VETERAN politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says it is foolish to pretend that all is well in the country when the economy is in intensive care unit and elections are not being held in a free and fair manner.

And Mwaanga has advised President Edgar Lungu to institute an inquiry into gassing as well as seek advice from former finance ministers Ng’andu Magande and Dr Situmbeko Msokotwane on how to fix the economy.

Meanwhile, Mwaanga says mediocre leadership in African countries is worsening the living standards of the continent’s people.

In a statement titled “Worrying Trends on Africa’s Horizon”, Sunday, Mwaanga said the rapid weakening of the Kwacha against other currencies was a source of worry.

“The economy is in the intensive care unit. Annual GDP growth of a meagre 2% or marginally above, when the population is growing at marginally above 3% is of no comfort. Latest inflation figures of 13.9%, rapid weakening of the kwacha against other currencies, is a major source of concern and worry. The cost of living has gone up and so have the costs of mealie meal, electricity, fuel, public transport, among many others. It is important to bear in that all this is happening against the backdrop of public servants, government aided universities and other government aided institutions, foreign service officers, being paid their salaries and allowances late- causing immense hardship to families. No one should pretend that all is well in country. It would foolish to do so,” Mwaanga said.

Mwaanga also expressed displeasure over the manner in which the Chilubi by-election was conducted.

“When I met one of Africa’s greatest sons Kwame Nkrumah in Conakry, Guinea, in 1970 at his seaside resort, I used the occasion to ask him what he thought would be Africa’s main challenge going forward. His answer was simple and categorical. He said that “it is leadership decline my son. I fear that the new crop of leaders who take over from us the founding fathers will betray the people of Africa and begin to work for themselves, their families and friends, instead of working for the people”. What foresight! This is exactly what is happening in many parts of Africa. We have seen many African countries reluctantly come out of one party regimes, to embrace multiparty democracy, including Zambia, but many of the players in this multiparty dispensation do not understand and are still confused about their own roles. Recently in Zambia, we had a parliamentary by-election in Chilubi, where leaders of opposition political parties, were being hounded out of the Constituency by the police, simply because President Edgar Lungu was going to be in the area. I have read and re-read the Electoral Act and have not come across a provision in the Electoral Act which says that when the Republican President is campaigning in a particular Province, District or Constituency, no other political party leaders are allowed to campaign there,” he stated.

“During the days of MMD rule, when I was Chairman of the Campaign Committee, we used to have our Republican President, campaigning in the same cities with opposition party leaders, such as the late Michael Sata, the founding President of the Patriotic Front, the late Anderson Mazoka, the founding President of UPND and the late General Christon Tembo, the founding President of FDD. We did not see any mischief in this. We saw it as a way of levelling the campaign playing field, for all participants, which is necessary for the holding of free and fair elections. With the advent of tripartite elections in 2021, it is absolutely necessary for a number of electoral issues to be urgently addressed and resolved, to create an atmosphere for the holding of free, fair and credible elections, which meet international standards. Amending the Constitution of Zambia, after little or no consultations with the main stakeholders is not the way to go. Increasing the number of members of Parliament, when providing support to existing ones is already a major challenge, points to a serious mis allocation of national priorities. Malawi, which has a population of more than 2 million people more than Zambia, has a Parliament of 193 members.”

And Mwaanga said he could not recall any kind of madness like gassing since independence.

“To add insult to injury, we now have the senseless and so far unexplained gassing of innocent citizens, including school children, which is taking place in many parts of our country. I cannot recall this kind of madness since independence in 1964. Our political leaders seem content to making accusations against each other. There is an obvious lack of trust among our leaders, which is understandable, largely due to the absence of national dialogue among our leaders, which was a common feature during the rule of MMD,” Mwaanga stated.

“Going forward, we should have an independent inquiry, comprising Eminent foreign and Local persons, into the gassing, which is a new phenomenon in country. We need regional bodies like the African Union and SADC, to activate their preventive mechanisms and send their special emissaries to help our leaders to meet and resolve most if not all outstanding issues, in the greater interests peace and harmony in our country. The preventive mechanisms in these institutions, were set up for this very purpose.”

Meanwhile, Mwaanga urged President Lungu to consult Magande and Dr Msokotwane on how to fix the economy.

“I would like to see President Lungu, invite distinguished former Ministers of Finance like Ng’andu Magande and Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane, to discuss and advise in private, how best our economic problems can be dealt with for the betterment of our country at large. These are Patriotic Zambians and I am sure they will not decline such an advisory role,” he stated, further condemning tribalism.

“Tribal and hate speeches should have no room in Zambia and those who make them must be severely punished. They grossly undermine the national motto of one Zambia, one nation, which has served our country well since 1964. I can recall that our first President Dr Kenneth Kaunda, dismissed a cabinet Minister who had made a tribal statement, within a few hours after he had made it. Where has the spirit of love, kindness, tolerance and forgiveness gone? What demons have come to our country, which was once regarded as an oasis of peace and tranquillity? Let us all examine our hearts and minds, so that we all become agents of positive change and progress for all Zambians and I mean all Zambians and not just a few.”

Mwaanga observed that Africa was going through difficult times.

“Africa is going through very difficult times. We face economic challenges, democracy deficits, high population growth, high unemployment particularly among the youth, mediocre leadership, corrupt regimes which have allowed leaders to amass ill gotten wealth at the expense of their people, huge national debt levels which have become unsustainable, declining education and health infrastructure, shrinking space for press freedom, among many others. We even have African leaders who have been altering their dates of birth and tampering with their national Constitutions just to continue running for office. We have had leaders rigging elections with the complicity of their compromised electoral Commissions and then preventing those who have lost Presidential elections from being heard in courts of law, as laid down by the main law of the land -namely the Constitution. The judiciary in many countries has become an enemy of the people, with a few exceptions, like Kenya and Malawi, where the Judiciary strictly interpreted the law, even in the face of huge bribes which were offered to the Judges, but rejected by them. Parliaments have been used to stifle and even to pass laws which are against the people, using the tyranny of Parliamentary majority,” stated Mwaanga.