The PF needs to indulge in serious soul searching and set distinct ethical benchmarks to understand that there is more to life than material trappings, says former finance minister Alexander Chikwanda.

And Chikwanda says Zambia is experiencing a moral and intellectual vacuum as it dwells on glamorous but recycled and worn out political slogans, clichés and myths.

Meanwhile, Chikwanda has advised the PF to level the political playing field and prevail on law enforcement agencies not to deny the opposition their legitimate rights of assembly “on all kinds of flimsy grounds”.

The immediate past finance minister said, in a statement sent to News Diggers! on Saturday, that the ruling party had attracted serious negative public perception of being corrupt, at the hands of those who had been shown the red card from government.

“As a leading party in our country, we should be aware of public perception. Currently, the image of our party seems to be on a downward spiral because of the perception, right or wrong, that there is widespread corruption in the PF administration. Ministers are wrongly targeted but much of the rot is at the civil service level. Institutions that are supposed to guide and superintend the operations of the public service have become procurement entities for the glory and benefit of a few individuals,” Chikwanda observed.

“The PF needs to indulge in serious soul searching and set distinct moral/ethical benchmarks. As a nation, we need a moral crusade to entrench awareness that there is more to life than material trappings. Churches should embrace deeper morality than inadvertently jumping on the corruption bandwagons. To pray and give glory to God is a sacrosanct duty and obligation but churches must not wittingly or inadvertently allow fake profession to prayer as a means to escapism.”

He said smear campaigns, by those who were fired from government and high priests of corruption who had access to media platforms, were worsening the governance of the country.

“Let us change the politics of our country from mud-slinging to issues and addressing the efficacy of systems. Smear campaign by those shown red cards and who are proven and ordained high priests of corruption and given lavish platforms by sections of the media that have always stood on the lowest moral ground will not improve the governance of our country. The arrest of moral erosion in our country, which is glaringly palpable, can only be effectively done by revamping key ingredients in the governance structures of our country. Targeting those entrusted to govern our country may erode and dent credibility because in life, appearance and perception may invariably matter more than reality,” he said.

“In zambia, we have developed a practice, or rather a culture of blending slogans, myths, aspirations and reality into intricate proportions. Invariably, pious hopes are adrift of or at variance with reality. As a country, we should seriously reflect on the moral erosion which engulfs the entire society. The country is inexorably becoming a moral and intellectual vacuum as we all embellish, recycle and glamourise worn out slogans, clichés and myths.”

Chikwanda said government stakeholders needed to accept their responsibilities and be accountable for their actions.

“The idea of our founding fathers and mothers of “One Zambia, One Nation” is indelibly embedded in our national psyche. There is, however, one glaring slippage or lapse in our political scheme of things. We all have privileges and unfettered rights. We, however, do not accept to embrace the duties, obligations and responsibilities that are the flip side of our rights. Our democracy can only have meaning if we all unreservedly accept our obligations and responsibilities. Those in the opposition must strive for ascendancy through peaceful means and above all must accept electoral adversity, especially when elections have been given a clean bill of health by the quite skeptical international community,” he said.

He said there was no need of banning opposition political party meetings when the said opposition leaders did not even have a strong enough message that could unsettle the ruling party.

“For the ruling Patriotic Front, we should accept the obligation to make the political playing field level and prevent all forms of coercion. We should prevail on law enforcement agencies not to deny the opposition their legitimate rights of assembly on all kinds of flimsy grounds. Where violence may be suspected, there should be enough reinforcement of officers – of course a costly but necessary price for democracy,” he said.

“It is likely the opposition parties may not even use these platforms to gain electoral respectability because their messages are off-tangent. The PF has a track record of strong internal democracy and having held Zambia as an oasis of togetherness, peace and stability – a continuation of previous administrations. We should not panic and seek recognition from those we defeated far beyond the constitutional requirement of the 50% plus one vote.”

Chikwanda then urged the PF leadership to learn from late Michael Sata’s willingness to subject his presidential powers to scrutiny.

“We all mourn late president Sata who was undermined by people around him to the extent of having the speech he ordained for the fourth session of the 11th national assembly of Friday 19th September 2014 removed for one he found was not his speech. He was alarmed and severely constrained to read that speech and unfortunately, he just made off tangent jokes,” He said.

Chikwanda went further to quote Sata’s original speech.

“I quote here below what was in our late departed hero’s preferred speech, a copy of which I was privy to. ‘Mr. Speaker, The other issue the country may wish to give consideration to is the executive Presidency in relation to the distribution of power and checks and balances. As we have seen in the not too distant past, it is not always that Presidents have acted with the moral restraint expected of them. It is therefore not inexpedient for the country to consider separating the executive functions of the presidency by reassigning those functions to another office such as prime minister. At the end of the day, the prerogatives to design the Constitution are reposed in the Zambian people. All that I am doing is to share reflections with you from a position of trust and wider experience that you have entrusted me with’,” Chikwanda quoted Sata’s speech.

He said the major lesson to learn from Sata was for those in power to desist from making laws that suit their current interests

“The lessons from our departed leader gallant hero are several. The most essential facets are:
(1) Not to write our short-term personal and partisan interests into the Constitution and to avoid indecent haste, manipulation and stage-managing things. (2) The consultations must be genuine and extensive so that at the end of the day, people’s ownership of the Constitution is totally beyond dispute and above the line,” he said.

He said given the economic situation in Zambia, government had a much deeper need for policy consistencies.

“The realistic expectation in economic growth and job creation can only come from the private sector. Government has now an even greater compelling need for policy consistency and predictability. Unnecessary wrangles with industry are puerile – mining companies absorb quite a lot of unwarranted bashing and yet for a long time to come, mining companies will remain the main stay of the economy. This sector is a very tough and costly one and not as glamorous as most people imagine,” Chikwanda said.

“As for cheating on taxes, the current mineral royalty sliding scale pre-empts possible scams because in the event that copper prices move substantially upward, government can appropriately adjust the marginal rate and if logic is assigned some primacy, make the adjustment a final tax. We need to induce more investment in a diversified mining sector.”

Meanwhile, Chikwanda said late distribution of farming inputs was recipe for disaster.

“The fast track for economic growth is greater investment, both foreign and local, in agriculture and forestry. Paying farmers and distributing inputs far beyond November and December is a recipe for disaster and regression. More reflection on agriculture is needed. We are sliding backwards when we should be making progress,” said CHikwanda.

Overall, what the above issues need are financial resources. I have heard some uncharitable comments on social media about Honourable Dora Siliya. Yet Dora is cerebral, quick on the uptake and committed. Let us put adequate resources in the agro-sector and the returns will be very salutary.