Rainbow Party general secretary Wynter Kabimba has expressed concern that while government is pleading with the citizens to tighten their belts under austerity measures, the Executive has been increasing salaries and loosening their belts because they are getting fatter.
And Kabimba says because of insatiable appetite for wealth, ministers now work as permanent secretaries and sign all government imprest.
Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix’s ‘Let the People Talk’ programme Tuesday, Kabimba, a former Justice Minister, observed that only an irresponsible government would increase salaries under austerity measures.
Asked about Cabinet’s decision to increase salaries for the Executive, Kabimba lumped the blame on Parliament, saying that there was no opposition in the legislature because everybody was agreeable to everything.
“It doesn’t just worry me, [but] it embarrasses me as a citizen of this country! On one hand, you have announced austerity measures, meaning ‘tighten your belts, we are going to put in measures that will inconvenience everybody in order for us to get out of this economic doldrums in which we are’, and on the other hand, you are doing the complete opposite. You are saying to the citizens [that] ‘only you should tighten your belts; the President and his team and everybody else should loosen their bets because they are getting fatter.’ It embarrasses me, it worries any normal human being in this situation can take a Bill like that to Parliament. And I think it has been extended to all MPs if I am not mistaken. So, this is the only time when there is no opposition in Parliament, everybody is agreeable! That’s a fast-track Bill when it comes to conditions of service for members of parliament, ministers, up to the President. It doesn’t take many days, in fact, they can even take 20 minutes to pass it,” he noted.
He further said government was not coming out clean to tell the public about the exact debt the country owes, adding that only an irresponsible government would increase the salaries for its Executive amidst economic difficulties.
“I think the government has not been very honest in terms of telling us how much our debt commitment to our foreign creditors. This debt phenomenon must be worrying to every Zambian, it must be a matter of concern, but the government is not coming out clean to tell us the exact figures. And don’t forget, this is only external debt, but there is also domestic debt. We also know and this is no longer a secret that the government is having difficulties in meeting the salaries and wage bill. So, you have all these factors that depress the economy. And in this situation, only an irresponsible government can sit and decide to increase salaries for its President, Vice-President, Cabinet Ministers [and] members of parliaments,” he said.
Reacting to Emerine Kabanshi’s dismissal from Cabinet, Kabimba also said that he was disappointed that the entire board of Zampost was not dissolved.
“The breakdown of the system since the Chiluba days is that, ministers have become permanent secretaries; they have become accounts officers because of this greed for money, because of this insatiable appetite for materialism; that they must wear expensive watches; that they must wear designer items of clothing; that they must be seen to be living in styles of affluence and that kind of life, so they actually have overridden and upset the financial rules and regulations and they sign for imprest until situations like this catch-up with them,” Kabimba said.
“If this money was not donor money, we wouldn’t have known about this scam. This is just a tip of the iceberg! I am sure there could even be worse things going on in other ministries other than the Ministry of Community Development, and it vindicates the people that have been crying loud that there is rampant corruption and abuse of office under the PF government. What has really disappointed us, as Rainbow Party is, why suspend management at postal services and leave the board behind? The board works in conjunction with management team. So, our view is that both the management team and the board should be out of that place, there must be a clean slate if we are going to be out of that problem. The financial rules of the public service are not being followed. I was surprised on how the axe would actually descend on the Minister because the Minister is the last person to put a document to a voucher.”
And Kabimba revealed that people protested with coffins against him when he was in government because he stood against debt contraction.
“Those of us that are vying for public office must look at the team, what the Americans call ‘all the president’s men.’ This issue of state capture that we used to read about former president [Jacob] Zuma in South Africa is not only in South Africa, it is all over Africa, and Zambia included. And I saw it myself when I was in government; I even remember somebody who told me at one point that, ‘somebody was talking about you, Wynter; that the problem with you, [is that] you are more straight than even a straight line’ because there were just things that I said ‘no’ to. So, the coffin thing that you saw during that period was part of that. It was not an isolated incident. The reality of those events were that I was touching the nerves of people in the oil supply industry or people that wanted to contract certain debt to Zambia and they went and protested to Mr Sata, people that wanted to be refunded money claiming that they had put money in parastatals in our country when they didn’t do so and I said ‘no.’ So, this issue is a big state capture. It’s an octopus with many legs to it,” he narrated.
Kabimba also said those praising President Edgar Lungu the loudest are not even loyal to him.
“We want to hear more about what ministers are doing. We know Edgar Chagwa Lungu is a President. How many times do we need to be reminded by each minister? That is patronage! How many times do we need to be reminded that the President of this country is Edgar Chagwa Lungu. The Electoral Commission [of Zambia] pronounced him as President, and that’s it. We know, we see portraits everywhere! Have you ever heard any Chinese official here during the signing ceremony of any agreement refer to Xi Jinping? Have you ever heard any Chinese officials saying that, ‘I am signing this document for a road between Nakonde and Isoka because President Xi Jinping says that, ‘go to Zambia and sign?’ No. I’ve never heard anybody praise Donald Trump at the rate that our ministers and senior government officials praise Edgar. The point I am making…and it’s a pity that President Lungu is out of the country is that, those people are not the ones that are genuine and faithful to him. Niba Kandile (they are opportunists). Those who [shout] his name the loudest are not the ones that are most loyal to him. That’s how African politics of patronage is,” said Kabimba.