In 2011 before the PF formed government, the exchange rate was around K7,000 to a dollar (K7 rebased). External total debt was at US$3.5 billion. The PF went to the people of Zambia and said “the country’s economy is in a mess; vote for us, we can fix this”. They put reducing the exchange rate, external debt, lowering taxes and putting more money into people’s pockets on their campaign agenda.
By committing to do this, the PF signed a social contract with the voters, the people of Zambia. This is the reason why the citizens of this country moved en masse to vote out the MMD government of Rupiah Banda on September 20, 2011.
We are here not to insult the Patriotic Front but to remind them that statistics don’t lie. The people of Zambia know how much the price of mealie meal was before PF formed government, they know what the exchange rate was, they know where the external debt stood.
Now, the PF wants to be re-elected in 2021. We are saying, there is no problem with that wish. They have every right to seek a fresh mandate to continue governing. But we are asking them to join us as we look at the issues, the statistics and records of what they have done since they formed government.
You people set your own deliverables and targets to meet, not once but three times. In 2011, in 2015 and in 2016. If we consider Mr Rupiah Banda as a benchmark, how do you rate yourselves against that? Whatever economic crisis we had with the MMD government, you promised that you would do better. So the people gave you an opportunity in 2011, 2015 and 2016. You have been in power for nine years so far. What is your achievement?
Don’t tell us about the roads; those don’t have a direct impact on a university graduate who has no use for his or her degree because there are no jobs in the industries. If you point at the roads, we will also remind you that the roads are from borrowed money, an accumulation of which has brought us to the US$11.2 billion external debt.
If a parent buys shoes for a school-going child for the first time using borrowed money, that cannot be called an achievement, you cannot brag about that. It’s different if you generated income from other means of production. These roads which are still being built have not been paid for, future generations will find us still struggling to clear these loans. Can that be cause for celebration? We don’t think so.
So, without the roads, the question remains unanswered: what has the PF done in nine years to deserve a fresh mandate for ruling this country? We are asking the PF again, why do you want another five years in power?
After 20 years of power, Zambians kicked out MMD because PF convinced them that things would be far better. Are we better at $11.2 billion external debt level? Are imports cheaper at an exchange rate of K15 to a dollar? Are citizens happy with the current inflation rate? Do the youths have more money in their pockets?
To us, this is failure to honour a social contract for governance. Now the Mines Minister likes giving this example when talking about a mining investor called Vedanta Resources whom the government has chased for failing to honour promises. Honourable Musukwa says the company has lost its social contract because they kept making false promises about injecting capital.
How different is the PF from the investor whom they chased from Konkola Copper Mines? To us, Vedanta is actually excusable because that is a private entity. If Vedanta failed, as Minister Musukwa claims, then they failed because government failed to supervise and monitor their activities. If there was a degeneration of production, government allowed it! You can’t turn around and act as if the mine was operating in Congo. If they were not paying taxes, where were you?
Whatever their shortcomings, investors need the protection of government. You cannot be in the forefront of inciting the public to say ‘this company has breached the operating social contract and as such, they will be harmed if they come back’, who told you that? Which miner in Chingola or Chililabombwe said “we want to kill investors who have aggrieved us?” If an investor has done wrong, you take them to court and if found wanting, you can punish them appropriately. But you cannot engage in threats and extra judicial activities.
We are saying to PF that unlike Vedanta, you got elected by the people of Zambia, you are not a private company free to do as you please. You asked for the votes from people and they gave you the mandate to rule, now the people have the right to ask you for a performance appraisal.
Don’t point fingers at investors, you have failed the people of Zambia by lying and stealing from them, you have lost the social contract to govern.