VETERAN politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says it is shocking that while the economy is in the intensive care unit, government officials are arrogantly exhibiting scandalous opulence, which is way above their salaries and allowances.

And Mwaanga has urged Zambians not to vote for any member of parliament who supports Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 0f 2019.

In a statement titled “I can feel the headwind coming our way”, Tuesday, Mwaanga said it is worrying that politicians were attacking each other using hate speech instead of fixing the economy which had reached alarming proportions.

“Our economy is in the intensive care unit. The kwacha-dollar exchange rate has reached alarming proportions, national debt continues to rise to unsustainable levels, inflation remains high, food and public transport costs for workers have become prohibitive particularly for ordinary citizens, our public health facilities are on their knees, a number of businesses are either closed or operating at greatly reduced capacities. Many workers are out of employment and struggling to put food on the table for their families. The astronomical increases in the cost of Zesco power have not helped matters either. In contrast, our political leaders are busy attacking each other using vitriolic language and engaging in pantomime politics. They don’t seem to know or understand the immense value of political dialogue, which has served our country well in the past. Political dialogue has now become more difficult than it was during the one party system,” Mwaanga stated.

“The abusive language, the insults, the ethnic outbursts and the hate speeches I am hearing from some of our exuberant politicians worries me to no end. This is not who we are as Zambians. Disagreement amongst ourselves is normal and expected, but we can disagree in a very civil matter, without being disagreeable. Opponents in politics should not regard themselves as enemies. This is what modern politics require in a democracy.”

Mwaanga questioned the source of wealth of government officials who were making generous donations amid an economic crisis.

“In the midst of all the hardships people are going through, the ruling clique continue to arrogantly exhibit scandalous opulence, which is way above their salaries and allowances, which are in the public domain. Some of them have built or bought houses, blocks of flats, farms etc, using unexplained and suspicious sources of funds. They make generous pledges and donations to different party organs, social clubs, Parliamentary Constituency by election fundraising functions. The unanswered question is where is this money coming from?” Mwaanga questioned.

And Mwaanga said citizens should not vote for members of parliament who support Bill 10.

“Electoral reforms in Zambia have been under discussion for many years and President Levy Mwanawasa, appointed an Electoral Reforms Technical Committee(ERTC), headed by Lusaka lawyer Mrs Mwangala Zaloumis, which comprised among others, President Edgar Lungu and Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini. The committee went round the country to listen to what the Zambian people wanted to see by way of reforms to our electoral process. The committee made a number of critically important recommendations to our electoral system, which if implemented, would have given confidence to the citizens of Zambia in the Electoral process, which is sadly currently absent,” he said.

“Many of the recommendations in the ERTC report, have been adopted and implemented by a number of countries in Africa, including Nigeria where I found the report, in the office of Chairman of the Electoral Commission, when I was co-leader of the Election Observer Mission of the National Democratic Institute of the United States of America a few years ago. This is an important matter which must be discussed in a non-partisan manner. This is more important than Bill 10, which still requires more serious consultations among stakeholders, with a view to reaching a consensus, which is presently absent. Citizens should pay attention to this process and make sure that they pay back those MPs who vote for this Bill 10, by not voting for them in the name of accountability.”

He lamented that a lot of electoral issues had remained unresolved since the last election.

“12th August, 2021 is eleven months away and this money will play a major role in the forthcoming elections. Many electoral issues remain unresolved, such as issuance of National Registration Cards, Voter Registration, levelling the campaign playing field for ALL participants, transparent tallying of votes, equal access to the state media, among others. To our political leaders who have ears to hear , I have this to say; please meet and seriously discuss the issues affecting our country. The country is more important than you. You are servants of the people and not their masters. Don’t let power or the quest for it, blind you to the realities our country is currently facing. Public service is not about self. It is about serving the people who elected you to make their lives better. This is what the struggle for independence was all about,” Mwaanga said.

“There is a ramadan of discontent out there and it would appear that there is also a serious disconnect between the ruling clique and the people. Money is not everything and UNIP learnt the hard way in 1991, when with all the money they spent and control they exercised on the state media, they lost elections lamentably to the MMD. Later, the MMD in 2011, learnt a similar lesson, when they lost to the PF – after running the best funded election campaign in the history of the MMD. This underlines the fact that Power is never permanent and change of governments must and will take place from time to time. This is healthy for our nascent democracy.”

He said national problems must be treated as non-partisan and must draw on the institutional knowledge, expertise and experience of its citizens.

“Every country goes through ups and downs at one time or another in its history. The important thing is to ensure that the ups heavily outnumber the downs. During the period of downs, one of the most important things is how mature governments handle the downs. They adopt inclusive consultations in search of possible solutions. They don’t simply bury their heads in the sand and hope for divine intervention from above . Great nations usually involve their citizens in search of solutions in times of crisis, regardless of their political affiliations. National problems must be treated as non-partisan and must draw on the institutional knowledge, expertise and experience of its citizens,” stated Mwaanga.

“I can feel a strong headwind coming our way. It is an uncomfortable truth that our economy had begun to perform poorly even before the COVID 19 pandemic unexpectedly ravaged our world, with devastating human and economic consequences. Economies of all countries in the world have had their growth forecasts considerably downgraded. Even in this season of the Coronavirus pandemic, countries which are better managed, will fare a lot better and move faster towards recovery.”