Socialist Party of Zambia President Dr Fred M’membe has joined local stakeholders in urging the UPND Government to swallow its pride and engage China on the huge debt Zambia owes the gigantic Asian nation.
After forming the New Dawn Government in August 2021, the UPND regime has been seen aligning itself more to the Western countries such as America.
Foreign policy analysts have observed a shift away from China, Zambia’s major creditors, to the west.
Just last week, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) urged the Government to step up bilateral engagement with China in order to expedite the prolonged debt restructuring process under the G20 Common Framework.
JCTR Executive Fr. Alex Muyebe, S.J said the perceived foreign policy shift by the New Dawn Government must not be allowed to jeopardize the debt restructuring negotiations.
He said the interest of the Zambian people must take precedence over the geo-political and economic dynamics between the West and China.
“With the aim of speeding up the debt restructure process; the Zambian government needs to step up bilateral engagement with China (Zambia’s largest creditor) to help expedite the restructuring process under the G20 Common Framework. The perceived foreign policy shift must not be allowed to jeopardize the debt restructuring negotiations. The interest of the Zambian people must take precedence over the geo-political and economic dynamics between the West and China. Ultimately it is the Zambian people who are bearing the brunt of delayed debt restructuring and who will bear consequences in the event that the debt restructuring deal collapses,” Fr. Muyebe said.
Adding his voice to the call on the Government to engage China, Dr. M’membe said President Hakainde Hichilema and his government should immediately engage China on a bilateral basis to give Zambia a three-year freeze on its debt.
Dr. M’membe charged that the debt restructuring process under the G20 Common Framework Zambia is grappling won’t be concluded soon.
He said President Hichilema should know that China has been good to Zambia and other countries.
“Given our underperforming economy, we urge Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his government of the need to immediately ENGAGE China on a bilateral basis to give us a three-year moratorium on its debt while we grapple with the never-ending IMF-G20 common framework. Mr Hichilema should be ever mindful of the fact that China has never threatened our independence. We have never been subjected to any form of mistreatment or exploitation by China. We can’t say the same about the US,” Dr. M’membe said.
The Socialist Party leader added that Zambians should not forget the non-aligned approach to foreign policy that enables the country to live well, work well and cooperate with any country in the world.
“Let’s do what’s right for us and for our people. Let us not forget the non-aligned approach to foreign policy that enables us to live well, work well and cooperate with any country in the world. This allows us to engage with all countries for our own good. In the end, we want to see a better Zambia, with or without us in power,” Dr. M’membe said.
Meanwhile, opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) President Kasonde Mwenda is one leader who has also cautioned President Hichilema against sidelining China in preference to the West.
Mr. Kasonde said it is time for President Hichilema to take the interest of the nation above him and face China.
He said there was a need for President Hichilema to sit down with China outside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) framework over the $6 billion national debt
“China has cancelled Zambian debt multiple times before, to the tune of $259 million over the period 2000-2018. Yet under Hakainde Hichilema’s regime, over a year has passed yet all efforts to restructure Zambia’s $6 Billion foreign debt owed to China under the IMF framework remain fruitless. The main reason for failure is simply because instead of engaging China directly as we always do, Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema is too yoked to Western puppetry and would rather travel to London and US and lobby the West to talk on his behalf to China to restructure our debt as he gets a reward of a paltry $1.3 billion IMF loan,” Mr. Mwenda said.