PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has directed the re-opening of all schools, universities, bars and nightclubs following their indefinite closure in March, 2020, due to COVID-19.

And President Lungu has predicted that Zambia’s economy will bounce back next year in view of an anticipated response to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, President Lungu says the 2021 election campaigns should be peaceful, adding that any loser should be encouraged to try again at the next polls.

Speaking during the ceremonial opening of the Fifth Session of the 12th National Assembly, Friday morning, President Lungu announced that bars and nightclubs would be opened on a partial basis as they would be only allowed to operate on Fridays to Sundays from 18:00 hours to 23:00 hours.

“In March, this year, I ordered the closure of bars, tarvens, and night clubs, among other outlets, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While other outlets have since re-opened under public health guidelines, bars, taverns and nightclubs have not. This is because of the danger the COVID-19 pandemic poses to these outlets. I am cognisant of the suffering that owners of bars, tarvens, and nightclubs have experienced since the closure. I am aware of the consequent suffering of their employees, and related businesses. The employers have struggled to pay salaries and to maintain them. The employees, on the other hand, have barely survived and many of them have become destitute,” President Lungu said.

“I, therefore, announce the partial re-opening of these outlets from Fridays to Sundays with immediate effect, but with serious caution that all public health guidelines are strictly adhered to. These outlets shall operate from 18:00 hours to 23:00 hours. This is being done on a pilot basis. Should there be any flouting of these public health guidelines, I will be left with no option, but to close them again! It is important that patrons adhere to these public health guidelines, such as masking, social distancing, and sanitising in order to protect themselves, their neighbours, and the public. I, therefore, direct the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Health to ensure bars, taverns and nightclub owners and patrons strictly observe the opening days and hours, and the public health regulations guidelines and certifications.”

President Lungu said all learning institutions should be ready to re-open between September 14 and September 28.

“I am fully aware of the negative impact the closure of educational institutions has had on pupils, students, teachers, lecturers, parents, school owners and the general public. Through interactions, observations, and reports, I am disturbed by the vices that are happening at community and household-levels. Since the re-opening of examination classes, I have observed and confirmed that there has been an insignificant number of pupils and students who have contracted COVID-19. I have heard the cries of pupils, the cries of students, the cries of teachers and lecturers, the cries of parents, and the cries of owners of schools, including the Ministries of General Education and Higher Education concerning re-opening of learning institutions,” President Lungu said.

“I am aware that the non-re-opening of schools has led to loss of gains made by learners, and more importantly, all non- examination classes may be at the same level next year. The current examination classes would have no space to progress next year and hence may also lose a year. In this regard, I therefore, announce the re-opening of all schools, colleges, and universities with caution between 14th September, 2020, and 28th September, 2020, subject to adherence to public health certification, guidelines, regulations, and also to allow for satisfactory, and adequate preparedness by all relevant authorities, including parents and guardians. The Ministry of General Education and the Ministry of Higher Education must come up with modalities that will ensure all pupils and students catch up after losing six months of the academic calendar, which may include revising the curricula. I also urge the two Ministries to ensure strict compliance to the COVID-19 measures. I am encouraged to re-open the schools in the context of the ‘new normal’ as espoused by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

And President Lungu insisted that Zambia’s economy will bounce back next year in view of an anticipated response to contain COVID-19.

“The impact of the slowdown in the global economy has been immense on our economy. The country is exporting less of both traditional and non-traditional commodities. This has led to reduced revenues for government and profits for businesses, as well as a reduction in investment and job creation. We are determined to turn the economy around. We will do so by the dedication, resilience and innovation of this government together with our people. We will build our economy by hard work and prudent use of our resources. All of us must put our shoulders to the wheel,” he urged.

“I wish to assure this August House that my government remains resolute in implementing economic recovery programmes aimed at achieving a stable macroeconomic environment, and favourable private sector investment. The good news is that a rebound of our economy is projected in 2021, subject to the COVID-19 pandemic being contained. The implementation of supportive policy measures will further stimulate the economy and put us on a solid path to recovery. The Honourable Minister of Finance (Dr Bwalya Ng’andu) will soon present to this August House the 2021 national budget. The budget will outline specific measures to foster economic recovery for the Zambia we want. Let me urge the honourable members of this August House to interrogate, debate and ultimately support the 2021 national budget.”

