MOVEMENT for Democratic Change chairperson for economics Trevor Simumba says President Edgar Lungu is preoccupied with winning the 2021 general elections at the expense of drowning the economy.

And Simumba says the MDC was formed by people who are frustrated with the state of affairs in Zambia.

Speaking on Muvi TV’s The Assignment programme, Tuesday, Simumba said it was time for President Edgar Lungu to rest because he had not run the country well.

“The economy has totally worn down, our current President, I have never uttered any bad words towards him, I just believe that he has not managed this country well and I think it is time for him to go and rest and let others take up the mantle. We are in a country where the focus of all our colleagues in government is to win next year’s election. Whether or not the economy grinds to a halt, they don’t care. All they want is to make sure they win next year’s elections. That is very unfortunate when you are dealing with an economy, because even if your focus is to win, there are something you can still do now which will not affect you winning, it will actually improve your chances,” Simumba said.

“Why fire (Denny) Kalyaya and replace him with somebody who is not competent? There was no need to bring an outsider to come and run that important institution. The problem is that my big brother, our President His Excellency the President, unfortunately he is preoccupied with retaining power come 2021. So decisions are being clouded by that forecast to say ‘I have to get back into office’. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the President wanting to get back in office, but even though your case is to return power, you still do not need to do the things you are doing because you are undermining the economy as a whole.”

And asked if the MDC was formed by frustrated individuals, Simumba said the party was not formed by frustrated individuals, but those who were frustrated with the state of affairs.

“Entering into politics is not about frustration. Leonard Hikaumba who is the vice president political, he is a former unionsit, he is not a frustrated man. He is simply a man who wants to see a better Zambia. Mr Mulusa cannot be called a frustrated man, Mr Mulusa was a very courageous minister; he was the only member of the PF government to say the [procurement of the] 42 fire tenders was a bad decision, that is why he came out of government. So you cannot say he is a frustrated individual. Mr Mutati is not a frustrated individual, madam Sherry Thole is not a frustrated individual, she is a very accomplished former permanent secretary, she worked for the Bank of Zambia, she was MD of a bank, she has sat on boards; the University of Zambia and many other boards,” Simumba said.

“You talk about madam Joyce Musenge, our deputy secretary general is an accomplished diplomat. I am not a frustrated person but I am frustrated at the lack progress for Zambia. If you talk of frustration in terms of frustration at the status that we are in where today people are buying mealie meal at over K80; today our fuel price [is high], look at the load shedding, look at the level of corruption.”

He argued that the biggest problem in Zambia was corruption in the procurement system.

“The biggest problem we have is the economy, we are in deep recession. The economy is contracting, poverty has increased. One of the biggest problems we have in Zambia is that a lot of money is leaked out of the system because of corruption, particularly in the procurement. We need to fast track Smart Zambia, so that this government begins to procure through what we call E-procurement. We need to minimize contact between businessmen and civil servants,” he said.

Simumba said the continued appetite to borrow was a danger.

“There is nothing wrong with borrowing but don’t borrow to build houses for soldiers, policemen, borrow to build infrastructure that has a return because when you borrow you are not borrowing for free, that is not free money you have to pay it back. That is why the government is stuck because they invested most of the money in things which have no return. This government if they are serious with debt management, they must begin now,” Simumba said.

“Stop borrowing! Just stop borrowing for now, put a moratorium, because in this budget, they want to borrow another $1.4 billion in external debt and another $600 million from the domestic market. So if the government has no discipline to say this year we will collect what we can and we will spend what we have. At the moment we are at real danger of the treasury running out of money to even pay salaries because the money we are collecting through ZRA, over 50 percent of that money is going to service debt.”

And when asked if the country had benefited from government’s decision to award Lazard Freres to restructure debt, Simumba said there was no benefit.

“There is no benefit, have we received any relief? That relief from China has nothing to do with Lazard. That release from China is based on the G20. That relief from China is only on government concession loans. That relief from China does not cover commercial loans that have come from China Exim Bank, China Development Bank, International Construction Bank of China ICBC which is a shareholder of Stanbic,” said Simumba.

“Government has borrowed over almost $500, $600 million from Standard Chartered. They are owing money to the Italian banks, they are owing money to the Russians, they are owing money to Israel for this military hospital and other military equipment. So China has nothing to do with Lazard. That came from G20. Beyond that, China says pay us what you are owing the arrears first then we can look at giving you a holiday. So there is still a lot of work to be done.”