RENOWNED musician and civil rights activist Chama Fumba popularly known as Pilato says artistes will not be bribed by a K30 million youth empowerment scheme that has been approved by President Edgar Lungu.
And Pilato says if he and his team who protested in the bush last Monday are grandfathers, then Sports Minister Emmanuel Mulenga is the “grandest of them all”.
In an interview, Pilato observed that President Lungu was trying to silence artistes by giving them money.
“The artistes in Zambia do not need K30 million. They might need more, they might need less. Why are they giving artistes money instead of young people in this country? How is that money going to benefit the artistes today and tomorrow? How does that respond to the young people’s calls for a fight against corruption? How does that respond to young people’s calls for human rights? What problem are they trying to address? Just because we had musicians in the protest does not mean that this is a call for musicians to be given money, no. The young people will not be bribed by K30 million. We have bigger problems and that money is not even enough. That money could be used to create opportunities for every young person, it can be used to structure the industry. Why do they want to bribe the artistes? Because they are vocal? The President must be able to respond to the calls of the young people,” Pilato said.
“We already know which artistes will receive that money. The K30 million is a good thing but then it is misplaced and it is a bribe. The President is trying to silence the artistes thinking that once they are bribed, no one will be able to speak. But the cries of the young people are way beyond and bigger than just artistes. Even if they give that money to artistes, the young people will still want to be addressed.”
And Pilato said the youths that Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya has been meeting are from the ruling party and do not represent the views of the general youth populace.
“The president asking ministers to respond to the challenges of young people today is just a PR (Public Relations) stance. If this is when the President is directing his ministers or his government to respond to the young people’s needs, then what has his government been doing all this time? What have they been working on? If, for seven years, they have not done that, what have they been doing? We are not asking for popcorn statements but we are asking them to respond to their own proposals in their own manifesto. They said they will create 500, 000 jobs but instead, they have taken away more than 500, 000 jobs from people. They said they will give us more money in our pockets but now they have taken away money from our pockets. They said lower taxes but now we have got higher taxes. What is it that they are telling us?” Pilato asked.
He said all the problems raised by the youths are not new to government.
“It must be understood that the youths are not in any way conveying new problems. The challenges of the young people today are what made the same young people vote for the PF because when the PF was campaigning, they were telling the young people about their problems and they promised that once voted to power, they were going to deal with those challenges. They promised that they were going to fight the MMD corruption and deal with the issues that the MMD was voted against. The PF has been in power for seven years now. What have they done with those promises?” Pilato wondered.
“The problems that we are saying now are not new problems. The PF told us about dealing with the Chinese mistreatment of Zambians, we were told about the abuse of workers in these companies. The police brutality is not new. The young people are not in any way inventing new challenges but the problem is that the PF has not addressed the problems that the young people have been calling for.”
Asked why he and his team were not part of the team of youths who met Siliya on Wednesday and Thursday, he said the minister was only meeting youths that came from the PF structures.
“I wasn’t invited and I don’t think anyone that attended the protest was invited. You must understand that when the Patriotic Front Government says they are speaking to the youths or they have solutions for the youths or a package for the youths, it’s not the general youths. It’s the youths from their party structures, those that they know, and those that they work with,” Pilato added.
And commenting on sentiments by Siliya that some youth representatives who were part of the Monday bush protests were said to be grandfathers, Pilato said: “If the youth representatives are grandfathers, the Minister of Sports should be the grandest of them all. What does she (Siliya) say about him?”
Meanwhile, when asked to react on police threats that they are contemplating arresting those who protested in the bush because that was also a public place, he said he will await their action.
“We await or their call. We are very law-abiding citizens. If they feel we broke the law, we await their action. Otherwise, we are still in Zambia and if they feel so, they will obviously reach out to us,” said Pilato.