It is painful when your most reliable defender in a game of soccer scores an own goal. Whenever this happens, it hurts other players so much and takes away their morale to overcome the opponent, but there is no player who gets more disturbed than the scorer of the own goal himself. Under normal circumstances, this player strives to make up for his mistake and if lucky, his efforts may produce a winning goal. This is why an experienced coach doesn’t rush to substitute the erring defender.

But a player who scores own goals in almost every match doesn’t deserve to even be on the bench. No matter how reputable he was at one point of his career, there comes a time when you have to declare him a liability. Only a foolish coach keeps such a defender in the game and watches while the whole team sinks into relegation.

We have such a player in President Edgar Lungu’s Cabinet, and her name is Honourable Margaret Dudu Mwanakatwe, otherwise known to her fans as Aunty Dizzy. Make no mistake, Dudu didn’t get into this club by patronage, she earned a serious reputation when she played for the banks. So, the expectation from the rest of the country was quite high. We expected solutions to our problems.

Unfortunately, Dudu’s game is over. She can’t keep a clean sheet anymore. Somehow, she keeps scoring own goals, much to the annoyance of other players who are trying their best to deliver according to expectations. There is no reason for keeping this player on the bench, let alone the field; she is a clear liability and needs to be substituted immediately!

But for whatever reason, coach Lungu is so much in love with her, such that even when the game has now taken us to penalty shootouts, he is entrusting her with the responsibility of taking the last spot-kick for Zambia. How does coach Lungu expect Dudu to win it for us when she is actually the reason why we are trailing?

We couldn’t help but shake our heads in disbelief when we heard the latest austerity measures announced by the Finance Minister, which are basically copy and paste of the measures she announced exactly a year ago, but failed to implement.

“We have cancelled some existing loans, banned the issuance of letters of credit and guarantees to State-owned enterprises, terminated financing of development project that are below 80 per cent completion and cut down on ministerial travels with immediate effect,” declared Dudu on June 15, 2018.

And on May 28, 2019, Dudu repeated herself: “We will indefinitely postpone the contraction of all new non-concessional loans in the intervening period; to cancel some signed, but undisbursed loans. Cabinet also directed that no Ministry, Province, or Spending Agency should contract goods and services without availability of funds even if it is budgeted for to stop the accumulation of arrears. To this effect, the Treasury was directed to issue strict guidelines on the matter.”

Seriously, the only difference in the two statements is that this week, the Minister of Finance was further declaring that her 2019 budget has failed. That’s what it means when Dudu says no spending agency must contract goods and services without cash in the hands, even if the required goods were budgeted for. To simplify it further, government is saying if the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has not received an allocation of cash for medical supplies, Medical Stores Ltd should not accept drugs from suppliers, and hospitals shall have no drugs.

These are the ingenuous resolutions agreed by a special Cabinet meeting on the economy of Zambia, led by this dependable player called Dudu. These experts declared that Zambia’s GDP growth prospects will be restored on an upward trajectory in 2019 at the same time when Zesco is announcing resumption of load shedding, which will wipe out 50 per cent of small-scale businesses.

Let’s face it, Dudu has failed! President Lungu needs to know that the confidence of our country is no longer in the economy, but in Mwanakatwe herself as an individual. Zambia has become unattractive because of Dudu’s poor performance, and only a foolish coach can fail to see this. We would be shocked if there are ministers in President Lungu’s Cabinet who have confidence in the Minister of Finance. The sad part is that the coach is not interested to hear any criticism of his beloved Dudu, for whatever clandestine reasons.

President Lungu and his Finance Minister are sinking us to the bottom of the sea. But he must know that if he can’t substitute Dudu, the Zambian people, who own this club, will have no option but to fire him as an incompetent coach! Keeping a liability in Cabinet, especially one in charge of the Treasury, will lead to a great fall of the great leader.