Bahati PF member of parliament Harry Kalaba says President Edgar Lungu’s speech at the opening of the third session of the 12th National Assembly was simplistic and failed to accurately connect with what was obtaining on the ground.

And Kalaba, the former foreign affairs minister, has vowed to continue worshiping from various churches across the country despite pressure coming from the State, saying he is not breaking any laws in so doing.

In an interview, Kalaba described President Lungu’s speech to Parliament last Friday was “very casual” and lacking urgency because it did not address any of the fundamental issues affecting citizens, which everyone was expecting him to do.

“The President’s speech lacked urgency, it was very platonic. I had a feeling that maybe there was a disconnect between what he was saying and what is really on the ground. I found him to be very casual in the manner he was handling issues. First of all, the manner in which he handled the issue of corruption, the manner in which he handled the Chinese relationship with Zambia. There are fundamental issues, which I was hoping the President was going to address, but he didn’t. You know, in times like where we are, you need extraordinary methodology to propel a nation to another level, [but] that speech was just business as usual and it is a very sad development for the country. I expected the President to talk about the creation of industries as being a corridor for wealth and job creation,” Kalaba said.

“He talked about power cuts being managed now, that they have reduced. I was hoping that he was going to connect the reduction in power cuts to the beginning of the creation of industries in line with the same Vision 2030 he was quoting, as well as the SADC Agenda and the African Union’s programme for the vision of Africa in 2063; the Africa we want. I was hoping he was going to talk about land ownership as being prerequisite for wealth creation and emancipation. I was praying that his Excellency, the President, was going to talk about the high levels of unemployment, but he didn’t even talk about it. He told us that 1,000 jobs have been created in [a certain] mine on the Copperbelt, but he didn’t explain how many of those 1,000 jobs are permanent and temporary or casual jobs. He fell short of telling us the type of jobs he has created from that 1,000 in those mines he was talking about. And that criteria he told us that government had come up with to create jobs and diversify the economy, what criteria is that?”

Kalaba also wondered how President Lungu would instruct Minister of Energy Mathew Nkhuwa to broaden electricity coverage in the country from the current 31 per cent without giving any guidance about the steps he needed to take.

“He tells the Minister of Energy that 31 per cent of Zambians are the only ones having access to energy so he should ensure that it goes up. But he does not tell us how the Minister of Energy is going to do it, that’s supposed to be for the President, to tell the nation that, ‘these are the steps we have put in place to ensure that by the end of next year, Zambians will move from 31 per cent to somewhere around 50 per cent, and these are the measures that we have taken in place.’ I was hoping to hear the steps, but he was so simplistic just to say ’31 per cent, we are expecting to up the game, no, the President was very casual. His Excellency, the President, was very casual and Zambians should brace themselves for a lot ahead of them, there is a lot ahead of them,” Kalaba warned.

He also expressed worry about the Head of State’s passion for the Chinese at the expense of the welfare of Zambians.

“A lot has been said about the Zambia – China relationship and I have said before that, I always salute the relations that exist between Zambia and China, but we need to manage that relationship so that it continues being an ‘all-weather’ friendship. He said, ‘we choose our own friends, and no matter how many headlines scream ‘China, China it does not matter’, just like that? Zambians have never complained about the relationship with the Chinese. In 1976, when Kaunda brought them, Zambians didn’t complain because the Chinese were not selling tomatoes. When Kaunda brought the Chinese here, they were not doing what Zambians were doing, they had specific roles that they were given. But today, we have failed to streamline that; we don’t hate the Chinese, what we are saying is that, as you bring them in here, can you give them specific roles that they should play like Kaunda did? But you find that it is [just] business as usual,” Kalaba lamented.

He insisted that there was no correlation between President Lungu’s speech and the real situation on the ground.

“Well, I found the speech falling short of the substantive; it was just talking, talking, and talking. Look at last year’s speech, in last year’s speech, it was the same thing about electricity. It was energy, ‘we are doing this about energy.’ It was like just getting the same sentence from last year’s speech into this year’s speech! So, governance has become that easy. People should be fair with him (President Lungu), those that are handling him and preparing these statements for him because [they are] showing a lot of disconnect between what the President is saying and what is going on,” Kalaba observed.