Transparency International Zambia Chapter president Rueben Lifuka says government will not lose anything by taking the counsel of American Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote on the need for proper accountability and transparency.

During America’s 243rd Independence celebrations last week, Ambassador Foote urged government to stop the constant campaigns and focus on the needs of the people, among other things.

And in an interview on the sidelines of the same event, Lifuka said Ambassador Foote’s message was worth reflecting upon.

“I think the ambassador’s speech was spot on in the sense that he didn’t pull out any punches [but] he really spoke to the concerns that Zambians have been expressing about the state of governance. And he was an able representative of the voices of the millions of Zambians out there who are concerned about the limiting spaces that we are seeing for people to freely express themselves, for people to freely assemble and for people to really provide feedback and criticism where necessary to government. And I think his counsel needs to be taken seriously and the Zambian government will be losing nothing by listening carefully to what has been said and identifying areas where we can improve in our own governance,” Lifuka said.

“As the American Ambassador said [that] good governance in itself is a panacea for prosperity for this country, we cannot assume that since we are doing well in the economic front, then we will be doing well on the governance front. So let us use what has been said as points of reflection and we do hope that in the shortest possible time, we will see the Access to Information [Bill] going to Parliament, we will see government’s attitude towards the Constitutional Reform being appropriate to understand what people really need. Constitutional amendment should not only be about political expedience, it should be about advancing national interest.”

Meanwhile, Lifuka said while he welcomed China’s decision to cancel US$22 million debt, Zambia should take appropriate measures to ensure that it does not procure unnecessary debt.

“The general principle of cancellation of debt is welcome. This is not the first time that Zambia has had its debt cancelled. With the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, we saw a colossal amount of debt being cancelled. On that principle, one welcomes the Chinese government’s decision to cancel the US$22 million, although we have to look at the total debt stock, it is still colossal and our appeal is that we shouldn’t just bask in the glory of this cancellation of debt [but] we should take appropriate measures to ensure that we do not procure unnecessary debt. And we should also ensure that there is transparency in the way we utilize all public resources including debt. At the end of it all, the legacy of this government to be judged on how they have used all public resources including the debt that we have procured,” said Lifuka.

“So we have this lifeline which needs to be well considered. What does this entail going to the future, how are we going to contract future debt and how are we going to put this debt to use? So we want to welcome that but we challenge government to put in place appropriate measures on how we manage public resources.”