Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo has expressed displeasure with the manner in which some diplomats accredited to various missions abroad treat Zambian citizens when they visit the embassies.

And Cornelius Mweetwa has wondered why the Patriotic Front government has not sent replacements to missions where representatives have been recalled, saying the situation is illogical because the country is experiencing a job deficit.

Debating the 2019 budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week, Nkombo said it was disheartening to see Zambians being mistreated by their own people serving in the embassies abroad.

“I would like to share with yourself, honourable minister, the below character attitude that most of your staff have in the foreign missions have. We traveled out at one time with the Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services to the Republic of Kenya, and the usual thing that parliamentary delegations do when they go to visit is to pay a courtesy call on the mission. I would like you to know that what we found there was extremely disheartening, the reception we received as members of parliament at the Kenyan mission… we were very unimpressed with the manner in which your staff treated us at the Nairobi mission. No courtesy whatsoever. This is a none partisan comment because as you want to know, committees of parliament are co-mingled. We had members of PF, we had members from the MMD, independent; but what we saw there was very unimpressive,” lamented Nkombo.

“I think if our secretarial staff did its work, they may have included that reception in the report for your attention so that you can assist the people who you have recruited to work abroad to not only treat members of government but even the Zambian who is at the bottom of our society, because that’s one of the mandate that you have as Ministry of Foreign Affairs; to look at the welfare of the Zambians who are living abroad. When a Zambian for instance falls very ill away from home, it is your ministry that is responsible to provide the minimum affordable medical care for the particular Zambian, because it goes without saying that if they die in foreign land, again it becomes your responsibility to repatriate the remains of those individuals to come back home.”

Meanwhile, Mweetwa, who is the UPND member of parliament for Choma Constituency challenged the government to explain why it was not sending new staff to missions whose representatives have been recalled.

“Ever since PF came into office, there have been unprecedented numerous recalls of citizens of Zambia who were accredited, sent to work in missions abroad. You will discover that these recalls leave a lot to be desired. We have a lot of people who have been recalled by this PF government and those who were on contract have been recalled [but] they have not been paid their money after being recalled. Those who were civil servants who were in the foreign mission, they have been recalled but they have not been placed in the civil service to continue work, since they are civil servants. That’s the evils of this PF. Where do you want to take these people? Is it another way of having them thrown out of the civil service? These are the issues you need to begin to address your minds to. Meanwhile, you have citizens looking for jobs,” Mweetwa observed.

“I can give you an example of Nigeria where you just have two people at a mission. Just the Ambassador and the Accountant, what about all these other positions? And when the minister talks about economic diplomacy, how will that be realised? This ministry is supposed to be an image builder for Zambia. This is the advertisement platform for this country abroad.”

Mweetwa then used the opportunity to castigate the PF government for the brutal arrest and detention of NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili last week.

But charity begins at home. The things we do here, they reflect out there in the international community. What image is Zambia sending to the international community in terms of governance? Zambia’s image under PF has been destroyed. The international community has moved on, they are no longer just interested in natural resource endowment of a country, they are also concerned about democracy and the respect for human rights. How can we have a country, 54 years after independence where you have a member of parliament being bundled by police officers, thrown into a Toyota Land Cruiser and driven to Luanshya in Zambia, why? Why should we create a country of tyranny? Why should we create a country of fear where citizens are being intimidated that ‘I will sort you out’, why?” wondered Mweetwa.

“These are the things that destroy Zambia’s image abroad, [but] later on you come to this House and say ‘Hakainde Hichilema is badmouthing Zambia outside’, it’s your activities! You have a responsibility beyond yourselves, you have a responsibility beyond PF. You have a responsibility to Zambia, so come down and use normal sense like everybody else. We have a beautiful country, you should provide sensible leadership. This is not a country for PF! This is a country for all of us, you can’t turn this country backwards because of your ‘Dununa Reverse’ [slogan]. You want to take this country backwards into tyranny, into dictatorship… but we are saying no to you. Zambia can’t turn into a Police State, we can’t turn Zambia into a place where those who are in positions of leadership begin to behave like police officers,” said Mweetwa.