FORMER finance Minister Ng’andu Magande says it does not make sense to focus on who is saying what and how they are saying it rather than assessing the veracity of the arguments being put across.
And Magande says he will not be silent about Zambia’s economy because if nothing is done to correct the situation, future generations, including his grandchildren, would suffer.
On Tuesday, Former Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda said the open letter to the President on the state of Zambia’s economy written by six former government officials, including Magande, was nonsensical.
He said there was an unwritten rule that former finance ministers were not supposed to publicly criticise the incumbent.
But in an interview, Magande said contrary to Chikwanda’s assertions, the open letter contained no personal attacks and the advise given was purely on principle.
“If honorable Chikwanda says ‘this is not supposed to happen’ he is talking about amongst former ministers of finance he is saying ‘we don’t criticize each other in newspapers. Now, we don’t criticize each in the newspapers on issues which are presented. For example, you never saw me criticizing honorable Chikwanda when he presented the budget because the budget is a written document and the document is written by people at the Ministry of Finance, some of whom were even my officers so I cannot do that. That is why in that letter of ours, apart from the heading, there are no names in the document. It simply means that we are not talking about the current minister, we are also not talking about the former minister, we are talking about the issue at hand. There is nowhere where I have mentioned Dr Bwalya Ng’andu. That is why we were trying to write that letter, we were concerned about the subject. I am not going to use the adjective that Mr Chikwanda used, that is his opinion and I have my opinion,” Magande said.
“It is not an issue of who has said what, it is an issue of what have they said about the subject matter, that won’t help the issue. And that is why when we were writing that letter, we said ‘it can’t be three people, let’s get as many people in the society who will say the same thing’ so I am expecting that this thing will be discussed by all Zambians because this our country and we will find the solution as quickly as possible. Let us come up with solutions of the problem and whatever means anybody can use, let him use that means.”
Magande vowed not be silent on economic matters because future generations would suffer if nothing changed.
“And on this matter, at my age and having been an active member of the Zambian community, I cannot keep quiet because it is your child in 2045 who will have to pay debt. The debt that I went all over the world between 2003 and 2005, some of that debt was contracted in the 70s and in the 70s I was just a young economist at the Ministry of Agriculture. I went to accompany somebody to go and borrow money to buy wheat, we didn’t produce wheat for bread. And in the 2000s I was the one who was sent to go and told ‘can you go to this country and negotiate for debt write off.’ So I am not talking now because it is hurting me now, it is going to hurt my grandchildren, your children and that is why your generation must be interested in what is happening because it is you and your children who are going to suffer in future when you have nowhere to go,” Magande said.
Magande said Zambia had failed to secure COVID-19 funding because of it’s poor relationship with the IMF.
“Look at what has happened now because of the debt problems we have, we have no IMF programme and it is because at one point, IMF representative was told to leave the country now at the time the country is doing that, you will create sour relationships. Now COVID-19 comes in 2020 already some countries have already been given this money from the COVID-19 IMF fund, Zambia has not been given. Yesterday the minister (Dr Ng’andu) was saying ‘we have written…’ when did he write? And why didn’t he say ‘I sent my officer to go and check with the African Development Bank in Abidjan or to the IMF?’ Because he knows that we haven’t got a very good relationship with the IMF so he can’t rush to approach them because they will tell him something else,” he said.
And Magande thanked News Diggers! for publishing the open letter despite the risk of being intimidated.
“And we are lucky you published that letter because after the Prime TV, incidence you would have said ‘no they will think we are the authors so we will be in problems’ but you were kind enough. You saw the material and looked at the names and said ‘but these Zambians although they are no longer in public service, they matter’,” said Magande.