By Anthony Mukwita
President Edgar Lungu walked into the Manda Hill building amidst the usual pomp and splendour that five other Presidents before him have entered the House in since Zambia got independence in 1964.
Zambians from all walks of life had been awaiting this moment to see or hear what difference the ceremonial occasion would bring to the body of knowledge of Zambian politics under President Edgar Lungu.
President Lungu had kept tongues wagging during the period preceding his famous Manda Hill grand entry of course characterised by the traditional gun salute, the horse trots and the elegantly dressed Zambia Army for his inspection.
It is not the suit the head of state—known as a sharp dresser on the continent—he was going to don when he walked in the House with his wife Esther the First Lady that had kept critics, foes and friends alike ahead of auspicious occasion awake.
Many had remained awake for weeks and months before 18th September 2015 because they wanted to hear President Lungu’s take on:
• The power deficit that had affected Zambia and parts of southern Africa due to poor water levels
• Some erratic fuel shortages
• Farmers plight
• Strained kwacha
• Business environment and the
• Plight of women and children including what President Lungu had in his bag of tricks for the future
When he walked into the house in that grey suit that fit like a glove, the above are some pressing questions they wanted him to answer.
From the response after his eloquent delivery, it became abundantly clear that the lawyer turned politician had won himself an additional number of friends. Good friends.
This because once he was seated by Speaker of the Zambian Parliament Hon. Patrick Matibini, President Lungu wasted no time to explain the number of issues Zambians thought needed addressing in a crystal clear manner that effectively shut up critics and earned him respect.
Power or energy
Instead of offering a short term or one day solution to the power deficit that affects Zambian poultry farmers, barber shop owners and indeed restauranteurs and hair saloon owners, President Lungu rolled out a long term plan.
President Lungu said, “I meet Zambians from all walks of life frustrated and I share their frustrations regarding the power situation” therefore he is doing the following:
• Increasing the life line of power from 100 to 500 kilo watt per hour that gives ordinary Zambians more energy on their watch than before at a reduced cost
• President Lungu has used his cordial diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe counter-part Robert Mugabe to roll out a long term power plant that shall effectively and realistically build a 1800 megawatt power station at Batoka Gorge in Southern Province five years from now. The ball pack figure for the construction of the plant is
• US$4billion and thousands of Zambian jobs are expected to be created during the construction stage. It is also important to note that the President and his team of experts would have chosen another location for the power project but President Lungu insisted on Southern Province where analysts say he never garnered any votes from in the 20th January poll. Once complete the power plant will feed Zambia with an additional 750 megawatts that previously did not exist around 2018.
President Lungu of course restated the fact that in 2013 and 2014 under the PF government yet again, ZESCO installed two generators at the Kariba North Bank as a strategic investment to add an extra 360 megawatts to a generation system that has suffered gross under recapitalisation over a period of 40 years.
Other long term measures President Lungu announced include “increasing” power generation
• at Chishimba and Musonda Falls from the current 6 (six) to 14.8 megawatts and then from five to double later on.
• President Lungu’s government is also upgrading the Lusiwashi hydro power project from the current 12 to 101 megawatts while eyeing additional thermal power from Maamba Collieries and the
• Itezhi Tezhi Hydro Power Station that will together add another 420 megawatts of power to the national grid and further push down the number of hours load shedding has to occur.
• This will be a reality by January 2016 next year according to President Lungu.
• In Luapula Province, the head of state is eyeing a 150 megawatt at Kalungwishi Hydro Power Station
All these practical measure aimed at tackling a natural calamity are expected to start bearing fruit in about six months or less.
Food has always been at the core of Zambian politics or indeed politics in general no matter where one comes from because it is known that hungry people could be angry people.
