Earlier this week, President Edgar Lungu commissioned a toll plaza worth US $4.3 million or K50 million on the Ndola-Kitwe Highway, which he named after former president Michael Sata. To those in the PF, this is another milestone in the development of road infrastructure and they would like all Zambians to treat it as such. But several things are wrong about this particular development because a number of things don’t just add up.
Firstly, we would like to agree with Honourable Chishimba Kambwili who says President Lungu showed a high level of unkindness to his predecessor and founding father of the ruling Patriotic Front by naming a levy collection facility after the man who was against taxes. Surely, those who still doubt that President Lungu and Michael Sata have nothing in common must have chosen to close their eyes to what is going on. Anyone who knew Michael Sata would have to say that he would never have accepted to be associated with schemes that are meant to defraud the people, in a manner that President Lungu is doing.
We are not here to exhort late president Michael Sata as an angel. Maybe, where he is today, he is an angel, but when he lived among us, on earth, he was not. He had many faults and failings. But one thing you could never accuse. He was one who wanted to find simple solutions to even complex problems. Michael Sata would definitely not have loved to be associated with the tollgate scandal, which President Lungu was blessing this week.
President Sata was never happy that the few who are employed were being overtaxed, while foreigners were plundering the wealth of the country. That is why he campaigned on the theme of lower taxes. He was not concerned about lower taxes for big companies; it was about the poor Zambians. This is why he didn’t always have very good things to say about the Chinese. But it is not only the Chinese who are plundering resources, while the poor Zambians are being overtaxed. The mining companies in this country don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Many of these companies have made corrupt relationships with our politicians. But that is a discussion for another day.
Today, we are talking about the four pillars, a few roofing sheets and a concrete slab, which have cost us K50 million. Dear readers, you don’t have to be a civil engineer or a quantity surveyor to know that that is corruption. Not long from now, President Lungu will be asking those with corruption evidence to come forward, yet when he was commissioning that toll plaza, he was visiting a crime scene. The man was literally standing on corruption. As he jumped in one of those booths to collect tolls from the poor motorists, he was meddling in a corruption scandal.
The explanation from his Infrastructure Development Minister Honourable Ronald Chitotela that there is a lot of sophisticated equipment installed in those booths is simply nonsense! Look around Lusaka, Honourable Chitotela, and point us at a house that is worth US 4.3 million, then we compare the features. In fact, it will take him a long time to find a house that was constructed at that cost in the Capital City. So, President Lungu and his inner circle are just taking Zambians for granted, and this is not correct.
Getting back to the naming of that corruption scandal after Mr Sata, we have to ask ourselves the question; why did President Lungu find it necessary to name those four pillars, a few roofing sheets and a concrete slab after Mr Sata? Even if there was no corruption involved and the cost of erecting those four pillars, putting a few roofing sheets a slab was acceptable, there was no justification for naming it after Michael Sata, a man who promised lower taxes; more money in your pockets. This is an insult to a man who literally saved Mr Lungu’s life by winning the 2011 elections and giving him a ministerial job! If President Lungu is not grateful to president Sata for what he did for him, it was better to just let the laying man stay asleep, because at the rate we are going, it will not surprise us when they start naming public toilets after him.
The reason why public buildings and other infrastructure are named after deceased leaders and other notable statesmen and women is to honour their memory and engrave what they stood for. In other words, a structure named after an individual becomes more or less a monument of that particular individual. What is President Lungu telling us about what he thinks of Michael Sata with those four pillars, a few roofing sheets and a concrete slab?
Such disrespect for others is very unfortunate, especially when it is being portrayed by those who are accidentally benefiting from Mr Sata’s sweat. As the Bembas would say: “Kwena abafwa nga balabwela, katwishi!” Meaning that if the dead would come and see what is being done in their names, heads would roll! We can only imagine what Mr Sata would say if he would come back.
But the problem with those four pillars, a few roofing sheets and a concrete slab, is not only that they have been named after Mr Sata. What is more worrying is the shamelessness of glorifying the abuse of public recourses. How can a President of a poor country like ours, brag that he will continue borrowing money to waste in this manner that we are seeing at that crime scene? What is the justification for this impunity?
Instead of going to celebrate those four pillars, a few roofing sheets and a concrete slab, we would expect that heads would be rolling. But we are not surprised, those four pillars few roofing sheets and a concrete slab are joining a long list of shameful public scandals that don’t seem to concern President Lungu at all. We had the US $1 million fire tenders, which a minister discredited as wheelbarrows; there was the ambulances that cost US $288,000; we have the US $1.3 billion Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway, which will gobble US $1.3 billion; the Digital Migration scandal that gobbled US $273 million; the presidential jet at US $140 million. What about the solar hammer mills? Where are the 2,000 solar hammer mills, which we bought at US $200 million? We were told that the price of mealie meal would reduce, why is it increasing?
President Lungu should learn from our history. There is nothing that unites our people more than corruption. That is the fight that every Zambian understands very well. Every president who has thought that the Zambian people are docile and don’t understand corruption, has come to a bad ending! We would also beg President Lungu not to associate his benefactor president Sata with his government’s public scandals. If they have nothing to name after Michael Sata, they should leave him alone.