Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo on Monday struggled to state the exact number of jobs that the Patriotic Front had created since 2015 when he appeared on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy.

When asked to give exact figures of how many jobs had been created and in which sectors, Lusambo told show host Kalani Muchima that he did not expect such a question.

When Muchima challenged Lusambo to state whether government was behind schedule on its job pronouncements, he said it did not matter that government was behind schedule on its pronouncements so long as jobs were being created.

“His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu promised the people that his government was going to provide jobs. These jobs were to come in various sectors and as government, I can assure you that we are doing exactly what the President promised. The President promised the people that we are going to provide an enabling environment for investors to come and invest in our country so that they can employ our people. When you go in the mining sector, we have a lot of companies which have come, they are working and have employed a lot of Zambians,” Lusambo explained.

Muchima reminded the minister that companies had been closing on the Copperbelt and that workers were being retrenched but Lusambo insisted that all mining companies were up and running in the province and that retrenchments were only recorded when copper prices went down.

“Well, the time we had retrenchments was when the copper prices went down [on the international market] and the cost of operations at the mines was high. So the companies had to reduce on the workforce. But as I am talking now, Mopani started taking back the people who were retrenched and LCM has also started calling back those people who were retrenched. So I can assure you that this President [Edgar Lungu] is a President who is not sleeping, he wants to transform this country. And about the 500,000 jobs, I have already given you one sector. The other sector is that the President assured the people of Zambia that we cannot depend on mining year in year out, the mining industry has a life span and one day we will run out of minerals in Zambia,” he said.

“When we run out of minerals, it will not mean that we have to close this country. We need to diversify from mining to other sectors and agriculture is one of the sectors which government wants to venture into 100 per cent and be one of our sectors to employ people. For us as government, we have already started. We started in farm blocks, we have seen dams being constructed in the country and those dams are not just going to provide water services to our people but we will do aqua culture in those dams. So I can assure that you that the 500 thousand jobs which we were talking about, we are going to meet because of other sectors which are employing people,” Lusambo said.

However, Muchima pressed the minister to give statistics of the jobs that had been created so far but Lusambo said he did not have the figures because he did not know that his host would ask about them.

“This is the reason why I wanted to explain to you. I can’t tell you the figure right now, if I knew that you wanted to know the total number of jobs which have been created…we have offices which deal with investment. But you didn’t tell me [that you wanted the number] and you didn’t include the one million jobs on the list of questions to ask me. But what I can assure you is that as the government of His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, we have created a lot of jobs for our youths and for the people of this great nation. As for the 500,000 jobs which you are talking about, I can assure you that we will meet the target and even create more jobs,” Lusambo said to a seemingly dissatisfied Muchima.

“There is nothing like being behind schedule when you are creating employment. Yes the President works with time but he’s a human being and sometimes we can…yes we can be behind schedule but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t provided jobs for our people. The most important question is have we provided jobs for our people? We have provided jobs for our people and we will continue providing jobs for our people because that is our responsibility as government. We will even provide more than the projected 500,000 jobs because that is our responsibility as government. That is why we have opened up other sectors like agriculture and aqua culture to create jobs for our people and investors are also coming in to invest.”

Meanwhile, Lusambo wondered the logic behind UPND members of parliament proposing an impeachment motion against a president they didn’t recognise.

“Being an opposition political party does not mean fighting government, you are supposed to be giving be an alternative to government. You should be able to tell people what you would do different from the party in power if you were given a chance to rule. If you see that bag of mealie-meal is K60, tell people what you would do to reduce that price. That is how a progressive opposition party does things, but these opposition political parties we are seeing today just want to go to State House by whatever means. They are talking about impeachment, but how can you impeach a President whom you don’t recognise? That is ridiculous. So they (UPND MPs) don’t know what they are doing. That is why I am inviting them to come for political lessons, I can assure you that what I am in UPND right now is total circus. Let the UPND sit down, reflect and come back or let them go for a retreat so that they thinking in the right direction,” said Lusambo.