UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma says the continued huge budgetary allocation to defence, security and public order shows that the ruling Patriotic Front is preparing for possible war during the 2021 general elections.

In an interview, Kakoma wondered why the government saw it prudent to allocate huge sums of money to peace and security when the country was not in any crisis.

On Friday, Minister of Finance Dr Bwlaya Ng’andu unveiled a K119 billion 2021 national budget, which proposes to spend K5, 642, 820, 724, representing 4.7 percent of the total budget, on defence services and K3, 078, 694, 172, representing 2.6 per cent of the budget, on public order and safety.

“It is quite strange that government appears to be preparing for war when we the citizens are not seeing any war in 2021. We continue to see the government continuing to allocate the scarce resources towards arming the police; even in the current 2020 budget, they also allocated a lot of money towards the weapons for the police. We have seen in past few months, the police are acquiring military weapons, including military trucks. We are wondering what those weapons for the police are meant to do. Now, we again are faced with a situation where government has allocated K3 billion towards public order and safety. We the citizens are not seeing the crisis in public order in 2021, it is the government and the PF that are seeing that. So, where is that crisis coming from for the government to urgently acquire weapons for the police in 2021?” Kakoma wondered.

He said the government owed the Zambian people an explanation on why a lot of money was being allocated to defence and security.

“As far as we are concerned, the police have enough weapons as of now, they have enough teargas. So why should they allocate more money to acquire teargas, to acquire more weapons? Is it meant to attack civilians? As some PF leaders have been saying, they will not be willing to handle over power if they lose. Is that why they are stocking weapons so that in the event that they lose, they will cling on to power and if the citizens rise against their decisions to cling on to power, then they use weapons to suppress them?” Kakoma asked.

“So, the government and the Zambian police owe us an explanation as to why they are amassing a lot of weapons in preparation for the 2021 elections. What danger are they seeing which we, the Zambian people, are not seeing? For us, we are thinking we are going to have a peaceful election and we are expecting a free, fair and credible election. If they will be peaceful and credible elections, then why do we need those weapons? So the PF government owes us an explanation.”

He said the money allocated to defence and security should be allocated to the health sector to fight COVID-19 and therefore called on UPND members of parliament to reject the proposal for such a huge unnecessary expenditure.

“As UPND, we would like to urge members of parliament to reject that allocation of K3 billion to public order. In fact, that money must be allocated to fight against COVID-19 because what we have seen is that the health budget has not been increased as such, a bare three per cent is a nominal increase, when we have been grappling with a situation where the Ministry of Health say they don’t have enough resources to fight the pandemic and we have been relying on well-wishers for us to fight the pandemic,” said Kakoma.

”Now that we have an opportunity in 2021 to reallocate government resources, we should have put more money in the fight against COVID-19 rather than putting more money to buy teargas. That is misplaced priorities. We have seen where the government has said that children should go back to school without face masks. Why didn’t they allocate money to the Ministry of General Education so that every child that goes to school would be given a face mask? But they are just subjecting these people to go to school without face masks. So the priorities are wrong, they must reallocate that money for public order to health and education.”