have to ask ourselves: how has our parastatal sector performed over the years? We have failed to hold our parastatals accountable to standards of international best practice and while there are some that are doing their best to run their organisations efficiently, they are all subject to the sudden whims of an aggressive minister or president who will tend to interfere at will in the manner in which resources are applied or managed. Further, if we think that the solution lies in handing over management and part ownership to Ethiopian Airlines, we are badly mistaken. Consider, for example, what other management contracts are being operated by Ethiopian Airlines – are they running at a profit or a loss? Further, why would Ethiopian Airlines seek to make Zambia Airways profitable when it will in effect be competing with itself since it also provides flights to the same routes that will be offered by the new national airline that it will be managing? These ideas always seem good on paper but they end up being rather difficult to apply in practice.
Printing of ballots
The printing of ballots in Zambia will only make sense if all stakeholders are part and parcel of managing the whole system from beginning to end including: the manner in which the ballots are printed; the way the electoral system is operated; the collection and transmission of data. Full access must be given to two separate independent and internationally accredited technical teams that represent the PF on the one hand and the collective opposition on the other.
These teams must have full access to all the operations and electronic activities of the process from beginning to end.
The intention of local ballot printing may be a worthy one but anything worthy administered by an unworthy administration will nullify its worthiness.
Finally, we come to the issue of the republican constitution.
We all recognize that the constitution has flaws that need to be tidied-up but this must not be a back-door attempt to resuscitate the failing career of a president that has outlived his welcome. Now let us be clear: no one is afraid of standing against President Lungu in an open and free election. Our issue is that we want to protect the constitution and not have it manipulated to suit the desires of an individual.
It has been eight years since we launched NAREP. We have seen our nation’s fortunes rise and fall. We have seen the hopes of millions dashed against the hard rocks of mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect. We stand at a critical point in our history; poised to make a dramatic change for the better but only if we summon up the courage to rise up against the abnormal and call things what they are. If the PF were ready to fight corruption, mediocrity, greed and neglect with the same zeal and integrity they have shown in robbing the women and youth of our nation of their livelihoods, what a great nation Zambia would be. Then we would not be the headless nation that we seem to be fast becoming.
I thank you.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)