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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

President Hichilema’s salary, Can he explain why he has managed to do without it

ColumnsPresident Hichilema’s salary, Can he explain why he has managed to do...

By Neo Simutanyi

President Hakainde Hichilema has not received a salary since he was elected in August 2021. He says a salary has never been his motivation for seeking public office. According to him, he has not received his salary because he simply didn’t pay attention, as he has been too busy trying to better the lives of the people. While it is commendable that for the first time, we have a Head of State who is prepared to work for Zambians pro bono, the decision not to receive a government salary cannot be a personal one. It is a policy issue. This is because the salaries of constitutional office holders are fixed and approved by Parliament.

President Hichilema should state clearly that he does not desire a government salary so that the allocation can be frozen for the next five years. That would enable the Ministry of Finance channel the funds to other needy areas, including the paying of hundreds of civil servants currently not on payroll because the government has no money. But the idea that President Hichilema has been too busy to worry about his salary is most troubling, as it suggests that as President all his needs are met by the State or his personal income is so high that the government salary is nothing in comparison. Whichever is the case, President Hichilema has exposed a serious contradiction in the remuneration of our heads of state. This is that, while they are entitled to a government salary, they may have easy access to government funds or receive donations in cash from well-wishers.

In 1993 it was discovered that an unscrupulous individual was drawing President Frederick Chiluba’s presidential salary from a bank account in Ndola. We have also witnessed other former presidents either reducing their official salary or donating huge amounts of money to so-called worthy causes, schools, churches and health facilities or youth and women’s empowerment ventures. In 2019, for example, former president Edgar Lungu took a 50% pay cut and a year later demanded that his cabinet colleagues donate 20% of their salaries to the government to help the government meet its debt obligations. The decision, which was clearly unconstitutional, was predicated on the assumption that cabinet ministers and senior civil servants received hefty salaries, which should be shared with ordinary citizens. It was a cheap way of hoodwinking the Zambian people into thinking that our political leadership was empathetic to the plight of the Zambian poor.

While I dare not question the morality of President Hichilema forgoing his salary, as the first Zambian president to do so, I am interested to understand, whether he has access to government funds outside his official salary. He may be a very wealthy man, by Zambian standards, but there are many wealthy heads of state in Africa who receive official government salaries. So the question of declaration of his assets, especially his commercial interests may not easily go away. Zambians may wish to know whether their president has another way of earning an income other than his official salary.

It will also be important for President Hichilema to pay special attention to his salary, as unscrupulous individuals will begin to draw it, since he does not need it – others will see an opportunity to pocket it, as was the case with Chiluba’s salary. But as far as I am concerned, President Hichilema should not shun his salary. It is his entitlement, and he is at liberty to use it in anyway he pleases, including donating it to charity. Not receiving the government salary gives the impression it is unnecessary; its too little compared to what he is worth or there are many other official revenue streams in State House that he can draw on. While I commend President Hichilema’s declared selfless service to our country pro bono, I am acutely alive to the temptations in that highest office, given his extensive commercial interests.

In the interests of transparency and in adherence to our Constitution, I will urge President Hichilema to come out clean and declare that he does not desire to receive a government salary during his presidency. Such a declaration should be followed by a policy pronouncement that will be gazetted by Secretary to the Cabinet to the effect that the salary of the President will be frozen on his instructions and the funds allocated to other causes. We don’t want to hear of a presidential slush fund or so-called presidential initiatives, as another way of siphoning public funds to private pockets. It is my hope President Hichilema will raise the bar on probity and integrity in the office of President during his tenure.

Neo Simutanyi
Political scientist based in Lusaka

26 COMMENTS

  1. Is it true that he won’t come back for it, what if he he needs it yearly or even upon completing his term of office.
    He should simply declare his stance for Zambians to know whether they should appreciate the charity? It’s important.

  2. Neo he just forgot. He has not signed off the salary to anyone up to now. He is coming bck for it later. Like most dogers Donald Trump included, Presidents who refuse to reveal their assets before entering office wont tell you when they receive their paycheck. Other rich presidents like J F Kennedy and Hebert Hoover, donated to the buyscouts and African American college fund. HH tell us if you will donate your yet to be claimed salary.

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  3. He is simply stealing from somewhere else and portraying himself as a saint. Stole from Zambia at his prime &, still helping himself

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  4. Hakainde is just guilty. This government has done more damage than good to the Zambian economy.

