Alliance for Community Action Executive Director Laura Miti says it is disturbing that President Edgar Lungu wasted an opportunity to explain his plan on how he intends to turn the country around from its economic malaise.
And Miti says it is unfortunate that President Lungu is encouraging his ex-ministers to disobey a court order.
Meanwhile, Miti noted that President Lungu acted emotionally when he said opposition leader Chishimba Kambwili’s businesses are suffering because of his mouth.
On Friday, President Lungu held his third press conference in five years, at which he addressed various national issues.
Commenting on the outcome of the event, Miti said it was wrong for the President encourage former minister to go against the court ruling ordering them to pay back the money they were paid during their illegal stay in office.
“The president is again encouraging ministers to disobey a court ruling, encouraging the police to disobey the Constitution; that part of it I thought was extremely disturbing. The question of ministers, he went round and round but didn’t seem to be able to give a concrete answer. I thought that was the question of the day, that was a very good question. You have got two Constitutional Court rulings, one on your own eligibility to stand for elections, the other one on ministers to pay back money they illegally gained after Parliament was dissolved. He was going in round poles and then starts saying ‘they will sue me, they are threatening me, will they work for nothing?’. The answer is categorical, when a court ruling, the highest court of the land for that matter, has made a ruling, it must be obeyed, the President cannot suggest he is going to pick and choose what he is going to obey and what his ministers are going to abide by,” she said.
“Maybe he should tell us which agreements ministers signed in that period because all I know is that these ministers were campaigning. But even if they did sign agreements, I think we should do fact checking of this story. What exactly are these agreements which ministers signed because after Parliament was dissolved, the ministers were out campaigning, that was the greatest benefit, that was the problem with their stay in office. So it is all the money that they received by virtue of being ministers, that is what should be paid back.”
And Miti noted that President Lungu became emotional and personal on his differences with Kambwili.
“When it comes to fundamental issues, affecting the country, the president was very beat. I think he became too emotional on the Kambwili question, he showed his inner feelings which I think he should learn as a president to hide because he became too personal, his response was personal. When someone changes political affiliation, their businesses shouldn’t suffer. That is wrong. If he has genuine business interests out of office, we do not want his business interests to suffer,” Miti said.
“The people who are in power now when they are out of office, the new government should not make their business interests suffer. As long as the businesses are genuine, they should not suffer because that is really hurting our econony. We are closing viable business and we are also just causing individuals, families to suffer unnecessarily because of their political affiliation. Countries that develop are developed by everybody across the political divide, you can’t say that the only people who will have access to business are those who are in line with the ruling party because it means that every five years, every 10 years when we change government, you have got a whole set of businesses dying and you have to come up with new ones, you can’t run a country like that.”
The civil rights activist further bemoaned the President’s arrogance over the bill 10 debacle.
“Bill 10 was another one were he arrogantly says ‘we have the numbers’, and made it an issue that is about UPND and PF. Anybody who had followed the bill 10 debate and discussions knows that the country has been split down the middle, in fact not even down the middle because the majority institutions that made the submissions to the parliamentary select committee were against bill 10, the contents of bill, the process of the amendment as well. The president just gave this arrogant statement and says we will go with it because UPND are refusing. This is not about UPND, they are but a small part of the larger part of the country that says bill 10 is going to destroy our democracy,” she said.
“I thought that on the contentious issues, that is where his press conference was extremely disturbing because when he spoke about the public order act, he failed to give the police solution to prevent citizens, political parties, civil societies from meeting, he made it about campaigning but citizens do not gather to just campaign. Many times we gather to speak to each other, we gather to ask questions to those in power in non partisan gatherings so the President himself suggests that citizens rights can be abrogated and abused at will, that is very worrying.”
Meanwhile, Miti bemoaned the President’s lack of a plan towards the countries current economic woes, but saluted him for holding a press conference.
“On holding the press conference, I think that was a good move and it is commendable. I think it is kind of established, in leadership, you know you have a President, you get a sense that you do have a president and for years his absence has been increasing because all manner of people speak on his behalf. His proxies are the ones who are making statements and he stubbornly refuses to address the country. So that part of it I think was very good. The content I found very disappointing so I think it came out as very scripted, so economically he doesn’t seem to have a plan to turn us around. He failed to discuss at depth what his plans for the budget deficit which is at 90 percent are. How does he intend to cushion the majority people at the bottom who are going to pay the consequences of his own administrations over borrowing, his own administrations excessive expenditure,” said Miti.
“He didn’t address that, he drew figures that are GDP and kwacha rate but we are in a situation in which the day to day lives of citizens are very hard. The president needs to articulate a solid turnaround plan and the one area that he seems to have a problem dealing with is the answer. Plugging over expenditure, you know we talk about senior leaders travelling, how money is spent is hardly enough so we need to know how the millions of dollars that we lose in corruption, in wasteful expenditure are going to be stopped, we need to understand what the president’s plan for job creation is, he did not say anything about young people and he is sitting with a bomb, a time bomb actually of youth unemployment, youth failure to enter universities and that kind of thing.”