Friday, December 05, 2008

PF planned demos are nonsensical – Rupiah

PF planned demos are nonsensical – Rupiah
Written by Patson Chilemba, Gillian Namungala and Gloria Siwisha
Friday, December 05, 2008 11:38:20 PM

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda yesterday described the planned Patriotic Front (PF) demonstrations over mealie-meal prices as nonsensical. But PF leader Michael Sata said President Banda is panicking because he made a lot of false promises to the people.

And senior chief Bright Nalubamba has said PF's continued threats to demonstrate over the escalating mealie-meal prices are a wake up call for the MMD government to re-examine its policies.

Speaking to journalists before leaving for Burundi where he had gone to attend an emergency one-day heads of state and government summit on the Burundi peace process, President Banda said there was no basis for PF's intended demonstrations.

"You know it's nonsense actually. Nowhere in the world do people solve problems by demonstrating. Every problem when it comes, you sit down and you talk. Somehow the Patriotic Front seems to think that the only way to solve problems is demonstrating. They look ridiculous for that," President Banda said. "There is no basis for it at all, and I think that the Zambian people have shown them that they are not interested in that."

But reacting to President Banda's statement, Sata said President Banda's false promises had now boomeranged.

He warned President Banda not to provoke PF because they were capable of repaying his words with actions.

"He should not think by denying us a permit, they will stop us from demonstrating. When we want the voice of the people to be heard, we shall go to the streets with or without a permit. Can you see what demonstrations can do? The prime minister of Thailand has resigned, and the courts were appointed by the same prime minister but the same court has banned the ruling party including the prime minister. And I hope our courts will emulate that," Sata said. "I'm pleased that his lordship the Chief Justice when he appealed to magistrates to dispose of cases quickly. Rupiah Banda should take it easy, keep cool; the busier the junction, the easier the job. And at the moment he does not need to compete with words because we can easily compete with him in action."

Sata said he respected Inspector General of Police Francis Kabonde and home affairs minister Kalombo Mwansa because they were gentlemen but that he would not take kindly to any daring from President Banda because there was still tension in the country.

On President Banda's usage of the word 'nonsensical', Sata said: "Rupiah Banda must start using sober words because we can use harsher words against him. Him, he's eating, the necktie that he's wearing is bought for him. That's why when we complain about fuel, fertiliser, he says it's nonsensical. He doesn't know the cost of mealie-meal."

On information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha's statement that President Banda did not promise to reduce fertiliser across the board, Sata said President Banda's government was feeling the impact of former finance minister Ng'andu Magande's absence.

He said Lt Gen Shikapwasha said Magande announced before the October 30 presidential elections that people on the Fertilizer Support Programme (FSP) would pay only 25 per cent and government would meet the other 75 per cent.

However, Sata said it was President Banda and not Magande who promised that civil servants would be getting subsidised fertiliser.

"I have had no respect for Shikapwasha and now as he has gone there [information ministry], he's even losing the small respect that he has," Sata said. "I cannot help my brother [President Banda] panic. He's panicking because he made a lot of false promises."

Sata also urged the Supreme Court to quickly set a date for the recount of ballots so that the issue of the disputed election could be put to rest once and for all.

And chief Nalubamba of the Ila people of Namwala said the demonstrations were a democratic right and created an avenue through which people could express disappointment or appreciation of the events in the country.

"If people can't reach you as a leader in government by way of appointment, then they must find another avenue through which they can deliver their demands or grievances. To me, peaceful demonstrations are nothing to be afraid of in a democratic country because they create an opportunity for current leaders to re-examine themselves," he said.

Chief Nalubamba said as a leader, President Banda should ask himself what he had not done and what he could do in order for the policies to be responsive to the needs of the people who elected him.

He said it was only after re-examining and researching on issues that answers would be found.

"The answer lies in the fact that we told the people the impossible, so leaders should be honorable enough and explain to the nation why they find it impossible to deliver their earlier promises," chief Nalubamba said. "There is no harm in apologising. As a leader you owe it to the people to explain the problem other than blanket or cheat them [that] you can deliver when in actual fact you cannot."

Chief Nalubamba also urged Sata not to feel shy to offer a solution to the escalating mealie meal prices, if he had one.

"The problem we have in this country is that the opposition wants to keep ideas to themselves and wait up until they form government to implement them. If they have the interests of the people at heart, let them offer solutions to save this country as they are also equal partners," he said.

Chief Nalubamba stressed the need for President Banda to engage Sata in active dialogue to find a solution to the country's economic problems.

Chief Nalubamba, who said President Banda could not afford to have enemies in a democracy, advised him to initiate dialogue with Sata if a solution to some of the current problems was to be found.

"Time has elapsed to continue fighting the war because it has already been won. So this is a time to start re-constructing and developing the nation and everyone should be involved," chief Nalubamba said.

Recently, Sata said PF would organise nationwide demonstrations over President Banda's lies on fertiliser, mealie-meal and fuel prices. He said President Banda lied during the campaign period that the price of fertiliser had been reduced from K250,000 to K50,000.

Sata further said President Banda together with National Milling Corporation managing director Peter Cottan reduced the price of mealie-meal by K2,000 before the elections but increased the price of the commodity just after the election.

Meanwhile, chief Nalubamba appealed to the government to consider elevating the House of Chiefs to a second chamber of laws. He said traditional leaders were vital in developing the nation because they could contribute to the formulation of laws.

"Mwami tabeyi meaning it's a taboo for a chief to tell lies. Chiefs are honest people who can help bring sanity to the political arena," chief Nalubamba said.

However, he said the second chamber should include other intellectuals from outside.

Chief Nalubamba cataloged lawyers and prominent individuals as some of the people that could participate in the proposed second chamber of laws.

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