Our people are distressed. It is hard to find a job, parents are struggling to put food on the table, families cannot find the money to send their children to school and basic healthcare is beyond the reach of the majority. Inflation has increased prices and the cost of living has gone up, meanwhile job losses have seen more and more families destitute and without hope.
At such times, a leader must apply austerity not only to the nation but at a personal level. The action of increasing one’s salary when the voters are suffering is not only outrageous but selfish. That President Lungu is enjoying a salary increase, from K414,406 up to K447,559 with an additional special annual allowance of K117,648, is nothing short of an insult to the majority who are suffering and the growing number who can’t afford three meals a day, let alone any of the many benefits he already enjoys just by virtue of his Office. What kind of leadership is this?
For many Zambians they may feel disappointed, upset and even angry at this latest revelation but will ask can we really expect any better from politicians. My answer to you is yes we can. Just look at President Buhari of Nigeria who, newly elected in 2015, recognised that his people are struggling and voluntarily cut his salary in half within weeks of coming to power. He also cut State House budget and allowances, recognising that this money would deliver much greater benefit to the people if spent in more productive areas.
Look also at the example set by President Magufuli in Tanzania, who after being elected in October 2015 quickly cut the Cabinet down from 60 to 34 ministers, as well as cutting a planned retreat for ministers. He has introduced specific restrictions on ministerial costs, from the refreshments they can enjoy at taxpayers’ expense to their mode of traffic – no more first class air tickets or limousines. Over in South America, Jose Mujica the former President of Uruguay set a truly admirable example by donating 90% of his $150,000 salary to charity and forgoing various expensive benefits such as a presidential motorcade.
So yes we can demand better of our leaders and we should demand better. It is in this light that we now call on President Lungu to quickly reverse the decision and donate any additional benefit he has accumulated from the increase to date to charitable causes.
These are not complex policy decisions. These are very simple measures that are both compassionate and show common sense. It is an honest duty to reflect on the times we live in and in this President Lungu is guilty of gross misjudgement.
President Lungu needs to do more than just this, however, he must also quickly share his plans with the Zambian public on how the majority can hope to earn any salary through job creation measures and how together we can fight rising inequality. Soon election season is coming and people will want to see his plans and he can be sure that they will be asking why plans and action on these fundamental and basic areas have not come sooner and no action has been taken to date.
Reverse that SI now, you have done it before, so it should not be a problem to reverse this particular SI.