ACTING PF president Given Lubinda says the increase in fuel prices is a sign of governance failure.
But Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Bwalya says fuel prices are expected to reduce substantially because of the economic reforms that the UPND government is putting in place.
The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) on Monday increased the pump prices of petroleum products by K2.12 per litre for petrol and K2.61 per litre for diesel.
In an interview, Lubinda said the increment in fuel prices should not be blamed on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
“The result of which is [an] increase in the cost of living, it is all a symptom of governance failure. You cannot have prices of commodities changing every month. It is an economy that is on auto pilot where there is no intervention by anybody. There is nobody in charge. The increase in fuel prices and the resultant increase in all other commodity prices is because there is no one in charge. Instead of concentrating on running the economy, the people who were elected on the 12th of August are busy on all other wrong priorities. The reason why people vote for parties to form government is so that they can manage the economy, manage the cost of living,” he said.
“I am sure that some of them are already blaming the increase in fuel prices on the Ukraine-Russia war. The war only started last week, so if there have been any disruptions in transacting in oil, it will only have an effect in Zambia after two months, because it takes about two months, it doesn’t take two days, it doesn’t take one week. We in the Patriotic Front advised Zambians that voting for UPND is voting for businessmen, voting for capitalists.”
Lubinda said the UPND would only reduce the fuel prices in 2026 when looking for votes.
“I want to reiterate what I said in January, in January when they increased the price I told the Zambian people that the increase in oil prices was just the start. Soon after the Kabwata by-election, they will increase the price, it has come to pass. There will be a monthly increase in the cost of living in Zambia. They told you that they want to increase the cost of fuel so that they can come and reduce it, that is what their Vice President said. I can assure the Zambian people that the only time they will reduce the price of fuel is in 2026, when they will be looking for votes. Between now and 2026 Zambians must be ready to listen to the broken record of praise singers,” he said.
But in a separate interview, Bwalya argued that the country was just re-emerging from the economic mismanagement under the PF regime and that necessary sacrifices were needed in order to rebuild it.
“The country is only starting to re-emerge from the turmoil and the legacy of poor economic mismanagement under the previous regime. The process of repairing the economy and getting it back on track so that dividends can start accruing to the Zambian people was always going to demand bold leadership and an acceptance of the necessary sacrifices we all needed to make in order to rebuild our country. The decision to reform how the government procures and distributes fuel to our citizens was not taken lightly, but with the fullest understanding of the short-term change-related discomfort while having the full perspective of the broad benefits to accrue to our citizens in the near, but mostly medium to long term,” he said.
“The PF had the opportunity to correct the pricing irregularities around fuel, but in their typical fashion, they did nothing, except sweep the problem under the rug and wrap it up in a toxic veil of corruption-driven debt. And while they did this, our children were not going to school, our pensioners were not being paid, no real promise of any jobs for our youth, our councils were not being funded, and an underfunded CDF programme which delivered no tangible benefits for our communities among several ills.”
He said fuel prices were expected to reduce on the basis of the performance of the economy.
“President Hichilema and the new administration have been bold, transparent, and honest, in taking steps to transition the nation to a cost-reflective fuel tariff, put an end to the accumulation of fuel-related debt, and instead redirected the money towards jobs (41,000 public sector jobs), community development fund ( K25.7m CDF per constituency per annum), pension benefits payments, social protection (over 1 million SCT beneficiaries) and food security support (290,000 beneficiaries), improved, agricultural production support, health and education sectors, with guaranteed free education for our children for the initial 12 years of learning,” said Bwalya.
“Let me reiterate, that the President and the administration remain fully committed to actualising a Zambia that is prosperous, fair and equitable for all. By 2026, we confidently expect fuel prices to have substantially reduced purely on balance and on the basis that by then the performance would have substantially increased and turned for the better. So we are talking about performance of the kwacha against the Dollar and the fundamentals of the economy.”