National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo says people may rise against the Patriotic Front before the 2021 elections if government does not find a way out of the debt crisis.

And Chipimo says Zambians are generally too frustrated with the direction PF is taking the country, which is why even Lusaka residents failed to turn up in their numbers to vote in the just-ended Mayoral by-election.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Frank on Hot programme, Tuesday, Chipimo said all the officials in the current PF administration would have been admitted to Chainama Mental Hospital if the current government’s decision-making was to be determined on the stability of their mental state.

“This is crazy, we are [an] insane territory! If the people who are making the decisions that have led us into debt were to be examined on the basis of whether they were mentally fit or not, they would all be in Chainama [Mental Hospital]! There is no way you can be pushing our county into this level of debt and we know how we have gotten here. It is unacceptable that after we had managed to get to the so-called HIPC [Highly-Indebted Poor Countries] completion point under late president Mwanawasa and his very able Finance Minister at the time Ng’andu Magande, we were able to wipe our debt down literally to half a billion dollars. Now, we have pushed ourselves not only to the edges of US$10 billion; it could even be more when you take into account all the guarantees, upcoming obligations and the sliding of the exchange rate, because it means that you are having to pay more kwacha in order to pay that same $10 billion over time. We are now at a point where in the absence of something really drastic happening where someone says, ‘okay we are going to come and bail you out’, whether it’s IMF or any other bilateral institutions or multilateral institutions, that we are going to be not just in default, but there are certain basic things that we will not be able to pay for as a country,” Chipimo observed.

“And who is going to suffer? This is why we are seeing borehole taxes; raising revenue through this so-called health scheme, which will simply create yet another parastatal, which will also need to be fed more and more money, which will outweigh the benefits that were supposed to be there by having it in place. So, we are seeing a continued abuse of the opportunities that every Zambian should have just because they are citizens. I see no way out of this other than a complete reversal of decision-making that has been undertaken by the PF and its team. If we don’t address this issue, and we’ve had very capable people that have spoken about this issue, Trevor Simumba being one them, if we don’t address this issue now, my worry is that we may even be talking about 2021 as politicians, [but] the people may rise up long before then demanding some kind of change simply because their lives would have become so miserable and unbearable that they will not be able to wait for the next election.”

And Chipimo argued that people failed to turn up to vote in last month’s Lusaka Mayoral by-election because they were frustrated and knew that there was nothing for them to benefit.

“The Patriotic Front has been able to reap off the good will that was generated by its founding member, the late, and I will dare say the great Michael Sata, because, really, he was in many senses such an interesting figure that has left a very big mark on our post-independence politics after Kaunda. But that good will is now gone, I regularly meet people whether they are security guards, whether they are young ladies that are trying to get into business, whether they are marketeers… they all have the same frustrations! There is a climate of fear and a lot of money that is being disbursed, which is preventing the genuine sense that people feel about what they want to see for their country. What this is saying is that, people may feel intimidated, they may feel frustrated and they are expressing that sense of frustration by not turning up to vote. I talk to the people on the streets and this is the clear message that they are sending. People are just powerless to know what to do at this particular point in time and you can see it in the behaviour of the Patriotic Front; they can spend all the money that they like, but the one good thing that has emerged from all of this is that we did not see the violence that we saw with the Chilanga by-election and I think that is the measure of something that is beginning to develop,” he observed.

“However, our voters have been so psychologically traumatized, they have really gone through the process of believing one thing was going to bring change and salvation to their lives and it has let them down badly! So, now, they are looking at all these other politicians and they are saying, ‘you know what? It’s all just the same’. So, they [are] frustrated into silence, that’s why we need a coming together of ideas. We need to somehow inspire a new sense of hope and it’s nothing that I on my own as Elias Chipimo can do, it’s nothing that we’ve seen even the UPND or any other party on their own can do. So, we must find some equation that says, ‘let’s work together towards addressing the many issues that are causing frustrations in people’s lives so that they can now have new hope in what the opposition can do’.”

And Chipimo also wondered why the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) was still so quiet after a PF official condemned the sentencing of Henry Kapoko last week.

“There are some genuine concerns about how justice is dispensed, but by and large, the Judiciary has its integrity and it’s doing the best job that I believe it can do. Now that doesn’t mean that certain things shouldn’t change, but we have to be very careful and I was very concerned that there is a statement, which was issued by a PF functionary condemning the decision that was made by the Magistrate in the Kapoko case; it just worries me and LAZ is silent on these issues! LAZ should be in the forefront of protecting the integrity of the system that looks at how justice is administered. Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done,” said Chipimo