MOVEMENT for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) president Nevers Mumba says the government is responsible for the current COVID-19 deaths because they refused to lock down the country despite being aware that the pandemic will reach its peak in August.

And Mumba says the continued stay of the health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya in office will affect the amount of support the country will get towards the fight against COVID-19.

In an interview, Mumba accused the government of being reckless in the manner they had handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not like government was not aware that in August, we are going to face the peak of this pandemic. I announced it in March in my national address and asked government not to open up anything until the peak period has passed. Unfortunately, this government, for some reason, decided to take half measures and those half measures have cost lives of people and that’s exactly what we said, that this government is going to be responsible for the deaths of many Zambians because of lack of leadership in the management of COVID-19. And a lot of presidents and governments are going to fall in the next 12 to 18 months around the world based on how they have handled or failed to handle COVID-19 and unfortunately, we think that PF has recklessly handled this pandemic and now we are losing lives every day in numbers that are totally unacceptable. So we think that government has missed an opportunity to protect the Zambian people,” Mumba said.

“Whatever reason they have used, we don’t know, but all we can see now are repercussions of a poor decision to allow life to continue when we know that our health facilities may not even handle the size of the pandemic. So we take great exception in the manner that they have handled this pandemic. MMD in government would handle this matter differently by locking down the country, all those areas which are seen as epicentres until the situation is clear as to how the virus is spreading but unfortunately, our colleagues decided to just let it go. Government has failed the people of Zambia on the management of COVID-19 and they have been reckless in managing this process and now the result is what we have, deaths that are unnecessary because we did not protect the Zambian people from the beginning.”

He further said the country was constantly injuring itself with bad decisions that were derailing the fight against COVID-19.

“Our position really has been that, if you look at surrounding countries, whenever a minister has been accused of corruption matters, their president puts them on suspension to create an opportunity for investigations to go unaffected. Unfortunately, the policy of this government…corruption does not demand that somebody gets suspended on allegations of corruption. But I think that this at some point will affect us as a country in the way that we are perceived by the international community, even the support that is coming to Zambia to help us in the fight against COVID-19 will start to dwindle out because supporters are going to be very uncomfortable sending money to a ministry with big question marks. So we are just constantly injuring ourselves, injuring our chances to deal with this pandemic by very bad decisions,” Mumba added.

He further appealed to Dr Chilufya to step down on moral grounds.

“I think that Dr Chitalu, who is a colleague of mine and a recent member of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy with all the affiliation and heartfelt connection to him, I think it’s in the interest of the nation that he should not wait for the president to ask him to step aside for a while but he can ask the president to give him leave, himself using his moral compass and concentrate on getting himself free from these allegations. And this is our demand in this government and in minister Chilufya that he should not wait for the president to tell him what to do, he is mature enough, he is a leader and he knows what’s at stake,” Mumba said.

Meanwhile, Mumba noted that the MMD must rise to the occasion and fill the gap created by the PF and UPND who were constantly in a power struggle.

“I think what needs to happen is that opposition political parties, especially the new hope Movement for Multiparty Democracy, which has a history of running a successful economy, a history of uniting the country under democratic tenets…must rise to the occasion and get into the gap that has been created by the two political parties in parliament, that’s UPND and PF who are spending more of their time in violence, more of their time trying to outsmart each other, not for the purpose of improving the quality of life of Zambians but just a power struggle. I think Zambians are able to reflect and see what the MMD did for them and MMD has a new leader and we will stand on the tenets of democracy and yet to stand on the tenets of ensuring that the economy is liberalised, is running and helping the private sector to drive the economy as we did when we were in government,” said Mumba.

“Every Zambian can attempt to do anything, to run for an election according to our Constitution and that includes the PF. They have every right to aspire to contest and win the election next year. However, from the moral point of view, I think it will be in the interest of the nation if the Patriotic Front recognises the injury that they have caused to the economy of this country, to the social well-being of the Zambian people and also just to the unity of the country. The country, since MMD left government, has not gone forward on any front especially on the economy and the question Zambians are asking is that why does the Patriotic Front want to win the next election? From a moral point of view, is it to continue subjecting the Zambian people to status quo of a weakened economy, a split nation or is it just their interest to have access the benefits of power? So from a moral point of view, the Patriotic Front should say, ‘fellow Zambians, we are sorry about what we did, we did not really roll out a program that has worked in the interest of Zambians as a result of this, we are going to do ABCD.’ But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”