PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says it is unfortunate that the measures which his government is putting in place to fight corruption are being resisted and tagged to ethnicity.

And President Hichilema has reiterated that government is committed to upholding the democratic space and freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Personal Representative to the German Chancellor for Africa Gunter Nooker says eradication or significant reduction of corruption will be a major challenge.

Speaking when he met Nooker and other German envoys, Monday, President Hichilema said it was not fair that the corruption fight was being tagged to ethnicity.

He said his government was determined to reign in on corruption.

“Obviously we talked about transparency. This government, even if we walk alone over reigning in on corruption, we notice your comments that it would be difficult, we understand. It is already being resisted, our measures are being resisted, they are even tagged to be now ethnic driven. There is no ethnicity here and it is not fair for anyone in this matter to talk about the fight against corruption being ethnic driven, it is not, corruption is corruption. We are determined to work our way around it no matter how difficult it is, we are very determined. Support will be useful in that direction. Sometimes you just need a voice to indicate that corruption is bad, it is part of that which leads to poor governance. We don’t want a wrong narrative to continue along those issues,” President Hichilema said.

“We are keen on automating our government services, digitization, because it takes away the opportunity for corruption because currently, the manual exercise leads to corruption, bureaucracy and delays in serving the people. Then it perpetuates the opportunity for corruption, so we would like to get support from your end in that area.”

And President Hichilema said government was committed to upholding democratic space and freedom of expression.

“Once more, we are grateful for having you here. The Ambassador who we have met a couple of times even in difficult times, I must say that she was courageous together with a small number of others because they were able to meet us when democratic space was extremely limited and was threatening even for diplomats. I am sure you understand why I am raising that issue because it was a difficult period for basically opposition parties like ourselves. In the same vein, I start from there to encourage her to continue meeting other people as we meet as government now. She is happy, she doesn’t have to duck and dive as it was before for them to compare with other stakeholders in the country. She can get different opinions, we have no issue about that. Since you are the chancellor’s envoy, you will take that message, we will allow democratic space, we will allow freedom of information, freedom of association, which are fundamental human rights,” he said.

President Hichilema said it would be a challenge for the UPND government to develop the economy without resolving the debt crisis.

“We really appreciate your Excellency bilateral relations that have existed between the federal Republic of Germany and Zambians since independence. Germany has been a key bilateral partner to Zambia, commitments that were made over the years with millions of Euros of support to our country. Over the years we appreciate the accumulating debt relief on the subject of debt, over years has been substantial. As we are challenged with debt right now, very unnecessary situation, we will look forward to working with yourselves to take us out of this situation which we are determined to resolve. Because if we don’t resolve the debt crisis we stand no chance in hell to develop our economy. A good chunk of our budget every year goes to debt service, so it cannot be because it takes away resources for developmental expenditure, investment expenditure which will help us grow the economy. So we look forward to further cooperation in those areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema commended the German government’s interventions in Zambia’s fight against climate change.

“We do appreciate specific interventions that the German people through the government has had on our country such as water and sanitation. So very important that over years this relationship has continued in energy and in governance. Most recently in support for decentralization to which Chancellor’s Representative, we are paying particular attention going forward to devolution, decentralization, it is crucial. Because there has been excessive centralization over years, where national resources were controlled by a small number of people in Lusaka. Even that small number of people did not understand the priorities of the communities in the regions. So, we are making dramatic changes on that. We are looking forward to additional support working with the German people on those areas. For poverty reduction, very important, we recognize the support you have rendered to us,” President Hichilema said.

“Environment and climate change as we know, we don’t really know the climate damage, we need to work together and COP26 was a clear testimony why we should work together. So we are committed to doing our part, you know the national determined actions. We made our position very clear and we are assenting to the various steps that are required, issues of commitment are only one, but financing towards climate change will be critical. Germany is a key player in the developed group of nations and we expect that support to come our way. We don’t want to harp on the debate of who causes more damage to climate, those are facts that are known already but we are not in the blame game, we are here to be part of the solution.”

He said his government was keen on economic recovery.

“Representative, we are keen on economic recovery. This government is very keen on economic recovery and growth is critical to take us out of the difficulties that our country has found itself in. So, we seek support in this area. Part of this support I return to debt because debt takes too much of our resources. The climate issue, I talked about the green energy, luckily we are already, 90 percent of our energy sources are green. We want to do more. We don’t want to extract our coal, we have a lot of it, we want to leave it in the ground. We need alternative technology around there making it cheaper to deliver. We want to deliver cheaper free energy on the grid. Currently I think the cost per kilowatt is still high. So with new technology it will help us to bring that generation of that green energy into the grid at a much lower cost than it is at moment,” said President Hichilema.

Meanwhile, Nooker said eradication or significant reduction of corruption would be a major challenge.

“Thank you President and congratulations [on your election] to your new office and to your ambitious reform agenda. The victory of your party has encouraged the Zambian population, in particular young Zambians, that has also spread to neighboring countries that democratic change is possible despite restrictions to fair election campaigns. The atmosphere here and the feeling has already changed to the positive. Citizens, Civil Society organizations and the private sector finally feel [free] again to voice their opinions. This is so important for a functioning democracy and also for reliable economic growth, which is very important for stability and revenue growth for the national budget,” said Nooker.

“We very much welcome your clear stance against political violence and resource appropriation by party cadres as well as zero tolerance for corruption. We share your view that corruption is extremely harmful to the development of any country. We also realise that eradication or at least significant reduction of corruption will be a major challenge. For us we are particularly encouraged by your commitment to resolve the debt crisis, that is like the main challenging issue.”