The former ruling party, the Patriotic Front(PF), has said that they are glad to hear that President Hakainde Hichilema has come out of what the party termed as self-imposed seclusion to address the nation via a press briefing.
In a statement released to the media yesterday, PF acting Secretary-General Nickson Chilangwa said that the party hoped that today’s press conference will not be another motivational talk show aimed at self-praise and bragging at a time that our people have lost hope in the capacity and sincerity of this Government to deliver any meaningful change.
PF said that they expect the high cost of living, corruption and the erosion of public trust, the KCM and Milino Saga and the continued caderism in the country.
Below is the full statement
HAKAINDE HICHILEMA’S PRESS BRIEFING
24th April, 2022
We are glad to hear that President Hakainde Hichilema has finally decided to come out of his self-imposed seclusion and will tomorrow address the nation via a press briefing. Mr. Hichilema on several occasions boasted that he would regularly be holding press briefings to update Zambians on pertinent national issues. In fact, after his first and second international trips in August and September of last year, Mr Hichilema held two press briefings at which he spent over four (4) hours praising himself and boasting on how he met President Biden at the White House. However, after that he went into seclusion, leaving the people wondering whether or not he is aware or let alone cared about the many agonising economic challenges that our people are going through.
We sincerely hope that tomorrow’s press briefing will not be another motivational talk-show aimed at self-praise and bragging at a time that our people have lost hope in the capacity and sincerity of this Government to deliver any meaningful change.
We ask the President to comprehensively and HONESTLY address the following issues in his address tomorrow:
1. HIGH COST OF LIVING
The cost of living has continued to escalate since Mr. Hichilema and the UPND came into power contrary to the promise he gave Zambians that once elected, the cost of living and the cost of doing business will go down. He promised the people that mealie meal will be K50 per 25 kg bag from around K114; today a 25kg bag is selling around K150; the price of fuel has jumped from K17 to K26, the price of fertiliser has jumped from K650 to as high as K1000 a bag in some places. Conversely, prices of all essential goods and services have either doubled or tripled. This situation is putting enormous stress on our people and must urgently be addressed.
We hope that tomorrow m, Mr. Hichilema will give a clear road map of practical measures his Government is putting in place to arrest the sky-rocketing prices of goods and services.
2. CORRUPTION AND EROSION OF PUBLIC TRUST
Mr Hichilema has gone to the moon accusing the Patriotic Front (PF) of being corrupt. In fact, he has been presenting himself and his party as saints who can do no wrong. However, after eight (months in Government, the UPND regime is struggling to cleanse itself from the many scandals that its top leadership has found itself embroidered in. From the scandalous procurement of exorbitant fertiliser through a single-sourced deal with one of the friends of the President, the embarrassing Hon. Kakubo Calendar and Pen Saga at Sinoma to the Milingo Gate Scandal, the UPND has continued to erode public confidence in their so-called fight against corruption.
All that the UPND has been doing is to accuse the Patriotic Front leadership of being corrupt without convicting anyone of the said corruption. This is a carefully calculated UPND strategy to paint the PF black and use that negative perception to try to annihilate the PF from the political space.
It is our hope that tomorrow the President will address the numerous accusations of corruption within his own government. We hope that tomorrow, he will demonstrate courage and leadership by axing his Ministers and other senior State House and Government officials who have been accused of corruption.
3. THE MILINGO SAGA
If there is a scandal that has angered and shocked Zambians this far, is the Milingo Saga. The President and State House have been caught in a web of accusations of lies, illegalities and inappropriate behaviour.
The President and his Government have laboured in vain in a desperate but futile attempt to try to cleanse themselves of this alleged scam but the more they try to exculpate themselves, the more unbelievable and hypocritical their defence sounds. We want to make it categorically clear that we don’t want to hear the President in tomorrow’s press briefing saying that he has not given Mr. Milingo Lungu IMMUNITY from prosecution, NO! Article 180 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia is very clear, it is only the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who has the authority to discontinue any criminal case before a court of law. The President has no authority whatsoever under our law to give anyone immunity from prosecution so the story of whether he gave Milingo immunity or not is null and void and is not even the issue that Zambians are asking about. The issue here is whether or not the President or his staff at Stare House met Milingo. That is the elephant in the room, not the issue of him giving Milingo immunity, that is purely the preserve of the DPP, the President has no such powers.
We therefore challenge the President, tomorrow to:
a) Show proof that neither him nor his staff at State House met Milingo.
b) If indeed they did not meet Milingo, we challenge the President and his Government to sue Milingo for giving false testimony in the court of law contrary to our laws.
c) If the President is serious with the fight against corruption, we challenge him to axe his staff and officials that have been named in corrupt and fraudulent deals.
We know that they are using the DPP as a scapegoat and a sacrificial lamb now that they have been caught and exposed in their scheme; this is why they are pushing for her removal from office on baseless and unfounded accusations.
4. THE KCM-VEDANTA SAGA
We are aware that the reason why State House had been meeting Milingo was to persuade him to resign as KCM liquidator so that the UPND Government could appoint their own preferred liquidator with the aim of giving back KCM to VEDANTA. We are equally aware that senior representatives of Vedanta are in the country, in fact they have been here since March.
