We have observed for some time now that opposition MPs are not proactive. They are not doing the job which Zambians expect them to do – which is to take action and stop government from getting away with the numerous wrong deeds. Instead, what we have seen is an absolute reliance on their party leaders; the MPs themselves are frankly shelved in docility. Those that are active fight their battles on Facebook or through press statements, but do very little to protect the Constitution of Zambia.
For the past two years, this country has been engaged in endless debates regarding the amounts of debt that we have accumulated as a nation. All it takes is one opposition member of parliament to go to court and ask the Constitutional Court for a declaration that all loans signed after January 6, 2016 (after President Lungu assented to the new Constitution) are illegal because Parliament did not approve. We have heard the chief government spokesperson on record saying that provision of the law is being ignored because it is unsustainable, but it is their own Constitution.
Why are the opposition MPs letting the PF get away with this abrogation of the law? We would have thought that by now, somebody who is keen on protecting the Constitution would have put the Constitutional Court on the spotlight to make a ruling on that irregularity. But there is silence. Why? Is the UPND treating this issue with kid gloves because they also want to come and abrogate the same law if and when they form government? We don’t understand. It’s like they can’t think on their own unless their party president tells them what to do.
As we speak, the PF is rushing to amend this Constitution again and clean that mess because they know that they have piles of illegal loans stacked in the Treasury. Lenders are telling them that ‘you have to legalize these loans; otherwise the money we have given you will be declared illegal according to your Constitution’.
The lenders are the ones who are pressurizing the PF government to do the right thing and clean up the mess because they fear that if the law is not changed, they risk having disputed debt. PF have no option but to do as the lenders are asking because they have chewed kickbacks from these loans.
Meanwhile, PF wants to sale off Indeni and ZAFFICO shares among other lucrative parastatals, but the Constitution says you can’t do that unless Parliament approves. So the PF is in a fix; they need liquidity but they can’t sell ZCCM, ZAFFICO or INDENI shares because the buyers are telling them that there is this provision in your Constitution which will give us problems in future.
Zambians and their opposition MPs are in slumber, but the lenders and potential buyers of parastatal shares are mounting pressure on government to do the right thing. The Chinese have read the Zambian Constitution and all those who are lending money to Zambia are concerned that they are engaging in illegal deals with this country because they know Parliament has not consented to their deeds.
This, in our view, is what the opposition is supposed to be doing. You can’t have a Minister of Finance sleeping through a Constitution mending process and the opposition leadership ends at making Facebook postings and forget. We feel we don’t have a caring government in place, but we also don’t have a vibrant opposition that is capable of keeping this disgruntled regime on its toes.
And talking about the sleepiness of the opposition, we urge the UPND, which is the biggest opposition, to look at the actions of the PF government with critical eyes. With all its weaknesses the PF is far more advanced in political scheming and manipulation. That is why even with the way the economy has collapsed, even with the way they have plunged citizens into misery, they still stand a much higher chance of winning the 2021 general elections. They are shrewd and we have to give it to them.
When we look at the resolutions made by the National Dialogue Forum for example, we have every reason to suspect that the proposal to bring back deputy ministers is a plot to weaken the UPND in Parliament. Right now, PF knows that there are no rebel MPs from the opposition party that they can rely on to pass their ill motivated laws; they don’t have the two thirds majority in the House. This is the reason why, against the desire of all the citizens of Zambia, the PF has gone ahead to call deputy ministers back.
Ironically, the UPND leadership is laughing at this proposal, assuring the nation that there is no way the party will support the proposed amendment, but what they don’t see is that a carrot has been built and embedded in this very document.
This issue of deputy ministers is a well calculated move targeted at buying UPND members of parliament to make the required two thirds majority in Parliament. They want to dangle this to the opposition MPS and say ‘if you help us pass this document, we will appoint you minister’. That’s what the PF is doing in our view, and we can’t find any other reason for them to make such an unpopular move. They are looking for the Richwell Siamunenes and the Greyford Mondes to entice, and there is a high likelihood that all the disgruntled UPND lawmakers may vote “yes” to get government jobs.
Deputy Minister positions have always been used to weaken the opposition and to expand the reservoir of bootlickers. They have never really been used for anything progressive. Even Michael Sata did the same thing, that was the tool he used to get into Mr Hakainde Hichilema’s bedroom or stronghold if you like. The MPs are vulnerable because they know that come next general election, they may not be re-adopted, so they want to make the most out of their time in Parliament, and as such a deputy ministerial position tends to be quite irresistible.
Like we said, the PF is shrewd, and they can actually go to the extent of writing appointment letters in advance, just to assure the UPND MPs that “once you vote for the NDF Constitution, you immediately get the job, and remember they only need a few UPND votes to get away with the evil NDF resolutions that you have been laughing at. Open your eyes Aisha, PF is coming for you!