Thursday, March 13, 2008
By Lambwe Kachali and Mwala Kalaluka
Thursday March 13, 2008 [03:00]
MMD members of parliament and some national executive committee (NEC) members on Tuesday differed with President Levy Mwanawasa during a caucus meeting at State House over the administration and implementation of youth and women empowerment funds through the Citizens Economic Empowerment (CEE) Act. And former lands minister Judith Kapijimpanga fumed at State House security personnel after they blocked her from driving into State House premises using her personal vehicle.
MMD sources disclosed yesterday that that MMD MPs and NEC members expressed concern over intentions by the government to administer the Youth Empowerment and Women Empowerment funds under the CEE.
The source said some members argued that the transfer of such funds would disadvantage the rural youths and the womenfolk, as they would not be able to meet the required conditionalities attached in accessing the money.
The sources said some members of parliament indicated that the step that the government had taken on the funds had the potential to worsen the poverty situation in rural areas.
The source said upon realising that the issue was getting hot, President Mwanawasa said it was not right for NEC and members of parliament to fight the government. The sources said the members told President Mwanawasa that it was not a question of fighting the government but a question of ensuring that the national cake was equally shared among Zambians.
“They said that the way things stand, the rich will become richer and the poor, most of whom are rural dwellers, will become poorer. What criteria will be used to access this fund taking into account that the Act itself is not clear? This was their argument and they wanted proper clarification from the President. But to our surprise, the President thought they are fighting the government,” the source said.
The sources further said they were servants of the people in their respective constituencies and were in dire need of accessing those funds.
It took the members more than 45 minutes arguing and stressing their points to convince President Mwanawasa.
When they failed to reach a compromise, President Mwanawasa declared a division and called for a vote. The source said after considering the impression that might have been created to vote against the President, some members unwillingly voted in favour of President Mwanawasa’s wish.
“You know, you cannot bite a finger that feeds you. Even when all of us were raising our hands up, we still did not agree with the President,” the source said.
And another source said the other issue on the agenda was the revision of the road user fees proposed by RTSA.
The source said it was resolved that the public should be consulted before the Statutory Instrument was signed.
And Kapijimpanga, who went to attend the caucus meeting was told to park her car in the general car park outside State House, as ministers and deputy ministers were ushered in through the main gate after screening. Kapijimpanga, who is MMD chairperson for lands, obliged with the security officers’ advice and parked her car in the general car park.
She was later joined by another NEC official who wanted to know why only those who had flag-flying vehicles were allowed to drive into State House.
“So does it mean that these with flags are more important than NEC members who are the supporters of the party?” the unidentified NEC member asked the security officers.
Kapijimpanga and her colleague, however, went into State House but returned shortly after seeing that another NEC member by the name of Munkole was allowed to drive through the main gate despite him not being a minister or deputy minister.
The duo confronted one of the security officers and asked him why Munkole had been allowed to drive in when they were blocked from doing that.
“I have been a minister; I have been a deputy minister and why are you treating me like this?” Kapijimpanga asked the security officer, who responded that Munkole told them that he was a ‘honourable’.
Kapijimpanga said Munkole was not a ‘honourable’ and that he had just joined the ruling party NEC a few weeks ago.
“Actually, I demand an apology from you because you have treated me like a street pushover,” said Kapijimpanga. “When you set standards, they have to be levelled. I am going to drive in because I was also a minister and deputy minister.”