Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) executive director Bernadette Deka says it was going to be more logical for government to revise the mining tax policy and broaden the revenue base than impose an unjustifiable extra charge on Internet usage.
And Times of Zambia board member Nakiwe Simpungwe says Internet users are already paying to get access to Internet and the move to charge them 30 ngwee for making calls was not fair.
Deka and Simpungwe joined other PF supporters who expressed worry in the ruling party’s WhatsApp groups that the Cabinet decision was going to make President Edgar Lungu unpopular.
“This move contradicts our manifesto in many ways explainable. Secondly, much as we are looking into broadening the tax base to increase revenue streams, not this way…we could look at maximising and accelerating implementation of revised mining tax regime, for example, so that we could recoup more amounts to cover the projected numbers said here,” Deka stated.
She charged that the move was a deliberate ploy by some disloyal government officials who wanted to de-campaign the Head of State.
“If I choose to buffoon, I would think this is a well calculated – stealth scheme aimed at de-campaigning boss. But then again, those are random thoughts. Iyi yeve nix, tiikosesa (this decision is a mess, we will make it hard). Remember, as someone just said, ‘he who wins Lusaka, wins it all; he who wins the youth vote takes it all. This directly assaults both these demographics’ I could not have said it better,” stated Deka.
Simpungwe stated: “Because basically, when we buy talk time and purchase bundles so that we access WhatsApp, we are already paying to the network provider. So, how can it be ati ‘iyo pay for WhatsApp call’, when to be able to make a WhatsApp call, you have to buy bundles. Awee apa pena twalya chikanda wakocha.”
Another PF supporter Philip expressed worry that although there was no viable opposition to oust the PF, the move by government would create a public opposition.
“I had a tough time and went through pain and anguish in trying to justify this move to intellectuals. I am sorry, but this is one thing I will not support. There is no opposition in Zambia that can knock out PF, but it seems we are eager to create public opposition by certain decisions being made and how they are being announced. We want people to be fatigued by this government. We are fuelling a public uproar, which will be hard to quench. We are creating eternal internal opposition, which will be hard to deal with,” Phillip stated.
He also doubted the statistic that 80 per cent of Zambians were using social media Apps to make calls.
“ ‘Research shows that 80 per cent of the citizens are using WhatsApp, Skype and Viber to make phone calls’. Which citizens are these? Is it those from Woodlands or my relatives in Chifunabuli? I need to meet the researcher who gave this data to the Honourable,” stated Philip.
Many other PF supporters condemned the decision and petitioned the responsible ministries to reverse the Statutory Instrument.