Friday, March 25, 2016

THE POST - Can Lungu and his minions justify their pay hikes?

COMMENT - How about a pay cut? Just until the currency recovers.

TODAY'S EDITORIAL COMMENT: Can Lungu and his minions justify their pay hikes?
By Editor |
Updated: 24 Mar,2016 ,13:31:44

It is shocking that in the current financial and economic difficulties the country is going through, the President and other key political leaders of this country can have their salaries increased.

This is insensitivity of the highest order. It goes beyond selfishness, greed and vanity. It actually borders on lunacy. The Zambian economy in its current state has no capacity, both in the public and private sectors, to increase salaries. Many companies are struggling to pay salaries and workers are being retrenched every day. Equally, the government is also struggling to meet its wage bill.

And consequently, the public revenue collections are also very tight. This is so because the government gets its revenue from the workers through Pay As You Earn and Value Added Tax which every consumer, regardless of their economic status, has to pay whenever they purchase goods or services on which such tax is levied. So even the poor of the poorest are paying taxes.

All the salaries of our politicians and other public workers are borne primarily by the workers and the poor who pay taxes. Increasing salaries of the President and other politicians simply places a further burden on their shoulders. Why put additional burden on people who are already overburdened? Who doesn’t know the trials of our people today? And God forbid that one should add one grain of trouble to the anxiety which they bear with such patience and fortitude. We do not believe that any fair-minded person would accept the injustice and fairness of pushing a further financial and economic burden on our already overburdened people.

There is no morality in increasing the salaries of the President and other politicians. Dr Kenneth Kaunda would never have done that. Let us get back to the morality of Dr Kaunda’s leadership which stood for the establishment of “a just and fair society for man. Man - you. Man - me”. Let us realise that taking up political positions should be an expression of a desire to contribute to the happiness of our people rather than of a need to cheat or rape the nation.

Anyway, this just reflects the nature and character of the political leadership we have in the country today. As the Bible says, “There are people who take cruel advantage of the poor and needy; that is the way they make their living” (Proverbs 30:14).

“We must remember that we are there to serve the interests of the common man,” Dr Kaunda used to always remind those who were serving in the UNIP government with him. And he would add, “We must think and think again how best we shall serve and not about how important we are as leaders of our people. Let us remember that we are what we are today because of the common man, and that it is therefore right that he should expect better service from us…Selfishness in leaders inevitably leads to corruption…I do not want to see decisions made for self-interest rather than benefit of the people; I do not want to see people using their leadership positions to manipulate decisions in their favour. To be a leader at any level and in any scheme of things, you have got to love your fellow human beings, you have got to be ready to sacrifice for their good, you have got to be able to learn to respect the feelings of your fellow men.”

Good political leaders must be interested in the welfare of those in distress. We expect them to feel the distress of many who have a big problem about the cost of goods, with the tragedy of unemployment and not focus so much on themselves. Already, the cost to the taxpayer of keeping in office each one of these politicians is too high. Look at what the President gets for free! He has free housing, transport, food, alcohol and so on and so forth. Even clothes are bought for him by the taxpayer. The President of this country is not affected by the price hikes the great majority of our people have to endure. Probably this even explains how in a very short time in that office, Edgar Lungu has put on so much weight, has developed a potbelly. It’s free food, free everything while the rest of his fellow citizens njala yabanyokola and they are becoming thinner and thinner. Look at the number of automobiles bought by the taxpayer that service the President of this country and his family! Look at the number of workers around him paid by the taxpayer! There is a worker for everything he or his family members do! The President pays for nothing but he is getting a salary increment when those who pay for everything are getting none at all.

It is the poor of this country who are subsidising the expensive lifestyles of Edgar and his fellow politicians. Even when they go and recklessly borrow, it is the poor taxpayer of this country that has to, every month, put aside part of his or her earnings to repay the debts.

A start must be made to share the revenues of our government equitably and more fairly among all our people. If people have to be hungry, let us be hungry together. The privileged few like Edgar and his minions should not defend their well-stocked larder by making others go without the plenty they could have. We need leaders who are willing and able to serve the Zambian people heart and soul and never for a moment divorce themselves from the masses. We need leaders who in all cases proceed from the interests of the people and not from one’s self-interest or from the interest of a small group of those who find themselves in the top political leadership of the country.

We have Dr Kaunda’s example to follow. Let’s follow it. Comrade KK’s spirit as a political leader, his utter devotion to others without any thought for self, was shown in his boundless sense of responsibility in his work and his boundless warm-heartedness towards the masses of our people. Every political leader in this country must learn from him; must learn the spirit of absolute selflessness from him. With that type of spirit, everyone can be very useful to the people. All our political leaders, whatever their rank, are servants of the people, and whatever they do must be to serve the people. Their duty is to hold themselves accountable to the people. Every policy and every act of theirs must conform to the people’s interests. They must have the interest of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart instead of thinking about how much they should get for themselves from the people’s taxes.

Strictly speaking, what we have are not leaders but vultures, mercenaries, hyenas out to enjoy, enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.

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