UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says even if the memorial church service of late President Mwanawasa presented an opportunity for him and President Edgar Lungu to meet with each other, it was difficult to say hello because of the positions in which the two were seated.

But Hichilema says it would have been nice if the two leaders greeted the way they had during the burial of the late Daniel Munkombwe.

“As at yesterday, what happened was that my team and I arrived early at the Cathedral. We were seated at the far left corner, and my colleague (President Edgar Lungu) came in much later and he was seated in the right hand corner. And the problem started. I think in my view, it was circumstantial and maybe it was difficult to say hello to each other, although the opportunity was there. For me when I had the opportunity to do it in Choma at the late [Daniel] Munkombwe’s funeral, I walked over and greeted my colleague. I did that as a natural reaction, not that I planned to do it,” Hichilema narrated.

“But yesterday (Sunday), it didn’t happen, for whatever reason. I greeted him in Choma [that] ‘how are you? Welcome to Choma, thank you for coming to mourn the late Munkombwe.’ That was a short conversation in Choma. Another example that I want to give you is that we were at a graveyard one day and we were burying relatives and we happened to be at the same burial site with my colleague’s wife and I found time to walk over to greet her. It was public posture and naturally as a normal human act. Yesterday (Sunday), it didn’t happen. It would have been nice if it happened, [but] it didn’t happen.”

Hichilema also advised Zambians not to allow corruption to take a centre stage, but rather fight it vigorously.

“It is our view that corruption must be fought vigorously because it takes away the income that will go to investment to create jobs. Therefore, it would help the youth, help the women, help those that are unemployed today because corruption has taken that money. The few leaders in PF and their associates have taken that money; they have built mansions out of this country. Money which could have been invested in these production sectors such as agriculture, tourism and agro-processing through value-addition and creating more value and more exports, more jobs, opportunities in terms of contracts because you know over 60 per cent will depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. And that is how president Mwanawasa’s fight against corruption assisted the growth of the economy. Remember during his time, there was an increased production in agriculture, there was surplus production in agriculture. Indeed, Zambians must draw that the fight against corruption is critical because it saves resources that will help you to grow your sectors. Our policy in the UPND is to allow zero tolerance on corruption so that we can save that money and put it in the productive sector,” Hichilema added.

He also advised government to reduce some of its expenditure and to revisit certain ways of doing things.

“That is why our colleague was shamelessly asking the visiting Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] that, ‘please help me to repay the US $750 million Eurobond.’ If they had invested that money in agriculture and in energy and created jobs, then there would have been revenues from there to service the debt. How do we reverse the 25 per cent of the budget going towards loans? We must stop the borrowing too much money now at a high cost. The little that you borrow, you must invest in revenue-generating activities. Don’t buy VX, don’t pay huge amounts of money on travelling. After you have said that you will stop travelling, you continue travelling. We must have a heart for the people; those who are suffering have continued suffering. So, let me alert the people of Zambia [that] where we are heading to now is at a worse situation. You will see public sector workers getting delayed payment, council workers not being paid on time, you will see companies that supply to government paying salaries of their workers late as well and some of the companies will close down,” he warned.

“You are going to see very soon this government will start printing money. That is what a failing government does. They print money, a piece of money they call legal tender; they print it without backing it with goods and services, without backing it with economic activities. And then what you will see is that, more kwachas will be floating around and it will trigger the increase in prices and worsen the situation. You cannot borrow hoping that President Erdoğan will one day come and bail you out of your expensive loan. What if Erdoğan didn’t visit? What if he is not capable of paying you because he has own programmes? You must plan all these things. I said it before that PF is chimbwi no plan (clueless animal) and you know that I went to jail for that. I was arrested for that, and I am repeating knowing that some people with appetite to arresting will advise him so that Zambians benefit. In PF, there is no planning, it is chimbwi no plan, it is chipante-pante.”

He also said that fighting corruption should focus on the big fish who are stealing big.

“Suspending traffic officers…let me tell you something, when the leaders are corrupt, even those in the lower ranks learn a lesson. They think stealing money, corruption, is normal. Why punish only police officers? We must punish those who are stealing big from the Ndola-Lusaka [dual carriageway], from the ambulances, from the fertilizer, from the fire tenders, those who are stealing drugs from public medical stores, those who are stealing through the Financial Intelligence Centre [Trends] Report, they get away with it. Those are the ones we must go for. Those are the big fish,” said Hichilema.

“I have said it before that PF just lacks understanding. Where people buy those [Internet] bundles, they pay already. So, this is tax on tax. You don’t bring development that way [and] that is why the economy is going down. That is why jobs are not there! We want to put people in jobs, and to put people in jobs you need to lower the taxes. If someone says, ‘tomorrow if I come to the studio here to talk to you,’ by opening the mouth I will have to pay a tax soon, by going to answer a call of nature, you pay a tax. They have stolen too much money through corruption, through roads, through fire tenders, through ambulances, and by the way, through fertilizer. That is why fertilizer is expensive because of the corruption.”