Opposition members of parliament have taken turns this week to rubbish President Edgar Lungu’s speech at the opening of the third session of the 12th National Assembly, arguing that it did not resonate with real issues obtaining on the ground.

Itezhi-Tezhi UPND member of parliament Herbert Shabula charged that the President’s address was just a ‘Trojan Horse,’ full of rhetoric and completely hollow, while his Gwembe counterpart Attractor Chisangano said the speech was too long, but did not address the challenges that people were facing.

And Katuba UPND member of parliament Patricia Mwashingwele said it was difficult for the opposition to work with the PF because they were withholding a lot of facts from their colleagues.

Debating the speech in Parliament, Tuesday, Shabula said he sympathised with President Lungu for delivering such a speech to Zambians, adding that the people responsible for preparing his speeches were being unfair to the Head of State.

“The President’s speech is just a Trojan Horse; this is a scapegoat. This speech is rhetoric and it is hollow! When you write a speech, or you are writing anything, you always put a theme. The theme gives you a direction, the theme is a vehicle which takes you to your destination. If you get on the wrong transport or vehicle, it will lead you nowhere. In this case, Mr Speaker, the person or the persons that prepared this speech for the President misguided him, they misled the President and I sympathise with him. I sympathise because his idea was that he would speak to his people; that he was going to come up and show the nation the direction in which he wants this country to go. That was his idea. But those that are given the power, the authority and the trust to prepare his speech came up with this numbly thing,” said Shabula.

“Mr Speaker, I want to say that the people who prepared the President’s speech prepared it from an air-conditioned office. They did not prepare this looking at the rural constituencies. In this speech, the rural constituencies do not appear. Many of us here are rural MPs. In this speech, the President talks about Vision 2030, but you know vision is a French word, which means see. It says, ‘picture what you see,’ now when you say ‘Vision 2030’ you are saying, ‘what do we, as Zambians, want to see by 2030?’ The issue here is that, by 2030, these bench marks that have been put must be able to be realised. It is not that we are going to start working by 2030, but that by 2030, people should be able to live a normal, better life in a middle-income nation.”

And Mwashingwele said there was simply no collective responsibility in the PF government because there was no cooperation.

She passionately argued that President Lungu’s Cabinet lacked empathy for the poor and ordinary Zambians.

“What am I going to tell the people of Katuba if the Executive does not put everything on the table? Collective responsibility means all the truths, all the facts are laid on the table and we move as a team. But if we can go and squander Social Cash Transfer meant for my grandfather, the poorest Zambians and my brother and sister out there, does PF really have a heart for the people? No! Mr Speaker, love is an action word; if the Executive really say they love the people of this country, we don’t want them to say it, we want to see it being done! Then they can argue that they love the people of Zambia. I will give an example because, mainly, they may feel that we are just talking from without. But here is a man, the late Patrick Levy Mwanawasa, when he won elections for the first time, he won on a shoe string, but because he loved the people of this country with passion, the second time he was running, Levy Mwanawasa could sell a fridge in Iceland and people could buy. A lot of people changed because that man proved to us that he was passionate and loved the country,” Mwashingwele argued.

“But if you can go and squander Social Cash Transfer, do you love the country? What country do you love? When we talk about collective responsibility in this country, we need to know where the Executive is taking the country. We should not even pretend that things are not wrong. And we should not only accuse those few just because others haven’t been caught in the web. And trust me; at the pace this country is going, the President may end up firing the whole Executive and fire himself because we are in a crisis! In fact, the President has threatened to do that and he’s got the capacity to do that. But we are saying he doesn’t need to do that if every honourable member in the Executive can be prudent and lay the facts on the table. We want to know what challenges the Ministries are going through. But, unfortunately, if you look at the President’s speech, there are a lot of contradictions…so as we get to the [national] budget, we just want to see a change of heart where we will put our priorities right. We want to know who is right and who is wrong. We don’t want sacrificial lambs. For me, I will still argue, Mr Speaker, that the former Minister of Community Development [Emerine Kabanshi] is a sacrificial lamb. If she’s a leper, we want all the nine lepers.”

Meanwhile, Gwembe UPND member of parliament Attractor Chisangano regretted that President Lungu’s speech failed to address all the challenges that the country was facing despite being very long.

“The President’s speech was too long, but the contents really didn’t address the challenges that the common Zambian is facing out there. This speech was too long in the sense that even the person who was reading it sounded tired. Mr Speaker, why I am saying so, the common Zambian out there is suffering. There are certain issues that the President mentioned that they have to be attained by 2030, but look at what is on ground. The President mentioned that every citizen should have access to quality education by 2030 and the only thing I heard in the speech was about the teacher recruitment. But when you are talking about quality education, you look at so many things. There so many things that should be added up so that we achieve that quality education. What we have on the ground is really pathetic,” Chisangano complained.

“Why am I saying that? When you go to an area like Gwembe constituency, or any other rural constituency, when you are visiting a school, the first thing that you are going to see is an old flag, which is torn as if this country has no government! The next thing that will greet you is the infrastructure, which is thatched, it has cracks with no doors, no windows and with maybe four or five desks for the children; the blackboard is also torn. The infrastructure, really, you can’t talk about it. Then when you look at the number of teachers, you only have one teacher to teach from Grade one up to seven. Then you look at the teaching materials, they don’t have! There is nothing. And the ICT, which was recently introduced, there are no computers, there is no electricity and our children in the rural constituencies have to sit for exams, just like children in the urban areas where there are computers and there is electricity. Is that fair, really? So, the President should have talked about how they are going to improve education; we want quality education for all our children across the country. That quality education should include all the things that I have mentioned here. Let’s be fair to children of Zambia.”

But in defending the Presidential speech, Kafulafuta PF member of parliament Joseph Kabamba argued that it was not possible for the government to develop the whole country at once.

“Mr Speaker, just from the theme of the speech that the President presented, which said; ‘working together to achieve Vision 2030’, you can see that a country can only develop if we work together. We need to work together in providing solutions. Let us bring up solutions that can be appreciated, it will be very bad for each one of us and for the entire country if we will just be there condemning even when things are happening. You can’t tell us that there is nothing being done when the roads that you travel on are tarred. Some of you are even talking of some roads that have been done half-way. Come to Kafulafuta, we need some tarred roads, but not even a kilometre has been done, but we are patient with our government and we know that at one time, everything shall be well. We know that you can’t have development at one time throughout the country, it’s practically impossible. The economy doesn’t operate like that. So, this is just a matter of understanding that when the time is right, something is going to be done. So, let us be patriotic to our country and put Zambia first,” appealed Kabamba.