We support speed cameras, but not Internet call charges

President Edgar Lungu says Zambians have accepted the 30 ngwee internet calling tariff, and has since directed Ministry of Communications and Transport Honourable Brian Mushimba to go ahead and sign the Statutory Instrument which will put the government policy into effect.

Speaking from China were he is on a week-long working visit, President Lungu also said the move by the Road Transport and Safety Agency to install Highway speed cameras was final, in order to ensure that the country stays updated with technological advances in road safety.

We do not have a problem with the installation of speed cameras mounted on major High Ways in Lusaka, and we believe that we speak on behalf of many responsible motorists when we say this initiative should be rolled out to the rest of the country as soon as possible.

Only a fool would argue that there is no need for speed limits on the roads when death statistics from road accidents are in plain sight for all to see. In fact, we don’t know of any major city out there in the developed world where there are no Highway speed cameras or where motorists are allowed to drive like racing mice in a maize field. Road safety is key to any developing nation.

What people hated about this development was the corruption allegation associated with the awarding of the contracts to the companies that won the tender to supply and install these cameras. There, we have a problem, and this problem is not unique to RTSA. There is a serious lack of transparency in the awarding of government contracts in Zambia, to the extent that kickbacks and single sourcing have become part of the procurement process.

But just like the fire tenders, the speed cameras are now here and we have no option but to make use of them, regardless of the irregularities linked to the purchase.

Of course there are challenges that RTSA needs to address urgently in order for these speed cameras to achieve their intended purpose. For example, the method of notifying speeding motorists via SMS will bring confusion because there are many vehicles on the Zambian roads that are driven by third parties, rather than absolute owners whose phone contacts may be on the RTSA database.

And even assuming that the erring motorist is the absolute owner of the vehicle, there is no law that states that to drive a car in Zambia, you must own a cell phone, let alone, an active SIM card, to which RTSA can send the speeding ticket notification.

This, plus many more implementation technicalities need to be rectified as a matter of urgency before motorists start to get inconvenienced when going to renew their vehicle documents. Otherwise, anyone who has witnessed the reduced speed on the major Highways in Lusaka can attest to the fact that Zambians have accepted this move.

But when President Lungu says Zambians have accepted the 30 ngwee charge on WhatsApp and Internet calling, we wonder which citizens our Head of State is referring to. Who has accepted this charge? His family and his Cabinet Ministers or the taxpayers?

What President Lungu is doing is called bullying not leading. Can the President point to a single sector in the country that has accepted this criminal policy? Cell phone subscribers have protested the move, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has rejected it, the Centre for Trade Policy and Development wants the move reversed, Transparency International Zambia says it’s illegal; even the leadership of the state owned Policy Monitoring and Research Center has condemned the decision, not to mention the opposition political parties. So which Zambians have accepted the policy for President Lungu to say ‘that case is closed and the decision is final?’

We know that the government is completely broke. We have seen that all of a sudden, they have remembered that university students owe them bursary loans and they want that money repaid with immediate effect starting this September month end. We have seen that they are now desperately selling vehicles at a loss after buying them at staggering prices in bulk. We have seen that civil servants are being denied their rights to commute leave days, meaning that it will be impossible for those who have been retired to get their leave benefits.

All those desperate measures point to one word; “broke”. But this is no good way of treating citizens. It’s outright dictatorship for President Lungu to bully his way into citizens’ pockets, without even giving satisfactory reasons for collecting taxes.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions around this issue which the government has failed to answer. Even ZICTA itself has not been furnished with adequate information regarding this policy to enable them explain to the people how it will be implemented.

We asked ZICTA the other week to explain who would be paying the 30 ngwee between the initiator of the call and the recipient, their response was that they had not been given details of the policy and as such, they don’t know.

Anyway, PF is lucky that Zambians have the tendency of accepting stupidity. They see stupid leaders making stupid decisions and all they can do is make stupid jokes out of the nonsense; and then when that stupidity starts to reflect in the country’s economy, they start praying to God for solutions.

         

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