NATIONAL Democratic Congress (NDC) president Chishimba Kambwili says President Edgar Lungu’s State of the Nation address during the opening of Parliament last Friday is uninspiring and does not give hope for economic recovery.

And Kambwili says President Lungu’s pronouncement that government is determined to fight corruption is a joke.

Meanwhile, Kambwili says Zambia is worse off today than President Lungu found it.

In an interview, Kambwili said President Lungu’s address did not indicate how government was planning to grow the country’s economy.

”Which policies did he talk about? Saying the economy will be revamped is one thing but capitalizing it is another. He has not given us any plans to show how the economy is going to be revamped. Did President Lungu tell us the plans of revamping the economy? There is no plan at all; he just made a pronouncement. Making pronouncements is easy but acting on them is another. Action must be backed by a proper plan; without a plan is rhetoric. So from what the President said, I don’t see any economy recovering. I expected the President to tell us that in 2021, we are going to establish two cement plants, there is going to be an investment of so much in this mine, that Mopani Copper Mines will produce this much, we are going to find an investor for KCM; so there will be new industries coming on board in order to grow the economy. You don’t grow the economy by word of month,” Kambwili said.

“How is the economy going to grow? We are sitting on a debt of $18 billion. How are we going to pay that debt? He never said anything about the debt. So how are you going to grow the economy when you are sitting on a debt of $18 billion when almost all the money you are getting is going towards paying debt and salaries? There is no hope whatsoever unless a proper plan and drastic measures are taken, it is the usual business and flowering statements backed by no hope. Last year, he said he was going to create one million jobs. Ask him, where are the one million jobs?”

He described President Lungu’s address as “a big joke” and that those who wrote the speech did not mean well.

“I don’t believe what the President was saying in Parliament, that was a big joke! Whoever wrote that statement from the President did not mean well, he meant to make the President look bad on the eyes of the people. Today, Mopani is not running at full capacity, KCM is not running at full capacity, jobs have been lost at Mopani, jobs have been lost at KCM, we have unemployed teachers, over 40,000 trained teachers on the streets, how do you say you put Zambia where you found it? I feel sorry for those in government,” Kambwili said.

He said President Lungu’s pronouncement that the country had developed better under his administration was a big insult to the Zambian people.

“The President said ‘we have developed Zambia better than we found it’. When he took office, the dollar to the kwacha was at about K7, today the dollar to the kwacha is K20. When he took over office, the cost of a 5 litre cooking oil was K32, today is K210. When he took over office, mealie meal was about K39 to K40, today a bag of mealie meal is K120. So where have they left Zambia better than they found it? Today, the levels of poverty are higher! We have high levels of poverty, unemployment have actually made Zambia worse than they found it. When you are wrong, tell the people ‘sorry, we have messed up but we will make amends’,” Kambwili said.

“So if these people in government, President Lungu inclusive, are saying they have done very well, then that is their best and if they have done their best, then they are not going to make amends because they say they have done the best. They are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that they have made Zambia better than they found it, so they have no new plans. The only plan for this country is industrialisation. Whatever we are using in this country, almost everything is imported from South Africa and China. The rate of the kwacha being at K20 to a dollar, it simply means the prices of commodities will go up. Salaries are stagnant but prices of commodities are going up. He means his Ministers are better that they went into government, that I will accept.”

He challenged President Lungu to give a barometer of how the country had developed under his administration.

“To say Zambians are better off today than they were when he (President Lungu) took over is an insult to the people of Zambia, a big insult and people deserve an apology. People deserve an apology because it is not a statement of fact. This statement by the President to say that ‘we have put Zambia better than we found it’ needs him to give us the barometer. What is the measure? What parameters did they use to come up with that statement? If we are going to use the social and economical barometer, that statement is an excellent lie!” Kambwili stressed.

And the former chief government spokesperson has described President Lungu’s pronouncement on corruption as a joke.

”When he spoke about the issue of corruption, I took it he was just joking, I want to comfort myself by saying he was just joking. When he said ‘we are geared to fight corruption and it doesn’t matter who you are, you will be treated the same’ , are you sure that is what has been happening in this country in terms of corruption? The country has no money but Ministers are going round giving money. Our President must match his words with what is on the ground. The people actually know what is on the ground,” Kambwili said.
” I take it that it was just a light moment, it was a joke. Look at the FIC report this year, it is a joke! We haven’t heard Ms Chirwa speak and we are reliably informed that FIC was not funded, that is why they dealt with very few cases. That lack of funding for FIC which is a very important anti-graft institution is deliberate. So, how do you go and address Parliament and say ‘we are determined to fight corruption’, when you fail to fund FIC?”

Meanwhile, Kambwili said the government should have given ample time to parents to prepare for the reopening of schools.

”The reopening of schools, does this man really have advisors? How can he announce the opening of schools in the mid month. Where are the parents going to get the money to pay for school fees? It is not just a question of saying ‘open the schools’; some children travel a long distance so parents need to prepare. They should have opened after the monthend so that people have the money. This will disturb the morale of people coming from poor families,” said Kambwili.