Saturday, December 10, 2016

(THE MAST) EX-MINERS CALL FOR A REVOLUTION …to end peoples sufferings

(THE MAST) EX-MINERS CALL FOR A REVOLUTION …to end peoples sufferings
By Thulani Phiri and Michael Kasonde

RETRENCHED Miners’ League of Luanshya chairperson Alex Musosha says there is need for a revolution in Zambia to end poverty and the inequalities that exist in society.

And the ex-miners from Kitwe and Mufulira have threatened to walk to Lusaka to press President Edgar Lungu’s to fulfil his promises.

Musosha said in an interview that the current leaders were selfish and never cared about the suffering masses.

“The crisis we are in can never be addressed by the PF. PF can't create any jobs for us. We need to look for hope somewhere; we need a revolution and revolutionary leaders to end this poverty and suffering in this country. Mr Lungu's government has turned us into destitutes,” Musosha said.

“Twachula pafula (we have suffered enough)! PF should stop mocking us because we can react. The poverty we are going through will speak for us some day.”

He said the ex-miners would have received what President Lungu promised them if his government was not selfish.

�“If President Lungu and his government were not selfish, we would have gotten the benefits we deserve. The farming plots, the ex-gracias and loan debts they promised that they would help us to settle could have been fulfilled if this country had sincere leaders. They have deserted us after giving them a vote," Musosha complained.

He said the PF government was abusing citizens’ rights by telling lies in a country they claimed was a Christian one.

�“Why should people suffer like this with insincere leaders in a Christian nation? Good leaders are those that sacrifice for the poor. We have a crop of leaders that are so selfish and only interested in personal gain. This is why there is so much poverty," said Musosha.�

"We also have a President in Edgar Lungu who can't defend his own citizens. It seems our President sees it normal. Things are not normal in the country. The Presidency has gone to the head of Mr Lungu. He can't see us as citizens any more.”

The ex-miners recently regretted voting for the Patriotic Front and President Lungu in the August 11 general elections as none of the promises made during campaigns had been fulfilled, except for a few who had connections in the ruling party and government.

And in Mufulira and Kitwe, the ex-miners are mobilising for a protest walk to Lusaka to alert President Lungu's government that it had failed to fulfil its promises to them.�

“Surely fellow ex-miners, how can the issues involving the employer and ex-miners be politicised? It is a shame and disappointing indeed. There are even some people among us masquerading as spokespersons of the former miners, they are paraded and busy praising President Edgar Lungu on state owned ZNBC but what's on the ground is something else. All we want is the money that was taken from us dubiously and the land [that was promised to us],” said Donald Kabashila, chairman of the Ex-miners’ League of Mufulira.

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Friday, December 09, 2016

(ZAMBIAN OBSERVER) British envoy calls for immediate stop to Zambia’s high expenditure

COMMENT - British Ambassador, himself a neoliberal appointee doing Captain Renault in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here!". What effect did you think the Eurobonds were going to have? And what was this money spent on? Not fuel and agriculture subsidies and pensions. And yet they're the ones who have to pay for this heist. - MrK

(ZAMBIAN OBSERVER) British envoy calls for immediate stop to Zambia’s high expenditure
December 8, 2016
By Mike Riley

BRITISH High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet says high expenditure by the Zambian government must not be allowed to continue because the country has been spending more than it can afford.

And EU head of delegation to Zambia Ambassador Alessandro Mariani says 2017 is very promising for the country as new projects are due to come on stream in the new year.

Speaking during an EU-Zambia Partnership media breakfast in Lusaka yesterday, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said the current trajectory of high fiscal deficits and mounting public debt could not be allowed to continue.

According to ZIPAR, Zambia’s external debt increased by 6.3 per cent from US$6.3 billion as at August 2015 to about US$6.7 billion as at September 2016.

“Zambia’s need for economic reform is pressing. It is sad that debt servicing has returned to become a major feature of government expenditure. Subsidies, public sector costs, along with debt servicing, dominate. This cannot continue indefinitely. Expenditure must be reduced and revenue increased. This process will not be easy for the government – or painless for ordinary Zambians,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet told stakeholders at Lusaka’s Taj Pamodzi Hotel.

“For some time, Zambia has been running a fiscal deficit; in layman’s terms – Zambia has been spending more than it can afford. The clearance of external debt that occurred under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) over a decade ago, has been obliterated by the accumulation of new debt, including three Eurobonds.”

He added that while the EU welcomed the Zambian government’s steps to address the country’s serious economic problems through the “Zambia Plus” approach, he appealed to the government for continued positive engagement to ensure effective implementation of the cooperating partners’ financial and technical assistance.

“For cooperating partners to support Zambia, we require positive engagement from the government as well as other Zambian partner organisations, including those among civil society. It is important that we have access to ministers, permanent secretaries and other senior officials to ensure our assistance is aligned with government policy. Occasionally, it is extremely useful to meet with HE the President himself [Edgar Lungu],” said High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet, who also stressed that part of the EU member states’ assistance was directly relevant to the government’s economic reform programme as outlined through the five pillars in the 2017 national budget.

