Monday, June 03, 2013

People have a lot of questions over subsidies removal - Mwata
By Godfrey Chikumbi and Prince Chibawah
Mon 27 May 2013, 14:01 CAT

MWATA Kazembe says government ministers should not have waited for President Michael Sata to issue a directive on sensitising people about the removal of maize and fuel subsidies.

And Catholic Church Vicar General for Mansa Fr Mambwe Mpasa says the removal of fuel and maize subsidies is part of government's responsibilities to provide quality life for all Zambians.

Meanwhile, Mwata Kazembe of the Lunda people of Luapula has advised government ministers to brace themselves for very difficult questions from the people on the removal of subsidies because most of them were yearning for more information on the matter.

Commenting on President Sata's recent directive during a State House caucus that Cabinet and deputy ministers should educate Zambians on the government's decision to remove subsidies, Mwata Kazembe, said ministers should have gone round the country educating people on the removal of subsidies long before the presidential directive.

He wondered why it had to take the presidential directive for Cabinet and deputy ministers to begin sensitising the people on the removal of the subsidies when it was their role to do so.

"It is incumbent upon our leaders that if there are any changes in the system, people ought to know. We shouldn't be waiting for the President to give a directive; that's why ministers are there. They should be helping the President. In fact, Parliament is on recess and the MPs should have taken advantage of the break to go to their constituencies to explain to the people. This is a policy matter," Mwata Kazembe said.

He said it was unfortunate that President Sata was the only one seen to be talking on the removal of the subsidies when he should have been the last person to talk about the issue especially that there were ministers and their deputies to do the job on his behalf.

"He should have been the last person to speak about the removal of subsidies, that's how I look at issues. Where are his lieutenants? If you allow the President to be the one talking, where are the ministers and deputies?" Mwata Kazembe asked.

And Mwata Kazembe has called for serious education of some deputy ministers on the benefits of the removal of subsidies on fuel and maize before they could explain the issue to the people.

He said people had a lot of questions that should clearly be answered by ministers to raise awareness.

"The President is right to have made such a directive but the sad part of it is some of these deputy ministers, do they understand what this implies? I know for cabinet ministers it is not a problem because they were made aware of the issue before it was made public and they will have no problem. They have to be prepared to face very difficult questions which they (deputy ministers) must answer," said Mwata Kazembe.

And Fr Mpasa in an interview said the removal of fuel and maize subsidies should be explored despite the decision being made without adequate consultation.

"Indeed we cannot deny the fact that subsidising consumption is very costly, more especially when the items subsidized are not only consumed by the citizens of the nation. When these items find their way into neighboring countries, it is like Zambians pay for the feeding of other nations," he said.

Fr Mpasa said the removal of maize and fuel subsidies was a good idea only if the money realised is properly utilised.

"So the removal of subsidies can be said to be a good thing, more especially if the money realised from such a removal is properly used, talk of roads.

It is good to have good roads but again it is better to put up measures to safeguard these roads so that both local people and foreigners can benefit," he said.

Fr Mpasa added that the decision may cause untold misery for many poor Zambians if not properly handled.

"Removal of subsidies is good on one hand but on the other hand if such a removal creates untold misery for poor Zambians, then we need to question the government's social responsibility to the people," he said.

Fr Mpasa noted that while it was commendable for the government to invest heavily in infrastructure development, it should further pay attention to providing quality and meaningful life for all Zambians.

"It is not in order to create misery for the people today and assure them of a better Zambia tomorrow. It's very bad to have a malnourished citizenry using well constructed roads, hospitals and schools. So as much as the government wants to construct such infrastructure, let it as well take good care of the people," he said.

Fr Mpasa said the government should ensure quality life for the people than that of infrastructure.

"You see infrastructure is made for man and not the other way round. If there is too much poverty and hunger, diseases will be high and to whose goodness will these roads and hospitals be? Man should not be enslaved in the name of constructing infrastructure. This development approach of saying 'let the people suffer today and enjoy tomorrow' is misplaced," said Fr Mpasa.

"Zambians have sacrificed a lot and they can't continue sacrificing. Instead it's high time they started enjoying."



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