GOVERNANCE activist Brebner Changala has asked government to issue a Statutory Instrument (SI) stopping landlords from collecting rentals from their tenants during this period when people have been asked to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
And Changala has asked President Edgar Lungu to reduce the size of his Cabinet by at least half of the current number and cut salaries of Ministers to free up funds to fight COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Changala says government should explain why businesses operating from Soweto, City Market and COMESA have continued to conduct their activities when businesses like bars and restaurants had been shut down as a way of stopping the spread of Coronavirus.
In an interview, Changala urged government to issue an SI stopping landlords from collecting rentals from their tenants during this period.
“During this period when they have closed bars and restaurants, they must also put up a Statutory Instrument to the landlords not to pursue rent in this period of lockdown because they are going to inconvenience so many companies, so many individuals. They must put up measures that are awesome that mitigate the situation. You tell a person, who runs a bar, to stay home when at the same time rentals are ticking elsewhere, electricity bills are ticking. So, government must also come out with an economic measure on how they are going to mitigate and absorb the shock that the business fraternity, especially the SMEs that they are going to face. We need to discuss this as our colleague Dr Chitalu Chilufya talks health, let Dr Bwalya Ng’andu also talk economics on a daily basis. He must not just speak once in a while like our President, who has quarantined himself! The Minister of Finance must also give us daily updates on the measures to actually help the economy to stay afloat,” Changala urged.
He also asked President Lungu to downsize his Cabinet and cut salaries of Ministers to make funds available to tackle the Coronavirus.
“One of my suggestions is that the Cabinet Ministers must cut their salaries, the President at this period in time must reduce his bloated Cabinet of 30 idle men and women where probably only three ministers are working. Let him reduce the size of Cabinet so that we save money and the remaining ministers must reduce their salaries. I know it sounds a bit radical, but it’s important. This is a time when we must see our government showing leadership that it really does care. The same way they throw money when there is a by-election, we want them to throw money on this Coronavirus thing. Temporarily reduce the Cabinet to 12 disciples or six, we don’t need this bloated Cabinet, which doesn’t serve anybody because we have seen that we can survive, even without a President,” Changala argued.
And he wondered why government had allowed business activities at City Market, Soweto and COMESA to continue when other trading outlets like bars and restaurants had been closed down amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Coronavirus doesn’t choose whether you are a President, a politician or a street kid, it will catch you! And it is the most fearless entity that ever lived on earth. But to close churches, close bars and close all forms of congregations, like funerals and weddings and then allow people to go and assemble at City Market, COMESA Market and Soweto Market in masses is surprising! We want an explanation from government; why have they not locked down these places of assembly? Because if there will be any outbreak, it will come from these market places and it will spare nobody. Then if you take note, most of these people who are found in these places are coming from Chibolya, Kanyama, Mtendere and Mandevu; these are highly-densely populated areas,” said Changala.
“But I see that government is applying a blind eye and targeting those who are licensed and leaving those other people who are freelancers. So, we need a clear explanation from the powers that be to help us to face this Coronavirus as a collective people. Why are they not closing these markets? Why have they allowed these places to trade because it’s dangerous? The government is very quick to put up measures in place and selectively apply them. Because allowing marketeers to continue trading during this period is even worse than leaving a hotel open. It is scary when you look at what is going on at City Market, Lumumba Road…they are talking about social distancing, but it’s not working there, it’s totally not applicable. So, they have been unfair to the people whose businesses they have closed without compensation.”