PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says people who stole did not do so to serve their ethnicity, adding that sometimes, they didn’t even steal for their wives but for their girlfriends.

And President Hichilema says government remains consistent and steadfast in its quest to reform the pension system.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema says it is important that employers, government and labour unions pay attention to the welfare of women.

Speaking during Labour Day celebrations, Sunday, President Hichilema said corruption, whether committed in the past, present or future, would be treated the same.

“Past corruption, present corruption and future corruption will be treated the same. So there is no segregation, no ethnicity. I have heard some people say ‘oh this is ethnic based fight’, no. You did not steal to serve your ethnicity. You stole for yourself and sometimes you didn’t even steal for your wife, you stole for your girlfriend,” President Hichilema said.

He said gone were the days when contracts were awarded at exorbitant prices.

“The only thing we will not do is to complete buildings at a high cost. A basic three bedroomed low cost house 10 months ago was only contracted to be built at K1.3 billion. Why was that big difference happening? Corruption. This will not be tolerated going forward. I must use this Labour Day to make it very clear that that will not be tolerated going forward because the cost of one house then, we should be able to build four or so houses. This is what this government is focusing its eyes on,” he said.

“I believe I’m looking at you madam. You are the contractors, your members are the contractors who got contracts 10 months ago at such phenomenal prices. When we ask them they say huh because the politicians asked us to add a figure so that we can share. Now, don’t say the politicians are the ones who were corrupt, you are also corrupt, you are also destroying this economy. That is why the economy moved down from growing 7 per cent per annum to minus. Because of these vices.”

And President Hichilema said reforms would include making sure that pension funds were not abused.

“Fellow workers, the government remains consistent and steadfast in the quest to reform the pension system. Minister of Labour, you have survived because you talked about it. We want to reform, working with labour, employers and the pension system. The reforms will include making sure that pension funds are not abused, pensioners’ money is not abused by politicians, pension fund managers, by workers, anyone. That will not be accepted because the value of the pension must continue growing. That is why it is called a pension. So investment in the sector must be well selected. But also, abusing pension funds to buy land so you can build buildings that yield less than other alternatives, that too will not be allowed,” he said.

“The reforms must address such decisions that have been going on as normal in the past. I don’t want to embarrass one pension fund but the habit of buying land from friends, from politicians at a phenomenal price more than the market value and you go ahead to construct something at a high cost again so that you can get some share of that wastage, those days are over. I expect, Minister of Labour, the reforms will address those issues. If the reforms don’t address those issues, parliament will legislate to protect pensioners, to protect the economy. The right investments will matter going forward. We also expect what we pronounce before elections, we are not walking away from it. That it will be possible, it should be possible for workers to access their money when they are still alive.”

He said some promises would take long to implement, but they were not forgotten.

“Before elections, we offered to be elected by the people of Zambia by offering many things and we have a checklist of the things. Some take long to implement, some are immediate, like free education, CDF. Some pronouncements may take long but they will not be forgotten. One of these is what I want to repeat that in the pension reforms, we should see workers accessing part of their money when they are still alive and active,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema said it was important for employers, government and labour unions to pay attention to the welfare of women.

“I must not provoke the honest here by saying that generally, because women are balanced, they tend to take more care of their children and us the family. So it is important that employers, labour unions and the government pay particular attention to the welfare of women. That is why we need to look at our own laws including the constitution. I’m very keen that we move forward in the constitution to allow for a proportion presentation as part of electing teams at a council, mayoral, parliamentary and indeed at cabinet level,” he said.

“Some of the restrictions we have now is that the constitution allows us only to draw cabinet from inside parliament and it creates these restrictions and that parliament is largely, other than the eight nominated, is largely out of the elected members of parliament. I think we need to have a combination of elected members of parliament, councillors as well as those who come through from proportional representation. We will be able to bring in more women and youths. Let us walk the talk, let us not wait for and raise criticism which is good but let us actually do things that will enable us to achieve that which we have cried for for years and years.”

The Head of State said there was need to have more Zambian products on supermarket shelves.

“We would like to see more Zambian products on supermarket shelves and this must be done and will be done because the more space shelves available for locally produced goods, it means it works its way backwards into the factories, into the supply demand of raw materials and obviously jobs. This is our agenda and we must work on this as partners,” said President Hichilema.

And speaking earlier, Zambia Federation of Employers president Myra Ngoma said government was key in ensuring sustainable and decent job creation.

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Social Security Brenda Tambatamba said her Ministry was looking towards the formulation of statutory instruments for sector based minimum wages for media, agricultural and mining sectors.

“The Ministry is constantly looking for ways to motivate and return workers to their working places in order to sustain productivity. The Ministry through the tripartite Labour council consultations address most of the employees grievances because we do it in tripartism. The Ministry is also working towards the formulation of statutory instruments for sector based minimum wages for media, agricultural and mining sectors,” said Tambatamba.

This year’s Labour Day was commemorated under the theme “Accelerating Social Economic Transformation through Sustainable and Decent Job Creation Amidst COVID-19”.