UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says Zambians have witnessed an unprecedented destruction of nearly every institution since President Edgar Lungu took over power, while corruption has become the new normal.
And Katuka says President Lungu’s incompetent fiscal management has earned Zambia the embarrassment of being the first African country this year to default on a portion of its external debt.
In a statement, Thursday, Katuka charged that President Lungu was the chief architect of the country’s social and economic destruction.
“We are baffled by President Edgar Lungu’s sentiments that he would not want to be the one to destroy Zambia and yet he knows that he is the chief architect of this country’s destruction. The statement, as reported in The Mast newspaper edition of November 24, 2020, is a further demonstration of the disconnect that exists between what Mr Lungu preaches and what is actually obtaining on the ground. Since January, 2015, when Mr Lungu took over power, Zambians have witnessed an unprecedented destruction of nearly every institution of governance, while unrestrained corruption has become the new normal,” Katuka stated.
He observed that government wasted US $5 million on a French debt advisory firm, Lazard Freres, which ended up in failure.
“As if this were not bad enough, Mr Lungu’s incompetent fiscal management has earned Zambia the embarrassment of being the first African country this year to default on a portion of its external debt, which currently stands at a staggering US $12 billion officially. Independent estimates put the debt at US $27 billion. To Mr Lungu, failure to pay US $42.5 million interest on the Eurobond does not amount to destroying the country’s image. When our president, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, advised the PF regime to slow down on debt contraction, they accused him of being bitter and that they were within the ceiling to borrow more. Can Mr Lungu today claim that he is within a safe debt ceiling when he was even compelled to get US $5 million of the Zambian people’s money and pay a French company, Lazard Freres, to advise on debt restructuring?” Katuka asked.
“A whopping US $5 million gone into a project that ended in failure! We, therefore, wonder what Mr Lungu takes the Zambian people for when he says he does not want to be remembered for having been the source of the country’s destruction. What else has Mr Lungu and his divisive Patriotic Front (PF) not destroyed, if we may ask? Has Mr Lungu not destroyed the price of Zambia’s staple food? Let us begin from here. In January, 2015, when Mr Lungu assumed the Presidency, the price of mealie meal was K65 for a 25-kilogramme bag of breakfast, while roller meal was fetching at K52. Nearly six years later, what is the price? A breakfast bag is costing as much as K120, which is beyond the reach of most Zambians who are struggling to have three square meals a day.”
He also blamed President Lungu’s government for depleting Zambia’s international gross reserves on excessive debt servicing.
“…And someone can even have the audacity of asking starving Zambians for a third term in office; an unconstitutional one, for that matter. What about our country’s strategic foreign exchange reserves? According to a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund Debt Sustainability Analysis on Zambia, released in August, 2019, this country had a foreign exchange reserves import cover to last 4.7 months,” he added.
“Because of Mr Lungu’s appetite for debt contraction and the attendant pressure in paying back, by May, 2019, the PF had mopped up the reserves and they could only cover 1.7 months of imports. By now, we probably do not even have reserves to last one week and yet we know how important the reserves are in helping a country maintain competitively-priced exports, remain liquid in case of crisis and influence the foreign exchange rate of a currency.”
Katuka added that President Lungu had succeeded in destroying the rule of law.
“How has our currency fared since Mr Lungu and his PF entered State House in January, 2015? That time, the exchange rate of the kwacha was K5 to a United States dollar. After nearly six years, Mr Lungu has successfully managed to see the kwacha nosedive to nearly K21 to a dollar! Destroying a currency by more than 400 per cent is not one of the attributes of a successful president. This is total failure! Elsewhere, Mr Lungu has succeeded in destroying the rule of law in so many ways, including compelling his ministers to remain in office when Parliament was dissolved in 2016. Up to now, these ministers have not paid back the salaries, allowances and advances they received while illegally occupying office,” stated Katuka.
“Under Mr Lungu, opposition political parties cannot freely mobilise as they risk being arrested by the Zambia Police, something that was never the case before the PF regime took office. Before Mr Lungu’s ascension to power, journalists were operating freely, but the man has so far closed what used to be the country’s most successful private newspaper, The Post, and sent more employees onto the streets by cancelling Prime Television’s broadcasting licence. Once again, we ask, what else has Mr Lungu not destroyed for him to claim that he does not want to be remembered as the one who destroyed Zambia? With this trail of destruction, we can only ask Mr Lungu and the PF regime to pack their belongings and prepare to leave the Zambian political stage in 2021 for a competent UPND government led by president Hichilema.”