KASEMPA UPND member of parliament Brenda Tambatamba says President Edgar Lungu’s speech to Parliament was business as usual and nothing transformational came out of it.

And Mwembeshi Independent member of parliament Machila Jamba says President Lungu cannot talk about poverty reduction when only he and PF members are getting wealthier, while ordinary Zambians’ suffering has increased.

Meanwhile, Roan NDC member of parliament Joseph Chishala says the mining industry has faced tremendous job losses ever since the PF government was elected.

Debating on President Lungu’s speech to open the final session of the 12th National Assembly a fortnight ago, Tambatamba lamented that Kasempa constituents had not seen any development, which the President preached about in his speech.

“I didn’t hear the President talk about the gains or the freedoms that the people enjoy when the youths of Kasempa are denied permits to go and protest about the state of their infrastructure, especially roads. Just for them to simply say that the roads are bad, they have to seek permission from police and they are not allowed to go and express themselves. It has just happened that a young person, who applies to go and express themselves about the state of the road, is not given permission to go and talk to the head of the government administration in the district,” complained Tambatamba.

“In the vision of the country that the President stood for here to speak to us about, of course, the people of Kasempa and I know, generally, across the board, people are looking for growth. And growth for the people of Kasempa and generally many other areas is in the state of infrastructure. The Link Zambia (8,000) is a commitment of the PF government, the Kaoma-Kasempa road is an economic road and, indeed, Lufwanyama-Kasempa road [but] where are they? Why is the President not speaking about this? So, Mr Speaker, none of us seated in this House would dare to pick up the President’s speech made here and say, ‘these are the gains we have made for our people in our constituencies’ because that progress is not just there. So, Mr Speaker, the President’s speech on that day was business as usual, nothing inspiring, and not transformational.”

And Jamba said the cost of living had exceeded people’s means, while only PF members were getting wealthier.

“Mr Speaker, in 2016, if you wanted to buy 613 units of Zesco, we used to spend K300, but today, to buy the same units, you have to spend K1,000 and the salaries of people in Mwembeshi have never increased since then. So, if you are saying that you have reduced poverty, I can agree with some of the people who, when they came in 2016, they were as poor as me, but today are driving big vehicles and building big mansions everywhere! Yes, poverty has reduced with them, but for a person like me and my people in Mwembeshi, you cannot talk about poverty reduction when the price of electricity has gone up three or four times higher,” complained Jamba.

“Mr Speaker, if I am going to call my people of Mwembeshi and say, ‘I am giving you this cash transfer money because you are unable to produce food, is that poverty reduction? Poverty reduction is to make someone produce his/her own food and put it on the table and manage to buy his/her own clothes. So, if you are giving cash transfers and you think that is poverty reduction, then I don’t know. You cannot be giving fertilizer from 2016 until now. The idea should be that people must be able to buy their own fertilizer, then you are reducing poverty. Please, let us do things correctly. Poverty is high in Zambia. Let us not bury our head in the sand. There is too much poverty!”

Meanwhile, Chishala observed that Zambia had recorded huge job losses in the mining sector under the PF government, further calling on President Lungu to give a road map on how to address challenges faced by mining companies.

“Mr Speaker, the people of Roan are concerned that if at all the mining industry has contributed 75 per cent of total export earnings, the President was expected to give a way forward to the challenges that are in the mining industry, mainly Mopani Copper Mine has got a lot of challenges, KCM, Luanshya Copper Mine. The three mines that I have mentioned, Mr Speaker, are facing huge challenges in terms of production, and if at all the President said that the mining sector contributes to the GDP of this country, he should have given the road map on how we are going to sort out the problems that these mines are facing. We have also had the problem in the mining sector in terms of job losses. From the time the PF got into power, Mr Speaker, I think this is the period when we experienced a lot of job losses in the mining industry, and of late, nothing has improved in terms of employment in the mining industry. Therefore, the people of Roan expect that the President should have given a road map on how we are going to sort out this issue,” said Chishala.

And contributing to the same debate, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu bemoaned the increased number of street kids.

“Mr Speaker, we have been told that the poverty levels have reduced. As we leave this House, Mr Speaker, check what is happening at the robots (traffic lights) near here, you will find that small children with kids at the back are begging because they have no means! That just shows you that the poverty levels in this country are rising and that there is no care on the part of those in government. That is the truth. In Kanchibiya (District of Muchinga Province), the poverty levels are screaming! The people of Kanchibiya, Mr Speaker, are suffering. They have been asking for roads, employment, but it’s not available. The people of Monze are saying that from the time of independence, governments have never provided a government hospital. There is no government hospital. We are surviving because the Catholic Church is providing the services. The government has failed to provide. In Kabwe, they are telling us that, come 2021, August, they are going to change the MP because they are always saying, ‘hear, hear’ to the things, which are not being provided,” said Mwiimbu.