    Poverty levels has reached alarming levels. Ati ‘to better lives of Zambians, what a joke’. Poverty levels in new doom government have gone past PF. Imagine country men, we are just eight months old with the new doom government.

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  5. Just tell the bitter cader that the salary goes to pay for his security detail while he lives at New kasama and travels to state House daily………..

    Say what you ?????

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  6. Do you want him to give the salary to you?
    Not getting the salary is his personal decision …… no big deal! He never survived on government pay like most of you politicians.

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  7. Neo,
    Surely you could have found sometging relevant to write about…
    If this is all you can do, then YOU need to justify why you should continue having a salary…
    J

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  8. Neo,
    Surely you could have found sometging relevant to write about…
    If this is all you can do, then YOU need to justify why you should continue having a salary…
    J

  9. Dr Neo Simutanyi is simply asking the president to protect his salary so no one else pockets it.
    The answer the president gave of being too busy, does not inspire or prove his desire to waive off his salary.
    All constitutional office bearers must be paid by the government and what they do with the money later shouldn’t be questioned.
    Which man in this world is too busy to get his pay? How he is surviving? Let him set the records clear for posterity to judge him fairly.
    Did he not forego the luxury armoured Mercedes Benz car opting for his old horse, Nissan infinite? For what would the money meant for that purpose be used? More questions than answers
    As for now he has broken the record for Africa and all!

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  10. This man is a big croook…..only his gullible followers can buy into this….this man is stealing money and making personal business deals every day using state machinery and finances…..he doesn’t ? need a salary

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  11. We can’t be fooled to believe that he is a caring guy. Yes to his followers and not to some of us. Not getting his ka salary is his program. A thief will always pretend to be a good citizen.

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  12. PF now you feel how it is to be on the other side of the fence. You thought the gravy train will continue until the Zambian people derailed it.

    This was an election promise and he has kept but you still cannot accept. You have been shouting out loud that he made promises that have not been kept. On the other side, Lungu stole the money and you want to shove the issue under the carpet and crying victimisation. This time, all the thieves will have to account for their action and there is no escape.

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  13. Whether rich or poor, whether it’s needed or not, please pay him his salary, it’s an entitlement. Freezing or reallocating will create a dangerous precedent. Otherwise will come later then pbe denied a salary because the predecessor never got on, then they’ll start surviving by stealing. Please pay him

  14. The question shall be asked: How much diem allowance HH and his entourage got for 13 international trips he went on?
    How much money was spent on these 13 trips, who benefitted from these trips?
    Why MPs, judges get tax free salaries? Why allowances to politicans are tax free?
    Democracy is an expensive venture but it is made an autocratic one man show with unbridled skimming of national resources by a few ENTITLED elected politicians and one man appointed civil servants.
    The quetion that shall be asked, how much of national budget is spent every month on MPs, President, PSs parliament, judges on their salaries, allowances, trips, fuel, housing and everything else?

    The gullible masses will be shocked, if they come to know that over half of national budget is consumed by 400…

  15. It’s an old cheap political gimmick that Kamuzu Banda tried to use but the Supreme Court of Malawi ordered that it was unconstitutional for a President to refuse to get his salary. So in this case HH has taken us back to 1964 politics. If he doesn’t want his salary he can donate it but that won’t still impress us. Even Enoch Kavindele once pledged to not get his salary if he were elected president. It’s more costly for him to live at his house than his total earnings. The State is spending colossal sums of money just on security

  16. There is nothing commendable about this. HH wants to portray himself to the unsuspecting public as caring when he is not. First how can we even know whether he is getting a salary or not? Especially so that HH has to-date refused to tell us how much he is worth so that we have an idea of how much he made from the privatization of state assets in the 1990s.Only gullible Bally worshippers and UPND praise-singers can believe the lies told to them by a man known for telling fantastic lies in the opposition about what he was going to do for the country. We do not know how many kick-backs have ended up in his foreign bank accounts from the many business people he has been luring to come and invest in Zambia during the numerous international trips he has so far made. Besides, HH has…

  17. … unnecessarily ben causing the state to spend money on allowances for his security detail and fuel by not living from State House and maintaining his private residence. I would only believe HH was caring and commend him if he were not causing this unnecessary expenditure and was transparent about what he is worth. Otherwise what we are hearing from Ministry of Finance is nothing but BOGUS CLAPTRAP.

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