President Lungu therefore dedicated a space in his State of the Nation Address to state the following practical measures to slash the prices of the staple mealie meal:
• The installation of 13 Milling Plants in rural Zambia located at the points of maize production to push the price of mealie meal for rural dwellers
• Some of these plants have already arrived in Zambia and ready for installation by the Zambia Corporative Federation (ZCF) which President Lungu wants to use for further job creation and diversification
• All the 13 milling plants will be installed and ready for operation in an estimated year or less from announcement. Mealie meal prices in rural Zambia shall fall once they are implemented
President Lungu debunked the theory that Zambia was too deeply indebted to borrow when he threw the figures in the face of the critics saying for an economy that had remarkably grown from US$3billion GDP wise in 2005 to US$28 billion in 2015, “Zambia is well within the international threshold of (borrowing) 40% of GDP.”
Besides as President Lungu pointed out, “my government is borrowing to finance roads, energy and other infrastructure as a long term investment that shall spur economic development across sectors.”
Economic Growth of Zambia
President Lungu noted that while Zambia’s economy had continued to grow at average of between 5 to 7 percent annually since about 2002, there was need to speed it up and raise it in order to cut poverty levels currently about 60 percent of the Zambian population.
“There is a need for the economy to register at least 10 percent GDP rate that have an effective impact on reducing poverty…” said President Lungu in his address.
As a push for crop diversification, government has expanded the number of crops it can buy from farmers to include from just maize, rice, sorghum, and cotton and ground nuts.
The number of beneficiaries also increased from 500,000 in 2013-2014 agriculture season to about 1,000,000 this season under President Lungu’s initiative.
COMMUNICATION AND TOURISM
President Lungu answered Zambians call for increased tourism and slashed international and local air travel by announcing in his address that a National Airline will be established in under year with the target being 2016 for a national carrier to fly international skies.
“This greatly promote business and tourism (the national airline)…in addition new employment opportunities will be created,” said President Lungu.
A radical plan, with President Lungu’s support is already in place to erect a more than 1000kms long pipe line to pump refined petroleum from Angola into Zambia at a ball pack figure of about US$2.5billion. The project commences in about two years and is expected to create further jobs.
President Lungu is targeting to supply fuel to the entire SADC through this hub and not just Zambia. It will also help with fuel stocks for power generation to a tune of an additional 500 megawatts.
HEALTH OF MOTHERS AND CHILDREN
President Lungu was happy to note that mortality rates had declined from 119 per 1000 live births in 2007 to about 75 per 1000 presently. He wants to see more drugs and more bed spaces in Zambian hospitals as well as more qualified and well paid medical staff to take care of Zambians.
PRESIDENT OF ZAMBIA AND HUMILITY
President Lungu expressed humility for the fact that eight months ago, Zambian people decided to make him the sixth President of the nation. He said this is a duty he takes seriously because it means he is charge of ensuring that:
• Your hospitals have enough drugs and beds so that our babies and their mothers do not die needlessly
• The maize produced by our farmers does not go to waste
• That the farmers have in-puts delivered to them at a good price and a good time
• That the roads leading to the points of production and points of consumption are properly maintained
• That law and order is observed so that there is no anarchy in the country
• That we have no shortages of essential commodities such as diesel, petrol and deficits in electricity supply to mention but a few
In his usual call for unity, President Lungu condemned the hate that has recently been peddled in sections of the Zambian media by some opposition leaders.
“Hate, bitterness, contempt and envy are evil vices that have no place in a society like ours. We are above that…” President Lungu said as he declared 18th October a day of national prayer for reconciliation, love and unity in Zambia adding that the country would remain a Christian nation.
In a move unprecedented, President Lungu closed his first session of the National Assembly by proceeding to shake hands in a show of reconciliation with his constant critics and political opponents in the house.
This included those that had openly opposed the Lungu presidential candidature for a long time before finally ‘reconciling’ after the General Conference.
President Lungu is unequivocal on the issue of reconciling the nation saying regardless of whom he differed with: “we must be seen to walk the walk and talk the talk where reconciliation is concerned as a Christian people.”
The President’s speech was greatly welcomed by his supporters, the diplomatic corps and political observers that stated that it was issue based and futuristic. He yet again openly showed contempt for politics of tribalism.
President Lungu said he seeks not short term political solutions but long term realistic solutions to the challenges Zambians face. His vision is a 2064 vision.