The Head of State said government had identified economic diversification and job creation as the key pillar to support Zambia’s development agenda in an effort to revive the country’s stressed economy.

“My government has identified economic diversification and job creation as the key pillar to support Zambia’s development agenda. In this regard, a number of interventions have been implemented in the sectors identified as key drivers and enablers for economic diversification, and job creation. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, government will ensure that there is no disruption in agriculture production, national food security and food supply chains. The marketing of farmers’ produce will go on as usual. All agricultural inputs such as fertiliser, seed and agro-chemicals will reach our farmers before the onset of the rainy season as demonstrated on Wednesday, this week (September 9), when I flagged off the 2020/2021 input distribution exercise,” he said.

“Government is also determined to see that the country’s national strategic food reserve is doubled from 500,000 metric tonnes to one million metric tonnes. With these measures in place, the country is assured of being food secure. To grow the livestock sub-sector, government will pay particular attention to livestock research and development, provision of livestock services, improved animal husbandry, infrastructure development and assisting our farmers to access both capital and markets. More importantly, we will continue promoting private sector participation in this subsector. With the interventions I have highlighted, I am confident that national food security will be guaranteed and the livelihood of our farmers, especially those in rural areas, will be improved.”

He added that government was determined to bring order to gold mining to ensure that more dividends were accrued to the local people and the economy.

“Gold mining, if well harnessed, will significantly improve the social and economic well-being of our people. I, therefore, encourage more of our people to engage in gold mining and production, as this is critical for wealth and job creation. I invite the youth to form cooperatives through which they will be empowered to participate in gold mining activities. So far, 13 cooperatives in Rufunsa and Petauke districts have been created and supported to increase production,” he added.

“As we look ahead, government will enhance the generation and provision of geological information. In addition, government will continue to do more to promote mineral exploration, production and value addition in the mining sector. We will also ensure that communities in mineral reserve areas benefit from these resources through organised mining and trade. We are determined to bring order to gold mining so that more dividends accrue to our people and the economy.”

President Lungu stressed that the commissioning of the Kafue Gorge Hydropower project in December, this year, would bring an end to load shedding.

“While the electricity generation capacity has increased, the actual electricity generation has been fluctuating due to drought that has affected most of the hydropower stations. This is happening at the time when the demand for electricity has been steadily increasing. To address this rising demand, I am happy to report that an additional 750 megawatts of electricity is expected to come on board by the end of the year after the completion of the Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station and the Chunga Solar Power Project in Kafue National Park,” he said.

“The coming onboard of the Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station will mark a major milestone in electricity generation in our country since the construction of the Kariba and Kafue Gorge Power Stations many years ago. Load shedding continues to haunt us and affect our livelihoods. I am happy to report that load shedding shall be a thing of the past once I commission the Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station, which will produce 750 megawatts. Our current electricity deficit is 810 megawatts. Therefore, the Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station, and other hydropower stations that are coming into being, including solar power stations will certainly wipe out this power deficit.”

Meanwhile, President Lungu called for peaceful campaigns ahead of the 2021 general election, adding that any loser should be encouraged to try again at the next polls.

“In furtherance of the will of the people and in line with the Constitution of Zambia, the country will hold general elections next year on Thursday, 12th August, 2021. I urge all eligible voters to be patriotic and exercise their civic duty to vote by participating in the upcoming voter registration exercise. We will all be called upon to either register or verify our details under the new register. This is the only way to exercise our right to vote and be able to choose leaders of our choice. It is my expectation that the campaigns for the 2021 general election will be issue-based and peaceful. There should be no room for violent campaigns. Elections come and go, if you lose this one, try the next one,” said President Lungu.

“As citizens, therefore, we have a duty to come together and forge ahead with the development of our country after the elections. Elections should not divide us. We are one people, and one nation before, during and after elections. The same should apply to the forth-coming by-elections in Mwansabombwe and Lukashya constituencies set for 17th September, this year. This is what we all deserve. This is what we should all strive to achieve. This is what will consolidate Zambia’s position as a beacon of peace.”