DEMOCRATIC Party president Harry Kalaba has wondered by President Edgar Lungu is delegating his presidential duties and responsibilities to his Cabinet Ministers to address the novel Coronavirus when he is always vocal and visible during by-election campaigns.
And Kalaba Zambian government’s position and standing with their U.S. counterparts has weakened due to Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya’s endless tantrums.
Speaking when he addressed journalists in Lusaka, Thursday, Kalaba said the global community is under attack by the COVID-19 virus and all the Heads of State have been addressing their people on a daily basis.
“[But] Zambia has not heard from the President, neither has it heard anything from Her Honour, the Vice-President. For those who have been wondering whether we have leadership crises in this country, the COVID-19 crisis is your answer. People of Zambia, we have a challenge of leadership in this country because you have all seen that Donald Trump in the USA, a country with a population of over 350 million people, is basically running the continent on a daily basis. He has taken the COVID-19 as a very paramount issue and he is addressing the nation. The reason why Heads of State meet at the African Union Summit is to attach importance to a matter, that is why they always call it Heads of State Summit because the Summit is the highest form,” Kalaba said.
“Now in our country, even as critical as this matter is, we have not seen the Head of State address this matter and I saw the other day our national secretary madam Ntumbo here also lamenting the same issue that the President has been silent because if he doesn’t address us on this matter, then what will he address us on? And yet the President has always been recorded as present when there have been by-elections so that is where the challenge is. We have seen even those Presidents who do not address the media doing so now and I am wondering if he cannot address people on a serious issue like this then, what is he doing? Why is he doing that, honestly?”
He said Zambians expected to hear frequent updates from President Lungu on the COVID-19 outbreak.
“And the Minister keeps on saying, I am a bearer of…where is the President? Why should you be a bearer? Where is he himself? This man is paid to be President! How come he doesn’t delegate when it comes to by-elections, but he is good at delegating when it comes to serious issues such as this one? We had the issue of gassing and he never said anything until his address to Parliament,” Kalaba said.
“We have now the issue of COVID-19 and the President has remained silent. So, what I can tell the President is that, Sir, if you have run short of ideas on how to stabilize the cost of mealie meal, how to handle this COVID-19 then why can’t you just resign?”
And Kalaba observed that what had happened to Prime Television where government imposed sanctions on the network was similar to what happened with recalled U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote.
“I was extremely embarrassed when I read the Information and Broadcasting Services Minister’s tantrums to the public on the issue of Prime TV. Let me tell Dora and President Lungu that ‘you have a greater responsibility to provide an enabling environment for growing the private sector in Zambia. You must ensure that the private sector improves and survives and be sustained and don’t be the ones to cast the last stone’. The same stone you are using to kill the mouth can be the same stone that takes the breath of the economy of Zambia, which is already in the ICU. Prime TV pays taxes like any other business company, which you can use to fight COVID-19. Prime TV has continued to provide employment so that you, as government, can look good…[and] for me to see such letter to be written to a private TV station by the Minister is not only intimidating, but what that means is that you want to scare off even the private businesses that might want to work with Prime TV because you are telling them that, ‘don’t work with them because we as government have declared interest!’ ” Kalaba said.
“Let Dora quote the Act she is using to tell Prime TV that, ‘from now on, you should not cover any government official.’ She should have not gone to that extent. She should have just known herself that what we are going to do is that Prime TV will not be invited. Not for her to come out in that open manner and say, ‘we don’t want you because you are unpatriotic.’…I want to appeal to government that, please, don’t handle this issue like you handled the issue of Ambassador Foote…[he] went to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and he was rejected! He went to State House, they rejected him, until he went to the media…and again, it was the same madam Dora Siliya who was busy issuing statements on Ambassador Foote. And we are in a very weak position today with the American government simply because of the tantrums and ranting of one lady, madam Siliya, who calls herself the Chief Government Spokesperson for a party she never wanted to be in government.”
The former Foreign Affairs Minister also accused Siliya of trying to kill Prime TV the same way she did to The Post Newspapers in 2016.
“She managed to have Post go down and again, she has started the same thing with Prime TV. I think this is not the way to go because in this environment, which is hostile, what government needs to do is to ensure that they even help you, the media. The government should say, ‘let’s see how we are going to work with you; let’s see how we are going to pay you the money and let us reason.’ But to say, ‘because you have not done this then you are not patriotic,’ do they know what other things that Prime TV is doing in terms of social cooperate responsibility for them to label them as unpatriotic? I don’t think they know. You who is patriotic, what have you done apart from changing from one political party to another? Is that being patriotic? Because he who is patriotic should remain with one policy decision and die with it to ensure that the vision of Zambia is protected,” said Kalaba.