By Anthony Bwalya
Let us be very clear: The Patriotic Front (PF) were elected on an illusion – an illusion that was energized by what had become a natural hatred for RB’s MMD regime which had become a collective autocraticy, epitomized by excessive state control using money as bait against a population that was becoming increasingly impoverished.
The long suffering citizens of Zambia had practically been compelled to erode every requirement for us to objectively interrogate the PF’s agenda for mass public sector reforms. The PF, while in opposition, made a lot of fantom promises whose realisation was never backed up by any sound rationalization of what the long term objective was ever going to be.
Yet, in all this, one Michael Chilufya Sata was the only innocent dreamer, whose dream for his people was later to be hijacked and stolen by a pack of hungry wolves who interpreted the collective loyalty of Zambians as an unimpeded license to launder our country, it’s people and resources for private profit.
The nostalgia for Michael’s dream was evident in 2015 and 2016, when a candidate in Edgar C. Lungu, who not only admitted to having NO PERSONAL VISION for our country, but had also failed an INTEGRITY TEST in the private legal practice when he got entangled into financial impropriety involving a client and was disbarred from the bench and legal practice by the Law Association of Zambia – but was elected TWICE to serve as head of state.
This is how much Zambians loved Michael, that we were prepared to trust a rogue with our collective fortunes.
But after 8 long years of consented introspection, as individuals, families, communities and as a nation, Zambians have finally come to an agreement: that in order to clarify and recapture Michael’s dream, we have to put it into the hands of those who can interpret it for the benefit of ALL Zambians, irrespective of our political affiliations.
Michael SATA always knew how sound the UPND’s agenda was. This is why he was more inclined to collaborating with Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND in realigning his dream with what the UPND had consistently preached.
In his heart of hearts, Sata loathed corruption as much as he loathed social and economic inequalities. He also despised how the MMD abused the rule of law to prevent him from exercising his constitutional rights to meet and greet with ordinary people.
These were the things Michael Sata knew the UPND were deeply passionate about resolving, and that was the basis of his association with Hakainde Hichilema.
Specifically, Michael Sata dreamed of the following:
1. More money in our pockets and lower taxes
Under the post Sata PF regime, Zambians are now close to K600 worse off per month at the point of sale thanks to wages being overtaken by inflation. Also, Zambians are now another K600 out of pocket in taxes per month, both direct and indirect taxes, as the PF of Edgar Lungu have prioritized over – taxation as tool of centralized power and control.
Therefore, this has effectively driven the national food basket for a family of 6 to the brink of K7,000. The result is poverty, hunger and destitution at household level. But it is not only the access to food that is under threat, is it also the finished ability for households nto afford a decent roof over their heads, water and sanitation, energy services, education and quality health services.
This is why today, more than 62% of Zambians live on less than $1.25 per day, with another 40% classed as extremely poor, and close to 500,000 having no access to a secure food source everyday.
UPND RESPONSE STRATEGY
The UPND has committed to giving economic power and choice back to individuals, households and small businesses. Our proposal is to reform the PAYE taxation model towards a MEANS TESTED model, so that through tax reallocations, we can transfer more resources towards the micro economy.
This is why we have proposed for an increase in the PAYE tax exempt threshold from the current K3,300 to K4,000; as well as revising downwards the upper tax bracket from the current 37.5% to 22.5% as a way of delivering actual, guaranteed resources into the hands of individuals and households, and further as a means to catalyse micro economic activity for rapid growth and job creation.
2. Less Corruption
After what had become rampant, unhindered corruption by and under the MMD regime, the PF had campaigned on the premise that they will fight grand and political corruption, so that public resources can only be applied to and for the benefit of Zambians as a whole.
However, both grand and political corruption have not only spiked, but these are now being perpetrated under the umbrella of state capture – where elected officials and public institutions have remotely been taken over by power private business interests and big money lobbyists who are diverting over 60% of all public revenue and debt money away from projects of vital public utility, and instead into the pockets of these private actors and their conniving political accomplices.
Since 2011, Corruption under the PF has cost Zambians in excess of $10 billion, with less than 40% of all debt money having actually been committed to public projects; and public project procurement being the primary conduit.
The result is a mountain of public debt which the PF government can never dismantle.
UPND RESPONSE STRATEGY
Our approach and commitment towards corruption is 100% zero tolerance. This means a UPND adminstration is committed to upholding only the highest standard of integrity when it comes to the management of public resources.
The UPND is on the record, as having committed to the review and reform of the public procurement act to deliver value for money procurement, as well as committing to establishing a public project procurement appraisal unit under then AG’s office, to ensure that all projects are independently scrutinized for value for money opportunities.
The UPND has also committed to instituting Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) as a means to expedite the process of recovering property suspected of having been illegally acquired.
And the foregoing are merely a snippet of the lies and broken promises of and by the PF, but with he UPND presenting and offering a credible, clearly rationalized agenda for change and reform.
Under the PF regime, we have watched expanses of land and Forest reserves have been abused and shared by government Ministers and CADRES, and in the process compromising the integrity of our environment and several water sources.
It is also under this regime, under President Edgar Lungu, that over $3 million in social cash transfer money was stolen by agents of the PF, depriving several thousands of our people of the much needed welfare support. The UPND is prepared to devolve the functioning of this system, so that the process of identifying beneficiaries is done at community level and without the undue interference of political actors.
Zambians must also never forget how $400,000 worth of test kits were stolen from the MoH, as well as $4m worth of expired drugs having been bought. The result was that many thousands of lives were put at risk, with hundreds lost owing to the appetite for profiteering by PF actors.
We also know how many billions of dollars have been stolen in public contracts to build roads and other infrastructure projects, whose return on investment is just far below the cost of the debt money procured to fund these projects. The consequences are that many of these projects will never be able to pay for themselves, and that several generations of Zambians will have to pay for this in higher taxes.
But even then, the UPND are saying there is another way around all this.
With new leadership, we can restore trust in public leadership and energize new discussions around our collective problems and map out new solutions – together.
What we cannot do, what Zambians must never do is allow a breed of failed politicians mascarading as leaders, to stay another day longer than is necessary in office.
We have already lost at least 20 years worth of development under the PF.
It’s time to start reversing the damage.
It’s time to trust the UPND under President Hakainde Hichilema to do the job.