CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer John Sangwa has questioned why the Patriotic Front would claim that they have delivered development to the people when the country’s debt position has grown to $12 billion.
And Sangwa says politicians who are dishing out money to voters are ‘ignorant’ and do not understand the dynamics of politics.
Meanwhile, Sangwa says it is irresponsible for President Edgar Lungu to say he will win this year’s election by 500,000 votes.
Speaking on Radio Phoenix “Let the People talk” programme, Tuesday, Sangwa said no sensible person would say things were better in the country now compared to 2011.
He added that building three or five flyover bridges did not equate to development.
“The saddest thing for me is when leaders are telling lies. You can never build a country or develop a country through telling lies. You develop a country by giving people factual information. For example, I have heard people say, especially people from the ruling party say ‘we are going to be elected because people are happy with us. We have delivered development’. First of all what is development? You building three, four, five flyover bridges, does that equate to development? The answer is no! Those are not the economic indicators that would tell you what development is. That is necessary, but again don’t forget that these bridges are only in Lusaka and Lusaka is not Zambia, how are the people in rural areas living? For me, what really shocks me is when people are saying ‘we have delivered’,” Sangwa said.
“Don’t just say you have delivered, give us figures. Give us statistics, what you have done? For example you have had a party in power for 10 years, now all that you have to do is, what was the state of affairs in 2011 and what is the state of affairs in 2021? If you look at that there is no way anybody sensible would say that things are better. If you say that things are better then you are lying. These are the kind of lies that are being peddled.”
And Sangwa wondered how those in power would say they had delivered development when the country’s debt position had grown to $12 billion.
“There is one problem we have in this country that nobody is talking about, which is the debt position. How do you explain a debt position of $12 billion? How are you going to service that debt of $12 billion and still have enough money to carry out the various developments? I have not heard the answer from PF, I have not heard the answer from UPND, I have not heard the answer from the Socialist party, yet debt is a key issue. What was our debt position in 2011? Today we take the government position, the debt is $12 billion. In 10 years what you are saying is that you have been accruing a debt at an average of $1.2 billion every year. How can you say you have delivered when you have grown nkongole (debt) from $750 million to $12 billion? And you can still lie to the people that you have delivered, no! You haven’t delivered, you have failed!” he exclaimed.
“When you take over a government, what you are basically telling the people is that ‘I will do better than RB’. We should have maintained the levels of RB or better. But in any case your debt position is worse off. When you look at the exchange rate, we rely on imports. When RB was in power in 2011, you know how our exchange rate was in 2011, on a rebase basis? It was K3,900 on a rebase basis, you will be talking about K3.70. What is it today? You are talking K23. Now, look at the real impact of what is happening right now is that, because of the devaluation of the currency everything is changing. Everything has gone up.”
Sangwa further said politicians who were dishing out money to voters were ‘ignorant’ and did not understand the dynamics of politics.
“Anyone who throws money at voters for me is very ignorant actually, because it means that you don’t understand the dynamics of politics. Someone can get your money, but you won’t be with that person in the polling booth. Somebody will collect your money and then they will vote otherwise. A voter is wise, a voter knows, at the end of the day I have faith in the Zambian voters. Let me give a scenario of this thing, If a Zambian voter was stupid, RB would have won in 2011. RB had more money than Micheal Sata but in the end, the people still collected the money and voted the way they wanted. Even in this election, I still believe the people are wise enough. You cannot buy votes. First of all it is an investment whose return is not guaranteed. If I were a politician, I would use my money to beef up my logistics and go round the country, spread the message and so forth. Not to give out money as handouts, buy beers to people, that is a very primitive way of campaigning,” he said.
“Some of these things people should remember that after the elections, in the event that there is change of government, some people end up in jail. Government money is very difficult to steal, there is always a paper trail. There are procedures on how to spend government money. I hope they are following these procedures even in terms of empowerment funds. I hope there are also necessary regulations and rules to govern these things, because you don’t spend government money as though it was petty cash. Even petty cash is accounted for.”
He added that dishing out of money in exchange for votes was an indication that the government had failed to deliver development.
“Election starts months before the actual casting of the ballots. You have to look at what has transpired previously. What was the conduct of the people? If you have too much money to throw around, I mean the problem is that this is one of the things that should have been addressed. There should be a law that should regulate how much money is spent on an election. Because the party in power invariably will have more financial muscle than any other person. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t mean that once you pump in so much money, it is going to translate into votes. There is no such a guarantee. First of all I don’t believe that is properly earned money by the way, because properly earned money, wouldn’t spend it that way. My worry is that when you start getting money from state coffers and pumping it into an election. Even with that so-called private money, we live in Zambia, we know the state of the economy. The point is that if it is from business, it is very easy to verify,” Sangwa said.
“For me, it is basically irresponsible to use money for that particular objective. It also shows some level of desperation. If you have done a good job you have had a 10 year or five year mandate and you have delivered, there is no way you will bribe people. One of the things people don’t understand is that when you begin to give handouts, it is basically an insult to the people. If you have delivered, you must have created jobs, you must have enabled people with their own money. People are not asking for handouts when they put you in power, they are asking for you to be able to create a conducive environment for the people to realise their full potential. When you begin to pump in that kind of money there, it shows that you haven’t done your job. So, it is actually a serious indictment of failure when you start bribing voters. If you have delivered there is no reason to bribe anyone.”
Meanwhile, Sangwa said it was irresponsible for President Lungu to state that he would win the August election by 500,000 votes.
“There pronouncements by politicians in the ruling party, where they are now saying that ‘we are going to have a landslide victory’, where they were saying that ‘we are going to win by 500,000 votes’. I am saying ‘wait a minute, where are you getting your numbers from?’. Because winning an election with 500,000 votes is a huge win. First of all, who has done an exercise on the ground to sample the views of the people to be able to show that this is indeed feasible? When you look at the data on the ground, that is impossible. If President Lungu claims that he is going to win by 500,000 votes, let us assume that statement is correct, first of all what is the basis of the information? The data on the ground does not support that. In fact, in recent times no President has ever won an election with that kind of margin,” he said.
“When you look at the elections of 2016, we are talking data. With the 50 plus one requirement, what it means is that the winning candidate is not competing with his opponent. He has to reach that 50 percent mark. When you look at the last election, President Lungu won the election by 50.3 percent. In terms of candidates between the President and his next rival, the margin was 100,000 votes. Now tell me, where are you going to get the 500,000 votes? How are you going to replicate that five times? What data are you basing it on? In any election there must be an element of humility. Unless you have already rigged the election, that is different. If the election is free and fair, there is no way anybody can predict to say ‘there will be a landslide victory’. Even the data, how is it humanly possible that you are going to get five times the votes you got in the previous election? For me, these are the kinds of statements I can consider irresponsible to make. No one can say that because you don’t know how the people are going to vote.”