Monday, July 22, 2013

Defeats won't stop opposition from questioning govt - Simbao
By Allan Mulenga and Kombe Chimpinde
Fri 12 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

LOSING in Parliament will not stop the opposition from questioning the government on its policies, says Kapembwa Simbao.

But Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council (NGOCC) chairperson Beatrice Grillo says the bill which sought to compel the government to reinstate maize and subsidies would not have failed if the country had a strong opposition.

Commenting on the opposition's defeat to the PF on the reinstatement of subsidies in Parliament on Wednesday, Simbao, who is MMD national secretary and Senga Hill member of parliament, said the opposition knew that they were going to lose, but took the motion to Parliament in the interest of the nation.

"Losing we shall lose, that is not the issue. The issue is to let people know the wrongs that are happening. But losing we shall lose we know that and even yesterday (Wednesday) we knew we were going to lose. But we want to let people know what is happening because we don't believe what they have done is right," he said.

Simbao accused the PF of taking Zambians backwards by removal of subsidies on fuel and maize consumption.

"We want to touch on things that can see MMD being understood properly than what has happened so far. The issue we brought out in Parliament yesterday is something that we really believe in irrespective of what the government is saying. What already was given should have been allowed to stay than taking the people backwards," he said.

"All what they have done is to go back to 1994 or so when MMD again withdrew subsidies and people went in quandary; in terrible poverty."

Simbao wondered why government officials were issuing contradictory statements on the removed fuel and maize.

"These people they don't seem to understand what they are doing in this case of removing subsidies. Initially, they told us that it will go to infrastructure, and then Dr Guy Scott started talking of balancing the budget. They don't seem to know exactly what is happening. The fact is that they are not making collections of what they intended to collect per quarter or so. They are panicking because they have already virtually spent all the money," said Simbao.

"If you heard what Dr Scott told us in Parliament is that they were not going to stop these by-elections until they get the numbers because the opposition is not willing to work with them. If they expect the opposition to work with them to remove subsidies from people, then that is wrong. In that case they go on winning these by-elections until they get their numbers while the opposition will just get nothing."

On Wednesday, Parlia-ment voted against the reinstatement of fuel and maize consumption subsidies.

The motion, which was moved by Solwezi Central MMD member of parliament Lucky Mulusa, attracted heated debate from both the opposition and the ruling party.

And Grillo said it was saddening that the opposition's bill to reinstate subsidies was defeated in Parliament.

She said NGOCC felt that the government should have consulted the Zambians before taking the action and also provided safety nets for the poor.

"Now people are spending about K70 for a bag of mealie, rentals have gone up. We appreciate the rationale behind the removal of the subsidies but even in countries in which governments are removing subsidies, they have provided safety nets. Our appeal to government remains that to review its social schemes targeted at alleviating poverty," Grillo said.

Grillo said that high poverty levels had continued to affect the development progress in the country.

He said that NGOCC felt that there were other alternatives through which enough funds to build infrastructure could be raised other than removing subsidies.

Grillo also said that there was lack of prudency in the utilisation of funds.

"It's a pity that this bill failed. This is why we are saying we need a strong opposition in Parliament because this bill would have gone through if we had a strong opposition," she said.

"It's also a pity that government that campaigned on the basis of pro-poor policies is not listening to the people. The problem in this country is the elite want to decide what is best for all the other citizens," said Grillo.

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