VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina is peddling lies to save government from the embarrassment of miserably failing to tackle Zambia’s debt crisis, says UPND national chairperson Mutale Nalumango.

Late last month, Vice-President Wina told Parliament that there had never been formal advice from the opposition to the Finance Minister on how to manage Zambia’s debt, complaining that most advice on debt came in the form of disparaging government.

But reacting to Vice-President Wina’s claims in a statement, Monday, Nalumango said the Vice-President’s assertion was nowhere near the truth, but only being used as a scapegoat.

“As the UPND, we are extremely disappointed by Vice-President Inonge Mutukwa Wina’s claims that the Patriotic Front (PF) administration has never received documented advice from anyone on how to fix Zambia’s bleeding economy. What is even more disappointing is that such unfortunate claims are coming from the second-highest office in the land just to save the face of government from embarrassment even though deep inside her heart, Mrs Wina knows what she is saying is nowhere near the truth,” Nalumango stated.

“Zambians, today, are fully aware that our economy is in a mess, not because the PF administration lacked advice from well-meaning Zambians, but rather because listening seems not to be their greatest gift. As the UPND, we can demonstrate that our party president, president Hakainde Hichilema, has been on record advising the PF against reckless borrowing as this would have future devastating effects on the economy. UPND members of parliament have also consistently debated and advised the PF government on the floor of the House, while Mrs Wina was listening, but probably never took the debates seriously. All parliamentary debates are documented. Today, because our government is openly begging the lenders for deferment of debt repayment, they can now shamelessly turn around and say, ‘they never received any documented advice from anyone.’ Is this not ridiculous?”

She stated that Vice-President Wina should not take Zambians for fools because they had witnessed first-hand the misery brought by her administration.

“As the UPND, we cannot claim to have been the only ones who advised this government on how to address the crippling debt. There were several other people and eminent citizens, including former Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governors, ministers of finance and commerce, and presidential economic advisors, whose advice on how to handle the debt, nose-diving kwacha and the economy in general was rubbished,” she stated.

“It is on record that former Bank of Zambia governor Dr Caleb Fundanga, former finance ministers Ng’andu Magande, Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane and Felix Mutati, former commerce minister, Dipak Patel, and former economic advisor to late president Levy Mwanawasa, Dr Moses Banda, wrote a letter to President Lungu and Dr (Bwalya) Ng’andu, expressing concern over Zambia’s current debt position. Their advice was dismissed as being nonsensical! The Vice-President should not take Zambian as fools because they have lived first-hand, the misery brought by her administration!”

She stressed that the PF had failed Zambians miserably, adding that their projects on infrastructure development had not delivered economic returns.

“In 2019, Zambia’s growth was at 2.0 per cent. The PF government borrowed to overspend on failed infrastructure projects that have not delivered economic returns. Even the so-called road projects they embarked on are just being used as conduits to siphon public funds. To put it simply – they have failed the Zambian people miserably and saddled the country with debts that will take at least 50 years to pay back! The US $33 billion debt the PF under Edgar Lungu has plunged the nation in exceeds the combined loans previously contracted by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and United National Independence Party (UNIP) in their 47 years in power,” stated Nalumango.

“What worries president Hichilema and the UPND the most is that, with this huge external debt of over US $33 billion, going by our current population, now estimated at about 18 million people, each Zambian citizen, including a baby born today, owes our foreign lenders approximately US $1,833 or K37,000! Had the PF regime opened its ears, Vice-President Wina would, today, not be using the scapegoat of lack of documented advice as the reason for ruining a potentially vibrant economy.”