SOCIALIST Party deputy general secretary Dr Fred M’membe says his party’s poor performance in the just ended general elections was surprising and unexpected.
And Dr M’membe says the UPND government does not need to do much to satisfy Zambians because the previous administrations’ performance was poor.
Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV’s Costa programme, Sunday, M’membe said his party would reorganise itself for the future.
“The result was surprising, it was not the result we expected, it is not the result we wanted. But the whole process was not just about one election, it is a process. There were 15 candidates, and definitely, only one party would win. We are not the first party to lose the election and moreover, after losing the election you have to take stock of what happened, where did you go wrong. There were many factors that can explain our performance, some internally, some external, some under our control, some not so much under our control but lessons have been learnt,” Dr M’membe said.
“For now we have to reorganise ourselves and push on for the future, we still have a role to play. In a multiparty political dispensation, governing is not only about the ruling party, the opposition also plays a very key role. Without an opposition, governance becomes very difficult and dangerously so. It has got nothing to do with the message, the message was perfect, the message was well. It has to deal with other factors externally. One of them, people, had decided to change the government. It was one swing from one end of the pendulum to the other. It is difficult to stop that.”
And Dr M’membe said the UPND government did not need to do much to satisfy Zambians.
“It is not the first time we have such high hopes as a people. We had these very high hopes on October 24th, 1964, our hopes were the highest. We had these high hopes in November 1991, we had these high hopes of ‘more money in your pockets’ in 2011, we have these high hopes again today. Those who are young and do not have eyes like ours who have seen the revolution of many things may have their expectations too high. My advice is we are still a long way, don’t over expect, you will lose your heart. There are no miracles that are going to be performed, it’s not abracadabra and everything goes well. It is a long struggle against a system, a global system that has put us where we are today. That is why we socialists are not excited about this thing. Yes we welcome these changes, but we know the limitations,” he said.
“This path that we are traversing today has been there before. We have walked this path before, there are no miracles that are going to be performed by this government. We know the capitalist path we are talking about, it’s not new. We embarked on this path in 1891, we are still on it. Yes given where we were as a country under this PF regime, any little change, any little push up will look big. Probably the UPND government doesn’t have to do much to satisfy the Zambian people because we were really down as a country in many areas. So a little improvement may satisfy our people, but we shouldn’t expect too much.”
Dr M’membe advised the UPND government to embrace criticism.
“They need to learn very quickly, they need to understand what is going on very quickly and stabilize themselves. Of course, learning never ceases but they need to get to the grips of issues very quickly, and they need help from everyone. Part of that help is pointing out what they are doing wrong. They need advice, they need criticism. Criticism is support, criticism is not destructive and they need to embrace that quite earlier. They shouldn’t wait until two, three, four years and it’s when they can accept being criticized,” he said.
“Let those who have something to say, say it. Let those who have a critical voice, voice it from the very beginning. It won’t kill them, what will kill them is not being criticized. Popular governments usually go to seed very quickly because they are shielded from criticism, even honest criticism is not tolerated. I hope that will not continue, I hope their supporters will be tolerant of other views and let criticism come in very quickly.”
M’membe noted that corruption kept recurring because there was a lack of consistency in fighting it.
“You don’t fight crime to recover anything, fighting crime is costly. You don’t go and arrest someone who has killed another human being to get back that human being that has been killed. If you can’t get that human being back to life, there is no need to pursue the criminal. We don’t pursue people who have stolen from society or individuals simply because we want to recover, we fight crime to establish a better society so that the recurrence of those criminal activities is reduced or put to an end. Even those who have stolen today, we might not recover a single cent or a single ngwee,” he said.
“Does it mean that because we can’t recover then we leave them and concentrate on other things? No! We have not fought corruption consistently and because we have not fought it consistently it keeps on recurring. If you look at how China fights corruption, there is no play. The State is there to protect the people, it’s a people’s State and it’s there to protect them. There are members of the central committee in China who have been sent to prison, and members of the political bureau who have been sent to prison. Where there is corruption, hard work, honesty suffers. You will soon start having civil wars because of corruption, you do not agree because there is no honesty, nobody trusts anybody.”
Meanwhile, Dr M’membe said due to budget constraints, it would be hard for the UPND government to operate if it did not cut down on the number of ministries.
“Running a ministry is expensive, it is expensive, it is not a small thing. They (UPND) will have challenges with the budget, they will have challenges with money. Already now, most of the government’s huge expenditure is spent on emoluments. We need to cut down on that, we can’t spend all your tax collections on salaries. What are you going to use to provide the services required by your people? They have promised free education to the people, we know there will be challenges, our people need free health services, there is infrastructure that needs to be supported, there is agriculture that needs to be supported and many other social services that our people need. If all the money is paid to civil servants in so many Ministries, huge expenditure for many Ministries, where is the money to provide free education going to come from? There will be challenges whether they like it or not,” said Dr M’membe.