Minister Transports and Communications Mutotwe Kafwaya says his ministry is aware that some opposition leaders are enticing TAZARA workers to protest over delayed payment of salaries.

Speaking in parliament, Wednesday, when Kapiri Mposhi UPND member of parliament Stanley Kakubo moved a private member’s motion to enable government intervene in the non-payment of all salary arrears to TAZARA, Zampost and Council workers, Kafwaya accused the opposition of enticing TAZARA workers to protest.

“I think for me who is sitting in the Transport Ministry where a track driver was contacted by an opposition leader, I will confirm that yes, meetings are being arranged for protestation to happen, it is in public domain. So, clearly our people deserve respect, our people need to managed by us the leaders, we need to help them, those struggling people in TAZARA need to be helped by us, our track drivers need to be helped by us. You don’t need dark corner meetings to stimulate protests, there is no point in that. I suspect there could be opposition leaders who may meeting these people. However, we need to encourage them to work to together with us to resolve the problems that we have observed in our institutions,” Kafwaya said.

He attributed the delay in payment of the workers of both companies to mishandling of the companies by management.

“The dignity of the workers of TAZARA and ZAMPOST has been taken away by their respective managements, because government has supported these institutions. Government is trading on dangerous grounds because of not paying TAZARA and not paying ZAMPOST. Government through this House created these institutions and capacitated these institutions; it was government expectation that the people chosen to run these institutions must do an honest job, so that they get an honest pay. If honorable Kakubo had carefully observed, I have dissolved the boards of ZAMPOST that is decisive. I will institute a board which can help Zampost to recover,” said Kafwaya.

“TAZARA and ZAMPOST should be encouraged to contribute to the Treasury and not to take away from the Treasury so that these competing needs can be adequately supported in the health sector, in the education sector and other social sectors. We have signed an SI which was demanded for all generators to allocate 30 per cent to the rail ways system that is enough support to generate business for TAZARA as well as Zambian railways. TAZARA should cease that government support and make sure that government support is properly exploited. However, the problem is that TAZARA doesn’t have the capacity, it doesn’t have efficient rolling stock. Its rail cannot support rapids movements, this is why we have requested them to provide a business case; so that we can support them where it is necessary.”

And Local Government Minister Charles Banda refuted reports that there were some local authorities that had not paid their workers for more than three months.

“It is not true that the councils are on the lists of institutions that are owing the workers money for long periods. I have with detailed information about who is owing and for how long. I would not go into reading everything here but I can tell you Mr Speaker that the furthest we can go is up to September only. And coming by this time, I can only tell you that some of these have already been off set. So the councils cannot be on a list of institutions that are owing their employees salaries for a long time,” said Banda.

“I want to re-emphasize that government is not in the business of giving salaries to councils that is not our job. What has been misunderstood by people including our unions out there and workers who have been misled is the equalization fund. The equalization fund is not for salaries, it is for operations at the councils, it is a grant to assist especially those councils maybe which are still new. Some council do not even deserve equalization fund because they have a very strong capital base; like Lusaka it doesn’t deserve equalization fund. If you talk about cities like Ndola, Kitwe they don’t deserve equalization fund.”

And in closing debate, Kakubo urged government to take responsibility on the timely payment of workers as it was their duty.

The House resolved to support the motion.