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PRESS RELEASE: Fight Inequality Alliance ZAMBIA EXPECTATIONS OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT

26 August 2021

The Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia would like to congratulate His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema for his successful inauguration as Zambia’s 7th Republican President and Her honor Mrs. Mutale Nalumango as the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia. The Zambian people have elected a government that they expect will serve the Zambian people diligently and deliver on their campaign promises outlined in their United Party for National Development (UPND) manifesto.

We as Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia are energised and ready to continuously engage and demand for accountability from the incoming UPND government to ensure the aspirations of the Zambian people, especially women and youth, are met. We urgently need to make fundamental progress in fighting inequality in Zambia and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, men and women, urban and rural Zambians and our youth. The inequality gap has widened to dangerous levels in the last decade, with the country’s wealth being held by a few individuals and rich corporations, whilst life has hardened for the majority.

Although the inauguration was a day to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power and reaffirm our constitutional democracy, we do not for a moment lose sight of the huge changes needed to our economy and society for us to have an equal, just and sustainable Zambia. The new President comes into office during the Covid-19 pandemic, with an ailing economy, a fractured society and the need for accountability for human rights violations and rampant corruption that has taken place. Our vision is for a society where everyone can live a life of dignity, and we will not stop in our work for it. Our role as Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia will be to organise and hold the government accountable for driving changes in the following areas as we advance the fight against inequality:

Fight Against Corruption

Zambia is ready to move from cosmetic quick fixes to fundamental changes in the fight against corruption and this involves an empowered and independent Anti-Corruption Commission. We expect to see a zero tolerance culture to corruption and anyone found guilty being punished in accordance with the law. Corruption is a big driver of inequality as money stolen through corruption is robbing Zambians of their right to universal public services such as health, education, housing, water and sanitation. We also expect to see justice and accountability for all the resources that have been mismanaged in the previous regime. For example, we demand answers for the purchase of expired medical supplies by the Ministry of Health ( honeybee scandal), the purchase of refurbished 42 fire trucks at a cost $42 million, the ownership of 48 houses suspected to be from the proceeds of crime, the various extra judicial killings witnessed.

Further we expect absolute independence and strengthening of key governance and watchdog institutions such as the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), Finance Intelligence Centre (FIC), the Judiciary, Zambia Police, Office of the Public Protector and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

We need to see transparency and accountability in procurement processes and development undertaking.

Debt Cancellation

Zambia’s external debt has risen dramatically since 2012 and the debt problem has only gotten worse in the years that followed with the country becoming the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is currently still unclear how much Zambia’s debt currently stands at as the government places the current external debt at USD17 billion while World Bank estimates show that Zambia external debt stands at USD27 billion. We therefore call upon the new government to undertake a public debt audit in order to establish the scale and nature of Zambia's current public debt in order to initiate the debt restructuring process. We further implore the new government to push for the cancellation of unpayable external debt in order to avert the temptation to use incoming funds on debt repayments instead of social service expenditure. We expect complete transparency and accountability in relation to Zambia’s debt going forward.

Tax the Rich

Over the past few years in Zambia, the richest individuals and corporations got richer while the rest of the country struggled to put food on their tables. Zambia has continued to lose much needed revenue due to inconsistent tax policies that govern the multinational companies. It's time the rich started paying their fair share of taxes. The poorest Zambians, as well as small medium enterprises need to pay less.

We call upon the new government to undertake an inclusive public policy reform in the use of mining/copper revenues to reduce poverty and inequality especially in mining towns which are worst affected by mining activities. We demand that mining companies pay their fair share of taxes.

Youth Empowerment and Job Creation

Despite the youth being the majority, our youth are highly marginalised with limited job opportunities and resources to advance their livelihoods and live to their full potential. They also remain excluded in decision making spaces and have little participation in policy formulation processes which leaves their needs unattended. However, the “First Time Voters”, youth and women are highly expectant that there will be massive job creation and a conducive environment for quality and equal youth empowerment and other opportunities. We therefore call on the government to create equal opportunities in terms of employment and empowerment for all young people and women in the country minus focusing on one’s ties to the ruling party, ethnicity or gender.

We also want to take this opportunity to request the new government to take a look at the demands raised by young people in the youth charter on 25th June, 2020 and ensure that those demands are taken into consideration and acted upon.

GENDER EQUALITY

We further call upon the new government to make deliberate efforts to appoint women into key decision making positions in order to advance gender equality. We are alive to the fact that only 20 out of the 150 elected members of parliament are women, we therefore expect to see more women nominated into the national assembly. Furthermore, we recognise that women bear most of the burden for unpaid care work, spending several hours a day. There is a need to recognise unpaid care work and its impact on those most affected and find means to reduce and redistribute it. We therefore call on the new government to invest in care in order to enable women to achieve their aspirations.

End Tribalism and Unite the Country

Time has come for Zambia to re-unite and live as one people as envisaged by our founding fathers under the banner of “One Zambia One Nation”. Over the recent past, Zambia has seen massive exclusion of citizens based on the region they come from, with some regions getting limited access to national development, jobs/promotions in the civil service and public resources. We have also seen a rise in hate speech which had been tolerated by the previous regime. This has left the country hugely divided. We are, however, optimistic of Zambia emerging from the current divided environment and regionalism as fueled and encouraged in the recent past. This will mean your government instills peace and unity as well as ensures equitable allocation of resources and developmental projects and other socioeconomic opportunities.

Open up the Civic Space

Zambia has seen massive shrinking of the civic space over the last 5-7 years with any CSOs, individuals or activists that tried to offer checks and balances intimidated or worse by the police or cadres, maligned as being ‘aligned’ with the opposition and excluded from any opportunities to engage with the government. We also saw a complete blackout of any such individuals or entities from state media or empowerment opportunities. Human rights were blatantly violated while abusing the Public Order Act, denying us our freedom of expression and assembly. We also witnessed a rising number of extra judicial killings and a sudden militarisation of political party cadres while violence and abuse (both verbal and physical) of anyone seen to be opposing the government was on the rise.

The new government must operate using a human rights based approach while promoting such rights as the freedom of assembly and expression. The formation of the new government is an opportunity to repeal the oppressive Public Order Act and bring to a complete stop extra judicial killings and unnecessary loss of lives. We expect to see an environment where Civil Society is active, vocal and vibrant going forward and free to provide the much needed checks and balances without any intimidation. As a growing national movement we expect to play a vocal and visible part in shaping the future for our country that is equal, just and sustainable. We will continue to use our voice and collective power to create lives of dignity for us all.

Inclusive Budget

In the past 5 years, we have seen a reduction in percentage of the budget to inequality reducing sectors such as health, education and water and sanitation while the allocation to public order kept going up.

We expect going forward that the government will prioritise basic human rights in the 2022 budget and beyond in order to advance the fight against inequality. The nation’s budget is one of the key tools any government can use to fight inequality. We therefore insist that the budget process is more open to all Zambians in order to genuinely respond to people’s priorities. Engaging with the citizenry is not just an exercise for election campaigns, it must be ongoing for government.

We would like to wish H.E Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, Her Honour Mrs Mutale Nalumango and the rest of the new government the very best as they continue to build this great nation that we are all proud of.

 

Mwilima Lutangu Daisy

 

Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia National Coordinator fightinequalityzambia@gmail.com

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