Tomorrow, we expect President Hichilema to come clean on the issue of KCM; is the UPND planning or negotiating to give KCM back to Vedanta? Can the President give a clear answer on this issue, tomorrow.
6. DETERIORATING SECURITY SITUATION AND THE RISING CRIME RATE IN THE COUNTRY
In the last few months, we have witnessed a deteriorating general security situation and a rise in the crime rate. The number of people whose houses, shops, cars are being broken into on a daily basis has seriously risen. The number of people who are being robbed of phones, laptops and other valuables in a smash-and-grab criminal style is on the rise.
In short, the general security situation in the country has deteriorated with serious and daring crimes such as the reported kidnapping of our dear sister Pamela Chisumpa being reported.
We hope that tomorrow, Mr. Hichilema will address this issue and that he will spell out clear strategies and mechanisms that his Government is putting in place to address the deteriorating security breaches in our country.
7. CADERISM, INSULTS AND THREATS BY UPND MEMBERS
One of the commitments Mr. Hichilema made to the Zambian people was that he would end the culture of caderism, a culture that most of our people detest and abhor. In fact the UPND have been bragging that they have ended the ugly culture of caderism.
However, contrary to all those fake claims, the reality on the ground is that caderism has worsened and taken a new form altogether in some cases. For instance instead of the open extortion and harassment of bus drivers, taxi drivers, marketeers and booth operators that was the case in the past, the UPND have devised a secret but ruthless system to extort and harass marketeers and drivers among others. For instance in November last year it had to take the Lusaka Magistrates Court to order the UPND cadres to allow all suspected Patriotic Front bus drivers who were chased from Kulima Tower Bus Station to start operating without any interference or harassment.
Last Friday, the Lusaka Central Business District (CBD) was engulfed in riots when the UPND cadres ran amok after the Lusaka City Council decided to move in and remove forcibly them from Intercity were they have been extorting money from drivers, marketeers and others business operators.
In January this year, UPND cadres stormed the office of Kasama District Administrative Officer, madam Beauty Namukoko and savagely beat her after accusing her of failing to give UPND cadres empowerment funds. Council Police who tried to stop the violent assault were also assaulted.
Further, we have continued to see videos that have gone viral on social media were UPND cadres are insulting and openly threatening to beat and kill anyone who is criticising the President.
We have seen UPND cadres threatening and marching against the DPP, in an attempt to bully her into resignation.
Three weeks ago, Copperbelt Minister, Elisha Matambo threatened to assault and tie with wires anyone who criticises President Hichilema.
The President and the entire UPND leadership have neither condemned nor acted on all these threats and violent acts by their cadres. In their usual fashion they have opted to pay a blind eye to the unbecoming behaviour of their cadres.
We challenge the President to show leadership tomorrow and act on his cadres before things completely get out of hand.
8. PAYMENT OF SUPPLIERS AND CONTRACTORS
Since August, 2021, the UPND Government has not paid local Suppliers and Contractors the money they owe them for the goods and services they have been rendering to Government. This has adversely affected local businesses as it has continued to starve them of the necessary liquidity and fiscal space that they need to continue operating their businesses. A lot of businesses have either closed or downsized their operations and workforce due to lack of funds to operate at full capacity. The action by this Government not to pay local suppliers and contractors has worsened the unemployment and poverty levels in the country.
It is horrifying that a President who claims to be an economist in a country that is grappling with high youth unemployment can instruct his government not to pay local businesses what is duly owed to them. Why is the UPND killing our own local businesses but fully propping foreign companies by paying them promptly and giving them huge contracts such as the supply of poles to ZESCO at colossal amounts? Why is this President working against our local businesses? Why?
It is our expectation that tomorrow, the President will direct the Ministry of Finance and all other Ministries to start liquidating the colossal sums of money owed to our local suppliers and contractors.
9. TAX HOLIDAYS FOR THE MINES
It is ironic that this Government is trotting to and from New York everyday pleading for a 1.4 Billion Dollars IMF bailout when it could easily raise in excess of 1.6 Billion Dollars from mining taxes alone. It beats logic that a Government that is struggling to raise revenue and service debt has given tax holidays to foreign mining companies at the expense of local businesses. This is yet another testament that President Hichilema is a puppet of the Western capitalists who have been financing UPND for the last 23 years. He has no interest for Zambia, all he cares about is the welfare of the western capitalist friends of his.
We challenge the President to give tax relief to local businesses, this is the only sure way to grow the private sector and create jobs. Foreign mining companies are externalising most if not all their profits thus creating jobs and businesses in their countries while leaving nothing but craters and pollution in Zambia.
Lastly we challenge the President and his Government to come up with a clear economic plan that will address the rising cost of living, the rising cost of doing business and ensure that the private sector thrives in order to create jobs and business opportunities for our women and youths.
I thank you.
Hon. Nickson Chilangwa, MP, MCC, AIH
Acting Secretary General