PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says it is wrong for the corrupt to deliberately label themselves as victims in the fight against corruption in order to gain public sympathy.

And President Hichilema says he has noticed a decline in the work culture in the country, whereby citizens would rather line up for handouts than work.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema says government will bring to book those who marry teenage girls, including parents and guardians who marry them off.

In his address on the progress made in the application of the national values and principles to the first session of the thirteenth National Assembly, Friday, President Hichilema encouraged the corrupt to voluntarily come forward.

“We are committed to fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law and ensuring prudence in the utilization of public resources. Corruption takes away the much-needed resources for economic growth, jobs, business opportunities, improving education, health and other social services. Corruption reduces the effectiveness of public administration. We must fight corruption in all its forms and manifestations. It is therefore wrong for the corrupt to deliberately and intentionally label themselves as victims in the fight against corruption so as to gain sympathy from the public,” he said.

“Children, women, the youth, and other vulnerable members of our society remain the true victims of corruption. Government has also established the financial and economic crimes court to expedite the disposal of cases. This government will not falter in the fight against corruption. There will be no sacred cow in this fight. We must all declare war against corruption. We encourage those who engaged in corruption to voluntarily come forward and pay back to society what they took away. It is wise to do so than to wait for the inevitable, prosecution and the resultant consequences. We must work hard and be firm against unethical conduct in both our private and public lives.”

And President Hichilema said he had noticed a decline in the work culture in the country.

“I have noticed that we have a declining work habit and culture in our country. Citizens want to line up for handouts without working. We cannot be a nation on this notion. This is the attitude that destroys nations slowly. Productivity and economic development becomes impaired. We are proud of all our citizens who continue to carry the Zambian flag high with a sense of national pride in areas such as sport, entertainment and science. Let us be inspired by these shining stars and emulate their hard work and sense of patriotism,” he said.

“We must embrace the value of hard work at personal, organizational and national levels. From our own experience, work, work, and more work, delivers results. We must be disciplined and aim for excellence. This is the only way we can enhance our productivity as a country. As a people, we have the responsibility to continue safeguarding our national assets for the common good. We therefore call upon all citizens to love and put our country and its interests first.”

Meanwhile, President Hichilema said government would bring to book those who marry teenage girls, adding that parents and guardians who marry off girls would also be prosecuted.

“Child marriages and teenage pregnancies have remained serious issues in our country. We have cases of girls as young as 12 years old being married off. We have cases of teenage girls, who are still children themselves, having children. These teenage girls are exposed to health complications and even death. This is immoral. This is unacceptable. This should not be tolerated. To this end, we have partnered with traditional and civic leaders, the church and civil society organisations to sensitise communities on the dangers of child marriages and teenage pregnancies. Further, government is implementing the school reentry policy and the keeping girls in school programme to ensure that the girl child remains in school and is protected from these vices,” he said.

“Additionally, the free education policy, among other measures, will further improve the circumstances of the girl child and the communities at large. Going forward, government will harmonise all child related legislation to enhance children’s rights and welfare. We will enforce the laws and bring to book those who marry teenage girls, and parents and guardians, who marry off our girls. We want our children to be protected from any form of abuse, neglect and exploitation. We urge our citizens to be alert, make this fight personal and report any form of gender based violence to the law enforcement agencies. This is the only way in which victims can be assisted and perpetrators punished.”

The Head of State said he would continue to lobby lawmakers to legislate against costly, time consuming and disruptive by-elections.

“We will enforce the law equally regardless of one’s status in society. Constitutional reforms are an integral part of the transformational agenda of this administration. In this regard, government shall undertake all necessary measures to gather and build consensus with all stakeholders on how best we can give ourselves a constitution that reflects our shared and cherished aspirations as a people. For example, some of us will continue to lobby you and others for the nation to legislate against costly, time consuming and disruptive by-elections. Elections should happen once in every five years. In between elections, we should focus all available time and resources to improving the lives of our fellow citizens,” President Hichilema said.

“In addition, working with you and other stakeholders, our administration will amend the public order act in line with our democratic tenets. Human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and nondiscrimination. Enhancing human development for our people is a major priority for government. We are committed to turning around our economy to accelerate socio-economic transformation and uplift the livelihoods of the citizenry. In this regard, more effort will be placed on creating opportunities and a conducive environment for increased productivity. Our government is determined to have a dignified workforce.”

President Hichilema said he was concerned with the high unemployment levels amongst the youth.

“We are concerned with the high unemployment levels amongst our youth. The new dawn administration will review, realign and add new youth empowerment programmes to make them more relevant, viable and sustainable. This process has infact, already commenced. We urge the youth to take advantage of the empowerment programmes such as those under the dramatically enhanced constituency development fund, to better their lives. Opportunities for access to land, mining licences, timber licences, and contracts for goods and services will be expanded. Additionally, our strategy to promote investment and private sector growth will not only bring about economic growth but create jobs and business opportunities,” he said.

“Self-employment will continue to be promoted and should be valued. As a nation, we have a duty to educate every Zambian child, regardless of status. As stated earlier, our first bold step in this regard was to make primary and secondary education free at public schools. When others mocked us that this was not possible, we insisted that it was and we are doing it. Additionally, we are also keeping more vulnerable children in school by enhancing the school feeding programme.”

President Hichilema said there were many social ills that were prevalent in society and required collective efforts to bring about remedies.

“Our government is aware that there are many social ills that are prevalent in our society. High rates of divorce, suicides, crime and other severe social ills are of great concern to us and requires our collective effort to bring about remedies. Among the remedies are the development of mental health programmes, community interventions, counseling and a strong economy that eases our citizens of financial distress. as stated in our promise to the people of Zambia, our focus for the next four and a half years is economic transformation. This vision resonates with our shared national values and principles. The wealth of this country belongs to all of us,” said President Hichilema.

“We must enhance and maintain integrity in our day to day interactions and activities. Our vision also calls for each one of us to work hard and do our part in the national reconstruction agenda. We must all be accountable in what we do. As we move forward, it is incumbent upon each and everyone of us to fully embrace our national values and principles, as enshrined in the constitution. They are meant to enable us to achieve our common vision of a prosperous Zambia. They are meant to help us develop the right attitudes required for our sustainable economic development.”