FORMER Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande has wondered why government and the opposition do not engage him on matters regarding the economy because he has solutions that can help solve the country’s problems.
And Magande says the UPND could have used their recently-held general conference to inform the nation on how they would engage the International Monetary Fund (IMF) once ushered into office.
In an interview, Magande urged both government and the opposition to utilise his expertise to solve the country’s economic crisis, bemoaning that government had repeatedly approached the country’s challenges the same way, yet expected different results.
“These people must know that I am still alive and they must know what I did, if they didn’t hear it, they must have read my book. No one is doing that. They think my information cannot be used now, I don’t know why they think so. Perhaps in my old age, I don’t know how to use a computer, but I am computer literate. People write to me and I have hundreds of letters from young people. So, if they think I am just here as a painting, which is very expensive, let them think so. People write about me, they read about me, but why can’t anybody either in government or opposition say, ‘we want to go and listen to his comments on what we want to do?’” Magande wondered.
“We are doing the same things the same way and we expect different results, we can’t get different results, no. If the President (Edgar Lungu) can continue to say, ‘bring evidence…’ This is what we went through under president (Frederick) Chiluba, he kept on saying, ‘bring evidence’ until the whole country just collapsed! So, it is not good to continue doing the same things, the same way and expect better results, you will end up getting the same results and those results erode the confidence of you citizens, and beyond that, the confidence of the partners who want to help you to do things. I used to have press conferences before going for negotiations so I expected those things to happen.”
And Magande insisted that the UPND needed to address how they would engage the Fund to secure a much-needed economic bailout package to help shore-up Zambia’s Balance of Payments.
“This weekend was very interesting. On Friday, we had the President giving out the national address talking about values. Then on Saturday, the IMF discussion started and we know that we have been failing all these years to get a programme, but nobody has told us what it is that they are going to say to the IMF differently from what they have been saying in the last 10 years when we had failed. Since we were talking about morals on Friday, yesterday, (Sunday) the UPND could have taken the opportunity to talk about those two issues and said, ‘because we are talking about the economy, we have constituted a think-tank and it is made up of the following people…’ ” Magande said.
“The opposition, which is the biggest political party now they should be talking on to say, ‘we don’t think by telling the IMF this, we are going to get anything. With us, when we come into power, these are the things we are going to tell the IMF.’ So, even if the IMF are not talking to the opposition, they will be saying to themselves, ‘I think this country has a future.’ The programme that the PF is trying to approve and negotiate, by the time it is signed for, Parliament will be dissolved so we will be in the election mood. So, it will have an impact on what kind of message of anybody who wants to take over from the current government as in terms of the economy.”
He said the UPND leadership could have equally tackled the Honeybee Pharamarcy Limited issue and used it as a campaign strategy.
“We know that Honeybee was bringing us those medicines, we know that the procurement system has broken down that is why is these things were done in an haphazard manner. Already, now, because UPND are not allowed to have the mass rallies, they could have capitalised it and use it as a campaign strategy on what they will do and how they are going to do it. So, you can’t continue to say the same things. Even now, I have been trying to find out who is the shadow minister of finance under the new National Management Committee. The opposition would have used the opportunity to tell us what is it that they are going to come up with,” he said.
Magande, who served as president Levy Mwanwasa’s finance minister, said it was surprising that government was denying that there was no corruption.
“For me, I am surprised like everybody is that in fact in a time when you can see certain things not being done according to the Christian values and this is when people are saying, ‘there is no corruption at the moment, everything is okay.’ I don’t understand this. Even moving one hour on the road, you can see what has gone wrong when you see all these roadblocks. I was watching television yesterday and someone asked why the President did not mention corruption in his statement and the Minister for Religious Affairs (Reverend Godfridah Sumaili) said, ‘as far as we are concerned, we have done a lot to fight corruption.’ Now, if one asked to say, ‘can you give an example,’ what example has she got to give? People think corruption is just the exchange of money, no. It is the exchange of actions, which are not in conformity with the status quo. You are doing something to somebody so that they can also do something to you, which is not normal,” Magande said.
“So, there are different variants of corruption. Like people are observing that how come there are so many churches being constructed all over the country and politicians, people in government go out to give money, where are they removing this money? All this is neglecting our morals. Why should the church be receiving this money and they are happy about it?”
Meanwhile, Magande bemoaned the country’s lack of unity.
“A lot of people are complaining that right now, the country is not ‘One Zambia, One nation.’ If you take the government operations, every time you tune into ZNBC, you are hearing certain places being mentioned everyday and others are not being mentioned. What are benchmarks to explain if we are achieving these values? Now, if you don’t have that kind of analysis, how do people judge you? It is leadership that’s all, and leadership can be at any length from the lowest. We have heard from these NGOs and traditional leaders that government is putting up infrastructure everywhere and you ask them how do you know, why are you praising someone when there is no benchmark?” wondered Magande.