President Edgar Lungu’s assertion that the people of Southern Province are “like orphans because they did not elect PF members of parliament” has angered area MPs.

President Lungu, while in Siavonga District last week, said Southern Province had continued to remain behind in terms of development because citizens in that region had continued to vote for opposition members of parliament who were not ready to work with the PF government.

“If you elected people here and they are in the position of representing you in Parliament, there would be no problem, but as it is, you are like orphans because you don’t have your own,” said President Lungu.

But in an interview with News Diggers! Mbabala member of parliament, Ephraim Belemu reminded President Lungu that he was not the father of the nation.

“There should be no place in this country, which should be referred to as an or not an orphan, or one which has parents, and when the President is using the metaphor ‘an orphan’, then who is the mother and father of this nation, according to him? I want to argue that this nation has no mother and father; it was made of equal citizens with full rights. One of the problems we have had in third world countries where we think a Head of State or a politician is a father and mother of a country. It should be the institutions that are enshrined, the institutions of governance. We don’t owe our allegiance to an individual, we should owe our allegiance to the nation and the institutions that are created in there. That’s why we should be making our reference to the Presidency and not a particular individual,” Belemu said.

“So, I think the President needs to be reminded that he’s not [the] father of this nation, neither is PF the mother of this nation. This nation is composed of individuals that all ascribe to the country’s national values and the Constitution. So, the moment politicians begin to think that they are fathers and mothers of the nation, it follows, therefore, they behave as such. All of us, without exception, are equal. Only that others are privileged at a particular time to be given roles of leadership. Me, as a member of Parliament for Mbabala, I can’t go and start calling myself the father of Mbabala because people elected me to provide a service. We elect presidents to provide a service to the nation, not to become father or mothers because we already have them on earth and in Heaven we already have. So, we don’t need fathers and mothers, we need servants; people that go in and work.”

Belemu said President Lungu’s remarks were divisive.

“So, this is really unfortunate, it’s uncalled for. It is this level of lowering the level of political discourse in this country, which has brought us here where leaders are consistently becoming mediocre and they are focused on dividing the people as opposed to uniting them. Leaders are focused on enriching themselves illegally as opposed to delivering good services to the people. In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, we saw that people that were perceived to come from areas, which didn’t vote for PF even in the public service, some of them were being fired on flimsy grounds, others retired in so-called ‘national interest’ when in real sense it was just about victimising people from certain regions, which is contrary to the provisions of our Constitution and national values. This is even contrary to him (President Lungu) talking about being a Christian,” said Belemu.

“The theme of the ‘one Zambia one nation’, where shortly before the ZNBC news you say, ‘one Zambia, one nation,’ it’s about the practical things which we do as Zambians. So, the fact that we are unitary state, the fact that we are a multi-party democracy means that at any given time we have councillors, members of parliament that will belong to a party other than that of a sitting President, that should not be a basis for discrimination and it is actually against the Constitution. So, as Head of State I think he should have risen above board in terms of level of debate; he’s lowering the level of debate. What the President said doesn’t unify this country and it doesn’t respond to the issues at hand. I think he should have spent time to explain why, for example, there is low level of development in this country, why he’s receiving gifts in Swaziland [eSwatini] without declaring, why he has failed to deliver on his promises of free education. He should have explained why his declared assets in 2015 have tripled. I think those are some of the things that he should have been addressing, as opposed to the Head of State going to promote hate and divisions in the country.”

And in a separate interview, Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo said it was the mandate of any party that formed government to develop the country equitably, without segregation against ethnic group or party affiliation.

“It is a duty of government to develop the country equitably; that’s what the Constitution says. So, the President continues to mutilate the sacrosanct document of the land. We are in a democracy, and he’s the President, so he is supposed to develop this country equitably. President Lungu needs to understand first of all that Siavonga, where he’s coming from, is one of the ignition points of economic development in this country. Kariba North Bank is the one that generates the power that treats the mines firing in all cylinders. So, what kind of contradiction is that where he can now actually say that, ‘that’s why you are not seeing development?’ It makes very say reading for this to come from the President. Why should the President manipulate people to vote based on his statement?” Nkombo asked.

Nkombo condemned President Lungu for spreading a divisive message.

“His statements are beneath any reasonable thinking…yes he’s right to say his party should work hard. But that’s where it should end, to simply say ‘we should work hard’ because democracy is about numbers. He must not go beyond that because the moment he goes beyond that, he becomes divisive. The way we chose democracy, it’s not to say, ‘if you vote for us.’ I have heard people, even the Vice-President, the old lady, saying all the cheap language that if you want to see development then you must vote for PF. But PF is a group of people who have squandered this economy, and if we, from the opposition, say, ‘if you want the economy to continue being squandered vote for PF’ we would be perfectly right. What PF should be doing… President Lungu should have, for instance, gone to say, ‘this is what I brought here to Siavonga and even after I have done this, you still don’t appreciate me’,” Nkombo added.

“You need to entice people; people must be made to understand why they must find favour to vote for you. Not to start giving them ransom to say, ‘if you vote for the opposition.’ And he must understand that even we, in the opposition, are part of government, in case he wants to be educated, the government is in three wings. There is the legislature where we belong, there is the executive where he belongs and also there is the Judiciary. That’s what GRZ means, not that GRZ is PF. So, the earlier the President understands, the better for himself because the people of Zambia now are fully aware about how government functions.”

Nkombo asked government to stop blaming the opposition its failures.

“I heard that guy [Justice Minister Given] Lubinda and that MP for Kanyama who was holding the microphone upside down and Mumbi Phiri at a rally saying the MPs from Southern Province have failed to build the Kafue-Mazabuka road from the CDF. But that’s extremely cheap for people who are educated, because who signed the contract with Inyatsi [Corporation]? Is it Mazabuka District Council? Now, it was Edgar Lungu’s government, that’s why he wears that Inyatsi T-shirt. And then after he gave them the contract to do the road, he went ahead and collected land in Swaziland [eSwatini]. Those are the issues that we should be talking about, instead of just making people think they don’t think. People know who holds their funds, is there a Minister of Finance in UPND? There isn’t. The Minister of Finance is being controlled by PF, so they must start learning facts that you can fool people sometimes, but you cannot cheat people all the time,” advised Nkombo.