Friday, March 23, 2012
By Gift Chanda
Fri 23 Mar. 2012, 13:00 CAT
IT is ironic for finance minister Alexander Chikwanda to call his colleagues in the Patriotic Front lunatics for advocating the reintroduction of 25 per cent windfall tax on base metals, says Ng'andu Magande. And Magande, the longest serving finance minister in the MMD government, has challenged the PF government to give a proper policy direction for the country.
In an interview, Magande, who is National Movement for Progress president, said it is surprising that Chikwanda could label windfall tax advocates ‘lunatics' when the PF was propped into power by promises of reintroducing that tax.
"It would be interesting to get a quotation of what President Sata said in Mongu or what he said in Livingstone or Kalulushi and say while the Minister of Finance is saying the people advocating for windfall tax are lunatics, his own party when they had a big mass rally at Mandevu. This is what either Mr Vice-President Scott said or what Mr Shamenda said or what Mr Kambwili said," he said.
"Mr Chikwanda never addressed a single mass rally so is he calling his friends that were saying ‘we should reintroduce windfall tax' lunatics?"
Magande said some PF officials continued to advocate windfall taxes even after the party won last year's elections.
"The former Minister of Mines Hon Simuusa has been going around and has been telling the people, even in Parliament, they issued a statement that they are going to reintroduce a windfall tax, so is he Chikwanda calling his own colleagues in PF lunatics?" Magande questioned.
"I am the one who introduced windfall tax in 2008 and I am sure everyone knew my position on this issue."
He said it was ironic for Chikwanda to start calling names people advocating windfall tax when his party pressured late president Levy Mwanawasa to introduce the windfall tax.
"These people were actually pushing president Mwanawasa and the minister of finance then to introduce windfall tax. Even in campaigns, they campaigned on the basis of reintroducing this tax and people voted for them," he said.
"I would really say that is not very civil language to call other people lunatics. These are public things which you should allow other people to debate."
And Magande said people were mixed up with the PF's policy direction.
"We don't know which direction they want to take the country," he said."Let them come out so that all this issue of the secretary general for PF saying ministers don't seem to be coordinated can be over. Mr Kabimba said ministers are not singing from the same hymn book...we the people who are not in government are surprised. Why shouldn't they be saying the same things if they have the same manifesto, hold same cabinet meetings? If the government continues to be divided as they are now to an extent that the secretary general of PF himself says there is discord in the government, we the people will not be impressed, we are actually not impressed. We will also lose hope for the future and we will also lose sense in what they are doing."
He said lack of proper policy direction led to the global rating agency, Fitch, downgrading Zambia's economic outlook.
Magande said the PF should start backing its rhetoric with action.
"This time we should reduce the question of talking about the PF party. The party won the elections, now for me I am interested to know what the government is doing," he said.
"We want the government, the President, ministers to talk about civil servants implanting the vision which is there for the common good of all Zambians but now we are hearing about PF, PF, PF. PF won the elections..."
He urged President Sata to address the nation's policy direction.
"President has not issued any statement to give the direction of the nation.
He has never held a press conference to give us the vision of his party, the vision of his government. So he is keeping us in the dark," he said.
"The President went to Bostwana, came back yesterday what did we see in the papers, it was more about what happened in Lusaka - swearing in people but what did he go for in Bostwana because you can't go all the way to Bostwana to go and open a school and give a donation of US$10, 000. That can't be the purpose of his state visit. So by not telling us, they are saying ‘don't kubeba' so we are in the dark. So we have to use friends to tell us what they went to discuss."
He said even investors were losing confidence in the country's economy.
"Investors are keeping the dollars because they are saying perhaps the kwacha is going to depreciate again. It is not just foreigners who are hesitant, even the locals are hesitant, they want to keep the dollars. This is all caused by lack of a proper direction, a vision and economic plan for the country," said Magande.