The Civil Society has demanded that President Edgar Lungu makes full disclosure on the true extent of Zambia’s debt burden to China as he opens Parliament this morning.
The CSO’s are further demanding that President Lungu should provide the terms attached to such debt contracting.
The CSOs stayed that debt is contracted on behalf of all the Zambian taxpayers and they thus have a right to know how much has been accrued to them and how these resources have been utilised.
They urged President Lungu to provide full disclosure on these and many other issues currently causing alarm among the Zambian citizenry as he addresses Parliament.
“There is therefore need for absolute transparency with regards of the country’s debt commitments. It is especially critical for the President to ensure that there is full disclosure by the Ministry of Finance as regards the national assets that have been listed as in danger of take over. These are ZESCO, the new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport Terminal and ZNBC,” the CSOs said.
The CSOs that attended the press briefing were ActionAid Zambia, the Alliance for Community Action, the Centre for Trade for Policy and Development, Consumer Unity Trust Society and GEARS Initiative Zambia.
Others were Transparency International Zambia, Non-Governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council and the Zambia Council for Social Development.
Below is the full statement released by the CSOs
JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS (CSOs) ON THE STATE OF THE NATION AHEAD OF PRESIDENT EDGAR LUNGU’S CEREMONIAL OPENING OF THE 3RD SESSION OF THE 12TH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TOMORROW, FRIDAY, 14TH SEPTEMBER 2018
Members of the Press
We welcome you all to this joint civil society press conference. This press conference has been called ahead of the ceremonial opening of the 3rd Session of the 12th National Assembly by President Edgar Lungu, tomorrow Friday, 14th September 2018 in order for civil society to share its expectation from the presidential address.
This is because our country today is beset with a number of issues which are important to share with the public through you the media.
1. CEREMONIAL OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
In accordance with the provisions of Article 86 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia, the President is mandated to address the National Assembly at least twice in every year. In his address the Head of State sets the pace and tone for the country’s development trajectory. The address is supposed to articulate broadly to the nation the development agenda of the Government under the President’s leadership.
As Civil Society we have noted with deep concern that these addresses have become an academic exercise that seek only to fulfil the Constitutional obligations. A critical analysis and review of the previous speeches will prove that Government, tends to make broad sweeping pronouncements that are then not followed up by a detailed implementation mechanism. The promises therefore remain only as records in Parliament and Newspaper headlines without any tangible outcomes to positively impact the majority poor, especially the vulnerable women, youth and children.
The speeches also avoid the critical issues that are concerning the public. On the eve of the ceremonial opening Parliament, we want to remind President Edgar Lungu that the Zambian people will closely monitor his pronouncements especially at this critical time of our country.
We will also look out for updates on previous pronouncements during national addresses.
We would also like to remind the Members of Parliament that begin to sit for the 3rd Session of the National Assembly, that they have an honorable responsibility to represent the wishes and aspirations of the Zambian people. We therefore call upon the MPs to always put the people’s interest at heart as they debate on various issues and as they implement their duty to legislate.
At this critical moment in our country, Zambia needs leaders that will put the country first before any other consideration. Our MPs should remember that they are Zambian first before they are members of any political party. We therefore expect them to make laws and decisions that will benefit all Zambians and not only a section of society.
2. DEBT CRISIS
It is clear to us all that Zambia is in a debt crisis. While Government has continued to reassure the country that the debt remains sustainable, we are perturbed by reports suggesting that the country may lose some of its assets because of the unstrategic and unsustainable borrowing that has happened since 2011.
We have noted with concern reports that key strategic public institutions are in danger of takeover if the country defaults on its debt repayment commitments.
There is therefore need for absolute transparency with regards of the country’s debt commitments. It is especially critical for the President to ensure that there is full disclosure by the Ministry of Finance as regards the national assets that have been listed as in danger of take over. These are ZESCO, the new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport Terminal and ZNBC.
Civil society also seeks clarity on the status of NRDC that is reported to have been sold to a Chinese entity. NRDC must remain an institution of learning. CSOs demand that the selling off of strategic national institutions that belong to the people of Zambia collectively stop.
While some of the reports of takeovers and sell of assets remain speculative, it is not enough for government to deny rumours that are causing anxiety among citizens.
It is the duty of Government to state with evidence the actual position regarding these national assets. For as long as there is no evidenced counter-information coming from government in the public domain, the nation remains distressed.
Civil Society also demands that government provides a clear position about the country’s debt burden to China and more importantly, the terms attached to such debt contracting.
Debt is contracted on behalf of all the Zambian taxpayers and they thus have a right to know how much has been accrued to them and how these resources have been utilised.
We urge President Lungu, to provide full disclosure on these and many other issues currently causing alarm among the Zambian citizenry as he addresses Parliament tomorrow.
As civil society, we appreciate the recent statement by the Ministry of Finance on the debt levels and the intended measures to establish a sinking fund. We however note the constant denial by the Chief Government Spokesperson of the ever more apparent debt distress the nation is currently undergoing. Increased domestic resource mobilization through a variant of new taxes, the debt-to-GDP ratio of 58.2%, the announcement of plans to refinance the US$750 Eurobond, the increased debt service payments and the dedication of 50 percent of the recent supplementary budget to debt servicing, are some of the clear indications of a debt crisis.
We challenge the MPs to approach this matter with seriousness as they debate in Parliament.
3. CONSTITUTION MAKING
As Civil Society, we remain gravely concerned with the disjointed manner that the Constitution making process is being undertaken by the Minister of Justice Hon. Given Lubinda. While appreciating the efforts to try and address the lacunas and gaps in the Amended Constitution, there is need for a clear road map of the process by the Government as well as full information of the provisions of the constitution that are to be amended. This is so that there is full buy-in from citizens that must underpin a credible constitutional review process. There is need to ensure that this process leads to Zambia finalising a durable constitution that will stand the test of time. It is also critical that the expanded Bill of Rights is included in the new constitution.
4. GOVERNACE AND RULE OF LAW
Civil Society remains concerned at the continued assaults on rule of law in the country as seen in violence during elections and lawlessness among political party cadres.
The findings in the Auditor General’s reports, as well as series of corruption scandals in the last few years also point to a critical breakdown in accountability and public resource management systems. We therefore urge President Lungu to take decisive measures to strengthen accountability and end the corruption that is now endemic in the nation.
Civil Society will listen intently to the Presidential address tomorrow with the hope that it addresses the many challenges Zambia is facing.
I thank you
ActionAid Zambia (AAZ)
Alliance for Community Action (ACA)
Centre for Trade for Policy and Development (CTPD)
Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS)
GEARS Initiative Zambia
Transparency International Zambia (TIZ)
Non-Governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC)
Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)