UPND has asked President Edgar Lungu to avoid the usual sketchy statements aimed at fulfilling a ceremonial occasion as he addresses the National Assembly today, saying that Zambia is currently undergoing economic challenges that require his attention.

UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa, who confirmed his party’s attendance to the President’s Parliamentary address, told News Diggers! in an interview that the opposition party expected the Head of State to actually run out of time and not ideas as to what he would have to say on the floor of the House.

“As President Lungu addresses the nation through Parliament on Friday (September 13), we expect him to actually run out of time and not ideas, as to what he will have to say on the floor of the House. We don’t expect the usual sketchy statements, which he delivers as a way of fulfilling a ceremonial occasion on the official opening of Parliament, no! This time around, it’s different because the country is undergoing serious economic distress. The citizens are distressed! We want the President to tell us what measures the government intends to put in place to address the hunger situation. We believe that the hunger situation in the country is the main subject aside from the Constitution amendments,” Mweetwa said.

“The hunger situation is standing on a number of offshoot consequences; it is the shortage of maize in the country that has led to the skyrocketing mealie meal prices; the hunger situation has led to the demand for relief maize; the hunger situation has led to FRA community sales, which is chaotic presently! The hunger situation has led to certain sections of our community calling for the reintroduction of food coupons for those living in compounds because for those living in rural areas, there is relief food. We expect the President to hint on the measures government is putting in place on the water shortage in many parts of the country arising from the drought. I am aware that councils are doing their best to try and mitigate, but we would like to hear what measures the government is putting in place to address the shortage of water in terms of safe and clean drinking water and two the water, which has depleted in our reservoirs for our livestock.”

Mweetwa said he also expected the President to highlight measures government was taking to address other economic challenges the country was facing.

“We also expect the President to give us some kind of status report on the mines. Not too long ago, Zambia was embroiled into a quagmire in respect of the performance of mines, the takeover of KCM and so on, meaning the mining sector has been rattled or has shown indicators of not being in a stable state. We would like some assurance going forward, seeing the country is still heavily dependent on mine exports. We also expect the President to hint something about the state of our education system in the country because without an educated citizenry, it’s difficult to be deemed to have any confidence in the development agenda of the country. We also expect the President to fundamentally spend a bit of time to tell us the state of the economy and the measures or want government intends to do. We know this will come in the (2020) national budget, but the President in his address does give pointers. Issues of austerity measures, the gains so far made from austerity measures that have been applied so far that appear only to affect certain sections of society and others appear to travel and enjoy life normally and austerity doesn’t apply to them. We want to hear something in that regard,” he insisted.

And Mweetwa, who is also Choma Central UPND member of parliament, said the party was also expecting President Lungu’s position on Zambia’s swelling debt position as well as the plight of traders who were chased form the streets.

“We would like some pointers on the debt situation in the country and the measures government will take and generally how Zambians are going to cope. We would love the President to also hint on the plight that affects the street vendors who were chased from the streets and to-date, nothing is being done. We are not seeing a response commensurate to the problem in terms of construction of markets. I am aware that government is putting some efforts in construction of some market places, such as in Lusaka. But everywhere else, come to Choma, for instance, we have had no market! But people are being chased from the markets,” Mweetwa complained.

Further, Mweetwa asked the President to also address the ongoing constitutional amendments as well as issues related to corruption in governance.

“Issues to do with the Constitution as a fundamental law of the land, what are his hopes over the Constitution and perhaps he should point out areas, which he thinks are sticky and have caused this process to end up in court and if it is possible from where he sees, as President, that this process can go on smoothly because all of us want a smooth Constitution-making process not the one, which is based on a ‘tug of war’ as to who is stronger than the other and who can make things or who can’t make things happen, no! We want consensus,” demanded Mweetwa.

“We would also like to hear the President’s position on corruption because corruption appears to be one of the hindrances to economic development. Corruption makes the doing of business expensive because once the business environment gets polluted with corruption, even straightforward transactions have to cost money. So, we need to hear the President’s stance on corruption and where he hopes to take the country in remaining two years before 2021.”