Green party leader Peter Sinkamba says his party has embarked on a strategic plan to build a sustainable resource base and refine its policies ahead of the crucial 2021 general election.

And Sinkamba says those calling for the resignation of Mines Minister Richard Musukwa over the death of 10 small-scale miners at the infamous Black Mountain in Kitwe have the right to do so because government has a responsibility to protect the public.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot seat programme yesterday, Sinkamba said his party would not be taking part in any of the upcoming by-elections, but only participate in the 2021 general election.

“What we are doing now is look for money from all over and build a sustainable bank account for 2021. It is worthy investing in that than literally throwing away money by going into a by-election, which will be not less than ten times as expensive. If you can reserve money for 10 seats in a local government election for 2021 and waste it now, we do not think that is an appropriate way of managing our resources. We think that, as a party, we can still participate differently during the transition to 2021 and, therefore, we have advised that our members who wish to contest on their own, we will give the blessings, but we will fund those by-elections ourselves as a party. We have said that, as a party, our focus now is to strategize for 2021 in terms of elections and at this point in time, we want to build a base in terms of resources and at the same time refine some of our policies, which we have been talking about. So that when we are on the platform in 2021 to talk about some of the programmes, we would have implemented some of them and we could have known whether or not they are viable. But by and large now, our focus is to intervene in terms of policy reforms, engage government where there is need for policy reforms and advise them accordingly to make sure that things are done properly,” Sinkamba said.

And Sinkamba expressed disappointment at how government was taking lightly the death of the small-scale miners at Kitwe’s Black Mountain.

“I disagree with the Minister of Mines [Musukwa] who was saying people dying in the mining environment is normal, it’s not normal. Losing a life in [a] mining environment is a serious issue over the years, that’s why some mines have managed and they always strive to have no fatalities. But then resignation is usually a moral issue and a self-conscious issue where you yourself if you think what has happened is inappropriate and you could have done much better to avoid a calamity, which has happened, you must voluntarily resign. Of course, if certain citizens are calling for the resignation of the Mines Minister, they have the right because that is a public office and for public office, every citizen has a say,” Sinkamba argued.

“So, some citizens think that the Minister didn’t act appropriately and has failed to operate as Minister in charge of Mines, I think they have the right to demand that and they are justified because you can’t lose 10 lives and expect people to be quiet! So, this needs to change and it’s a mind-set thing where having cholera every day is normal or going to the hospital and finding so many people dead is normal or indeed a policeman shooting anyone is normal. I think we need to change our mind-set as Zambian people that we have put in place laws and these laws were not put in place for nothing, they were put in place to ensure that we are able to operate in a sustainable manner. And, therefore, if there are certain challenges that we find ourselves in, let’s deal with them.”

Meanwhile, Sinkamba said the country’s debt distress was worrisome.

“The ‘$9.3 billion’ foreign debt is a cause for worry because… looking at our economic setup, where in the last few years we had our GDP, which rose to about $28 billion in 2014 and as at last year it came down to about $19 billion. We are talking about a debt of $9.3 billion, that’s over 50 per cent of your GDP! If you are going to have an external debt alone of over 50 per cent of GDP, then add also your domestic debt, which is about $5 billion, it means you are hitting the 60-70 per cent there about in terms of your debt-to-GDP ratio. And this is huge source of concern and that’s why for us as a Green Party… when you look at the government plan, they have put up what they are calling the economic stabilization and growth strategy as the main framework through which they intend to address various economic challenges, including the debt stress. To get there, they think the austerity measures must be put in place, optimise revenue collections and they are also looking at economic diversification. So, those are the three core areas where they think they can achieve the various objectives of the economic stabilization and growth strategy,” said Sinkamba.

“But we think that beyond laying these strategies on table, we need to practically implement them. And in addition to the measures they have outlined, we think they could add one more, which is optimization of public asset management. We think that is very important as part of the strategy to stabilise and grow the economy. When you look at our nation, locally, there are a lot of resources that we have, which we are just letting go to waste. So, if we can optimise these resources, both the tangible and intangible, we should be able to generate quite a lot of resources.”