UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says while he is not afraid of intimidation, he opts to shy away from going out often in order to maintain peace in the country.

And Hichilema has insisted that the 2021 budget is a disaster because it allocated less amounts of money to investment, thereby discouraging economic growth.

Speaking when he featured on Muvi TVs Assignment programme, Hichilema lamented that there was no democratic space for opposition leaders in the country.

“Firstly, we have not confined ourselves, otherwise we wouldn’t have been in Kamanga where there was a lot shooting yesterday (Saturday), we are not afraid. That’s the first issue, secondly, if we were confined, we wouldn’t have been in Lukashya…There is no democratic space for opposition leaders. Look what they are doing to Chishimba Kambwili, he is always in court, every time I step out, a country that is supposed to be democracy, when I am exercising my freedom of movement, if I want to hold a rally tomorrow, yesterday and today, [I] had rallies, but if I want to have a rally in Chainda the police will come there, the PF thugs will come with guns, you are aware of it. Now what should I do? Do people expect me to carry guns as well, my members to carry guns and citizens to kill each other?” Hichilema asked.

“I am not afraid, God gave me certain things but not fear, he didn’t give us fear. Tell those that think HH is afraid they must think again, they have got it wrong we are never afraid. There is no fear in HH, what is there is we need a democratic state that will allow citizens to exercise their human rights, liberties and freedoms. No fear at all. People are angry out there, you will see people’s anger very soon and those that are brutalising people will not be able to contain it because people have no food because UPND is giving them an alternative for food, giving an alternative for jobs, there are no jobs.”

Hichilema said if he wasn’t an effective opposition leader, he wouldn’t have been jailed 15 times.

“You can debate what the meaning of aggressive is. Is noise making interpreted to being aggressive? You mean citizens want us to start street fights, is that aggressive? Maybe that is what citizens believe is aggressive because if we were not aggressive, we wouldn’t have gone to jail 15 times. We have been jailed 15 times. It shows you that we have put the government under pressure because a government which calls itself democratic cannot arrest opposition leaders 15 times, in my case, it cannot arrest Mucheleka, Mubanga, Ngwira and others in Lukashya for having committee no crime. Our members were campaigning just recently in Lukashya and they were arrested for basically putting up a competitive environment to campaign there. A party that is not threatened by the opposition would not execute arrests like that, it would not be that cruel. Look what they did yesterday, they went into Kamanga and destroyed a borehole and the infrastructure there which HH, myself, assisted by answering the call of the people of Kamanga who had no water,” he lamented.

And Hichilema said the economy was expected to further decline next year because very little money had been allocated to growth stimulation.

“The second problem in the budget you have is that you have a budget that is reducing allocation to essential sectors of the economy. The economy which is going to decline by four percent this year, it will be worse next year because under the allocation of the expenditure side of the budget, very little money has been allocated to the economy. The economy where; agriculture, industry, manufacturing, tourism even in mining…Now, you have a situation where you are going to have less amounts of money available to invest in the economy, how can this budget direct growth in the economy? It can’t. So this is a wrong budget, it’s not even something to call a budget, this is a disaster and that’s what we have been saying all along,” he said.

“So, why is there no money allocated to the economy, it’s because the money is being lost to two items only. And what are these two items; on debt service, nkongole, to pay for kaloba, now we are suffering the pain but we are not the ones who borrowed. It’s not the government who borrowed, it’s just a small clique of the PF that’s why there must be change, they must go and rest, baononga vambili (they have destroyed a lot of things),” he said.

He wondered why a huge part of the 2021 budget was being financed from borrowed funds when no one would lend government money because it was already defaulting on current loans.

“Where will the PF borrow money from? They can’t borrow money from anywhere because they are failing to pay the kaloba, nkongole they borrowed. No one will lend PF money, there is no capacity. In the finance world, we call it, there is no head room for PF to borrow money from anywhere because they are already defaulting on the loans that they have. So when you default and the credit agencies rate you downwards, it means your economy is junk economy,” he said.

He said the economy was in the current state because PF did not listen to viable alternatives which were offered by UPND.

“If they had taken our proposals into account, the economy wouldn’t have collapsed the way it is. If they had taken our suggestions, our policy options, which is what a true opposition does, today you would have people in employment, especially the youth and women but they are not in employment because there was no uptake of our policies. The party in office did not listen to viable alternatives from people like ourselves. We have the understanding of the economy and if they had taken our suggestions, the kwacha wouldn’t have collapsed. If they had taken our suggestions, today you would have had food prices that are affordable to people,” Hichilema added.

Meanwhile, Hichilema said that Zambia’s debt stock was more than US$20 billion given the undisclosed pipeline debt the country has.

“Dr Bwalya Ng’andu, who I know very well, he has now told you the story which was hidden by PF. Before he became finance Minister, the finance Minister who were there, were cheating the people of Zambia that the debt was only US$11.5 billion have you forgotten. These are not my figures, these are PF figures. All of a sudden, Bwalya now is telling us the truth that it is US$18 billion point something, close to US$19 billion. Let me tell you that there is still debt which is not disclosed, there is pipeline debts, there is debt which is not yet recorded. When add all of these, let me say today mark my words, the true debt position that Zambia has is more than US$20 billion, it’s not 18 billion. Remember, I am an economic philosopher and I have been proven to be right, I am right on this one. So it means that Bwalya Ng’andu has done what the other finance ministers could not do, to tell the Zambian people the truth that we are in a crisis, the economy is collapsed,” said Hichilema.