There is nothing to defend anymore, the council and the ministry went to sleep, says Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale.

And Mwale says bars have been allowed limited time to operate to enable them pay required taxes to the Zambia Revenue Authority.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday interview, Mwale said for a long time, the council had neglected serious matters resulting in a serious cholera outbreak.

Asked if it was true that the council had gone to sleep, Mwale admitted.

“You know at this point Gravazio [Zulu], there is nothing we can do to defend ourselves, there is nothing I can say to defend the council. I mean when you have a situation like this one, what do you say to the nation? So we really do accept that over the years, over 54 years, we have not attended to these very important matters we should have attended to. We have seen slums coming up and being expanded and no control,” Mwale said.

“I have accepted [the we went to sleep], at this point there is no way you can defend anything except to say that perhaps at this time now, under the leadership of the President, we did embark on so much work on planning. I can give you some plans that we have been working on like over the past one year that we thought we were going to change things. If you talk about solid waste management, you know that at some point we launched ‘Keep Zambia Clean’ campaign. At some point we sent away street vendors from the streets but because these things were not anchored on broader programmes to sustain for example solid waste, to have solid waste systems in place, the ‘Keep Zambia Clean’ campaign could not go anywhere.”

Asked if cadres had taken over and were running down the council, Mwale said; “Cadrerism is something that has come up now, yes I agree it is a big problem but I think over the years, from the word go, we never planned Lusaka very well. We allowed people that had huge tracks of land, white farmers, black farmers and they allowed people to come in there, encroaching their farms and because that was outside the jurisdiction of councils and so on and those places mushroomed into land settlements.”

Mwale revealed that government plans to establish a commercial solid waste utility company.

“We have proposed to create a commercial utility company specifically to deal with solid waste in this country. We have Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company that goes round, serves you with the service, that goes round and serves you with the bill and collect the money. We want a commercial utility company that will work just like water utility company that will provide end-to-end solution on the solid waste. They will come round and serve us with bills because we must pay for this. By February next month, we should have electricity produced from organic stuff at a dump site in Buchi in Kitwe and we have procured everything working with some institutions from Finland that providing some finances,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement shared on his Facebook page, Monday, Mwale stated that bars had been allowed some hours to operate so that they could meet their tax obligations.

“We have allowed bars in some areas to open from 11hrs to 19hrs, based on a belief that is anchored on keeping the wheels of the economy running while intensifying inspections to ensure hygiene standards are upped or at least maintained. We take take cognizance of the fact that manufacturers, distributors, retailers all have financial obligations such as salaries, rentals, taxes etc to meet even in times like this. We are definitely not in any way going to compromise the health of our citizens even as we try and ensure their economic safety,” he stated.

He explained that whilst government had banned churches from congregating, people were free to pray from home.

“I have received a number of questions and concerns from fellow citizens as to why we have decided to ‘fully ban churches’ from congregating both in the epicenter of the cholera epidemic and in other areas while ‘the ban of bars’ from operating in the epicenter with only a partial one (11hrs to 19hrs) in other areas. To start with, let me clarify that we have not banned praying but congregating. We as Christians are encouraged to pray from our homes or wherever we may be comfortable as individuals. In fact, we need more prayers now than ever before; we need God’s strength, comfort and grace as we fight this epidemic,” stated Mwale.