PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says everyday he spends in State House, he realises how deep the problem of corruption and mismanagement of public funds was in the last seven years.

And Dean of Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of the State of Palestine to the Republic of Zambia Dr Walid Hasan says the Diplomatic Corps stand by government’s side in realising its vision and goal of bettering people’s lives.

Speaking during the annual greeting of the Diplomatic Corps, Thursday, President Hichilema said government had a huge mountain to climb to end corruption in the country.

“We wish to reiterate our commitment as a government to ending corruption and mismanagement of public funds. That is a huge challenge that we are faced with in this area. There is no doubt about it. Every day we spend in this State House, we look at issues, we realise how deep the problem was in the last seven years. It is extremely deep and almost permeated to all aspects of our society. So we have a huge mountain to climb to dismantle this but we are determined with your support to do that,” President Hichilema said.

“We wish to reiterate our commitment to improved prioritisation given the immediate work that needs to be done. We are intentionally working towards ensuring that the choice where we spend the little available resources is clear in terms of areas that deliver maximum benefits. You can count on us to see a departure from the wasteful expenditure in the past to more generation expenditure. We will strive to be transparent in the use of public resources with zero tolerance to corruption.”

President Hichilema said government was committed to restoring the rule of law and respect for human rights.

“Allow me to reiterate Zambia’s commitment to the tenets of democracy and good governance. Constitutionalism, the rule of law which we are working very hard to restore after years of negative activities and most of you are fully aware of. So we are working very hard, we are committed to restore the rule of law, respect for human rights, liberties and freedoms. It is essential that our government continues to work on these aspects that we believe are necessary preconditions to develop and expand the economy to create opportunities for our people,” he said.

“As a country, we have a history of smooth transfer of power, sometimes it looks challenging but ultimately it gets done. I think now we have created a track record of successful change of leadership, not just from one president within a political party but from one president to another in different political parties. It is not common on our continent but Zambia is doing it. I think it distinguishes us. We must repair our economy. Democracy, rule of law and elections are critical. But they should create a platform for economic development to create opportunities for our people to better their lives.”

President Hichilema said his government was also committed to transforming the struggling economy into a thriving one.

“The challenges ahead are many but they are not insurmountable with your support. We are committed to transform the struggling economy that we inherited into a thriving one. Powered by enterprise and manufacturing value addition is crucial to this. Our foreign policy will take a greater slant deliberately towards economic diplomacy on the platform of peace, security and stability. Without this we cannot further our economic agenda, neither can we talk about any true democracy in the absence of it. We aim to foster access to appropriate technology, some of it from your own countries. In our efforts to access technology, we want to access affordable capital,” he said.

“As you know, part of our problem now, we are grappling with high debt largely because we accessed capital at a high cost. And this government does not intend to walk that path. It intends to shift towards affordable capital. We intend to drive our economy not only to look at domestic consumption needs but also given our geographical position, we want to take advantage of the needs of our neighbors in terms of food and other goods and services. We need to cater for the vulnerable. It is clear that as we focus on our economic mission without looking at the needs of the vulnerable, we may not carry our population along. So we need to address the immediate needs of the vulnerable.”

President Hichilema said African High Commissioners and Ambassadors had the responsibility to deliberately work towards getting the continent to be defined differently from that of instability, violence, corruption and poverty.

“I want to look at the African High Commissioners and Ambassadors that are present here, we need to deliberately work and get our continent to be defined differently from that of instability, violence, corruption, poverty narrative to that of opportunity through economic advancement for our power. And of course, strong democracies. I think we can do it. These generations of Africans and leaders including Diplomats have a noble opportunity to change the way Africa is viewed globally. We should work together to achieve that,” he said.

“We are happy that we have reached a staff level programme with the IMF. Towards this objective, we seek your continued support as we work towards concluding the full programme with the IMF. This objective will have an impact on our economy in the medium and long term.”

And President Hichilema said the continued military coups on the African continent were a cause for concern.

“What is happening on our continent, there is an insurgency of military coups, [it] is a sad development. Some of these things show their early signs but we tend to do very little. I have urged our colleagues on the continent that we must be proactive going forward rather than being reactive to reduce such negative instances and therefore damage and continue the negative narrative of Africa. What is happening on our continent is a call for concern, I think we must work together more strongly in dealing with these negative issues,” said President Hichilema.

Meanwhile, Dr Hasan said the Diplomatic Corps stood by government’s side in realising its vision and goal of bettering people’s lives.

“There is no doubt that this year is different from the previous ones. It marks a new era in Zambia’s history. Almost six months ago, we witnessed fair and peaceful elections in the presence of various observers from various countries and organisations. We have witnessed a peaceful transfer of power which is admirable in many countries,” said Dr Hasan.

“The Diplomatic Corps with great interest observe your role alongside your government in moving Zambia and its people to a better deserved place by improving development and reforming social life. Your commitment to climate change and green economy and promoting investment and many other areas is commendable. The Diplomatic Corps stand by your side in realising your vision and government’s goal of bettering the lives of the people.”