Earlier, Ambassador Mariani told stakeholders that 2017 was set to be “a very promising year” with new projects quickly reaching an advanced stage.

The end-of-year joint briefing highlighted, among others, a comprehensive review of the EU’s project assistance during 2016 in various sectors such as the 40 million euros signed for renewable energies on November 28, and a 2017 outlook.

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Stealing Pensions Is Passive Eugenics

COMMENT - This is typical neoliberal boilerplate theft of public and private resources. 1) Run up government debt, 2) say that 'we don't have the money' for subsidies and programs that help people instead of transnational corporations and 3) start slashing food, agriculture, energy subsidies, and target the biggest prize of all, pensions. This is theft. There is no rational economic reason to start doing away with pensions, which is what he talks about. And frankly, part of this economic streamlining of society, is getting rid of the very old, the sick and very poor in what amounts to passive eugenics. This is at the real heart of elite, neoliberal thinking. Anyone who is concerned about the economy will want people to have more money, not 'more choices', which ends up being the choice you can afford. - MrK


Pension reforms or theft of workers’ money?
December 8, 2016

In the 2017 budget speech, the Minister of Finance, Felix Mutati, alluded to the need for pension reforms in order to give people “more freedoms and choices”.

He stated that “the government will in 2017 present legislation that will allow new entrants into public schemes, revise the employer and employee contributions upwards, facilitate private sector management of pension funds and revise the benefit scheme to ensure longer-term protection for pensioners”.

The first question to the finance minister would be: where and how did the current pension system fail the Zambian workers? Without clarity on this issue, the direction of the proposed pension reforms will be muddled in ambiguity. Giving the workers “more freedoms and choices” is a poor and dishonest explanation of what has gone wrong.

The pension system in Zambia has failed on account of political inertia, massive corruption in the management of pension funds and archaic operational systems. This is failure by design and not by default. The three factors allow our ruling and business elite unhindered access to workers’ money without having sweated for it.

Since 1992, several studies have been undertaken and recommendations made on how to improve the pension management system. Several countries were visited, stakeholder consultations held and the national budget speeches by Ronald Penza, Emmanuel Kasonde, Edith Nawakwi and subsequent finance ministers made mention of pension reforms.

Why have these reforms remained illusive? Why is it proving difficult to prioritise such a critical aspect of livelihood affecting hundred thousands of our workers? Why do ministers, permanent secretaries, chief executive officers of corporations get their post-retirement or end of contract entitlements that quickly? Yet the same system is lethargic in dealing with the pension needs of the ordinary workers!

For the ordinary Zambian worker, life after retirement or at the end of a contract is a nightmare. Forms have to be filled in, countless journeys made to “push” the papers and unending phone calls made in follow-ups. It is rare to receive all pension dues within a year. We have in our midst retired workers that are still not fully attended to 10 years after retirement. The hopelessness and frustrations on their faces tells it all. These are dejected and impoverished citizens. Yet they served their homeland diligently over a long period of time. Now that they are no longer needed in revenue generation, they are cast aside like garbage! Many of them have been spared the misery of dealing with the pension offices through death. They died after retirement without accessing their pension money.

Who is the beneficiary of this daylight robbery?

Increasingly, pension funds are now being channelled towards financing the construction of shopping malls, “gated” housing complexes and upmarket office spaces. All of these target the rich. The poor Zambian worker is therefore financing the luxurious living and working environment of the rich. It is an investment that is not in the best interest of the workers.

What if the pension funds were used to construct modern public markets in the compounds where the majority of the workers live?

How about low-cost houses that would be rented or eventually owned by an ordinary worker?

Why not channel some of the funds into profitable micro-credit schemes owned and managed by workers themselves?

Unfortunately, this will not happen. We live in an economic system where the interests of the workers come last. The worker’s wealth is appropriated for the wellbeing of the elite.

The 2017 pension reform is therefore meant to formalise an existing trend. Workers will be forced to pay more towards pension funds whilst the private sector will now have unhindered access. This is not about ensuring longer-term protection for pensioners. It will be a reform that enhances the avenues for stealing workers’ hard earned pension funds. Just like civil works’ contractors get away with millions of dollars without completing projects, the private pension fund managers will follow suit. They will join the bandwagon. They will make millions out of the pensioners but give nothing back. Ours is a country where political patronage overrides legal, commercial and economic considerations. Zambian workers have not gained much from the existing pension system; they stand to lose even more from the envisaged 2017 pension reforms.

Yes, pension reforms are urgently required in our homeland. These should be reforms that put the interests of the workers first, that empower organised labour in running the pension funds, where viable investments that improve working class communities and services are prioritised and where robust ICT platforms and mobile phone application services will make it possible to access pension funds on day one of retirement without stepping foot away from one’s locality.

Some countries having similar GDP per capita to that of Zambia are successfully moving along that path. All it takes is a dose of political will and honesty.

Our trade unions could also play a significant role in enabling this change. Their collective voice has been missing all along. It is time for justice and fairness to prevail.

A pension system is too important for the working masses to be left primarily in the hands of politicians.

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