Friday, March 25, 2016
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.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
(NEWZIMBABWE) New farmers resist compensating whites
ZIMBABWE's plan to win back international funding by paying compensation to white farmers forced off their land faces a major snag: the black farmers expected to stump up the cash say they don't have it.
The new occupants working the land, many of who had few farming skills when they were resettled, say they can barely make ends meet, let alone pay an extra levy.
Their agricultural output is a fraction of the level seen before 2000, when President Robert Mugabe - saying he sought to correct colonial injustices - introduced land reforms which led to thousands of experienced white farmers being evicted.
They are also being hammered by the worst drought in a quarter of a century and toiling under a stagnating economy that has seen banks reluctant to lend and cheaper food imports from the likes of South Africa undermining their businesses.
"Are farmers able to pay? I will say no. Is the land being productive? I will say no again," said Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of a group representing war veterans who led the land seizure drive in 2000 and are now farmers.
He told Reuters that many farmers could not even meet water and electricity bills and that it was the government's obligation - not theirs - to pay the compensation.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union President, Abdul Nyathi, also said his members would not be able to pay compensation. "Most of the farmers face viability issues, the government will have to look at other ways of raising money," he added.
Mugabe's land reforms have led to about 5,000 white farmers being evicted from their land by his supporters and war veterans over the past 16 years, often violently. More than a dozen farmers have been killed.
The land seizures, along with allegations of vote-rigging and rights abuses - all denied by Mugabe - led to Zimbabwe being targeted by sanctions from Western donors. This compounded the economic plight of the country, which saw financing from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank frozen in 1999 after it defaulted on debts.
The IMF's head of mission to Zimbabwe, Domenico Fanizza, said this month that improving fiscal discipline and re-engaging the international community should be priorities for Harare. He said this would "reduce the perceived country risk premium and unlock affordable financing for the government and private sector".
In an attempt to woo back international donors and lenders, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced a package of major reforms on March 9, including the farm measure and a big reduction in public-sector wages. He said it had the full backing of Mugabe.
The farm plan involves 300,000 families resettled on seized land paying an annual rent - based on the size of their farms - towards a compensation fund for those evicted.
If they are unable to pay, however, it could be a major setback for the government's plans to shore up an economy that is stagnating after a deep recession in the decade to 2008, which slashed its output by nearly half, drove hundreds of thousands abroad in search of better paying jobs and has left the jobless rate at around 85 percent.
The finance ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the ability of farmers to pay the levy.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya, told Reuters that the farmers' situation should improve once the government grants them 99-year leases on their land, which he said would make it easier for them to secure financing from banks and to pay rent towards the compensation fund.
All agricultural land in Zimbabwe is owned by the government and, at present, farmers have no legal claim on their farms - which they say has made banks reluctant to extend loans to buy fertilisers, seed and chemicals so they can raise output. But the government says it will imminently grant the leases.
"We are saying that the land should produce, but we also know what the constraints are to increase production," said Mangudya. "That is why we need to finalize on the 99-year land lease agreements to make them bankable so that farmers have security of tenure. With that there is no reason why farmers should not be able to pay (rent)."
Mugabe's land reform program is a highly emotive issue, which has divided public opinion. Supporters say it has empowered blacks while opponents see it as a partisan process that left Zimbabwe struggling to feed itself.
"The land revolution was a necessity and if the economy was running very well farmers would be able to pay the rent," said Matemadanda of the war veterans' group. "The prevailing economic conditions do not allow."
The land seizures have led to a steep fall in commercial agriculture output; yields for the staple maize have fallen to an average 0.5 tonnes percent per hectare from 8 tonnes in 2000 when white farmers worked the land.
Mugabe acknowledged the skills of evicted white farmers last week, saying they had helped neighboring Zambia to produce excess maize, which Zimbabwe was now importing.
A treasury ministry circular said that compensation would be paid out of rent from black farmers who benefited from the seizures. Chinamasa has not said when farmers would be expected to start paying the rents, or at what level they would be set.
When announcing the measures, he said production on black-owned farms was "scandalously low" and that the economy was under siege from the drought.
The white Zimbabweans who accounted for the majority of those evicted will be compensated only for the improvements they made to the farms, while the foreign owners forced out will be paid full compensation for land and improvements, under the plan.
Chinamasa said Harare broke bilateral investment agreements with other countries when it seized farms owned by foreigners.
Tony Hawkins, professor of business studies at the University of Zimbabwe, said the government was "going through the motions to keep the IMF happy".
"They probably want the international community to see that they are doing something," he said. "I doubt they will press with this ahead of the elections," he added, referring to the 2018 general election. Farmers are an important voting block for Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.
Hundreds of evicted white Zimbabwean farmers are now farming in Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria, while others migrated to Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Hendrik Olivier, director at the formerly white-dominated Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), said the government had not yet approached evicted farmers to discuss compensation, and also cast doubt on the plan's viability.
The CFU, which once boasted 4,500 farmers who produced 90 percent of Zimbabwe's export crops, including tobacco and horticulture produce until 2000, now only has 300 members.
"It's a huge step forward, lets acknowledge that. In the past the government has said that it won't pay compensation," Olivier told Reuters.
"But if you are talking about new farmers paying a levy, that's not gonna work, that's not gonna pay our compensation."
(NEWZIMBABWE) US envoy of ‘nightly’ Mujuru meets speaks
FORMER US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray has backed former vice president Joice Mujuru to turn around the fortunes of the stricken country, urging her to work with other opposition parties.
Mujuru, who was fired by President Robert Mugabe, is the interim leader of the recently formed Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party
“She is pragmatic enough to work with the MDC and has the intelligence and ability to find ways to work effectively with the international community,” Ambassador Ray said, responding to questions from NewZimbabwe.com.
The former envoy left Zimbabwe at the end tour in 2012. He was blocked by government from consoling the Mujuru family following the death of the ex-VP’s husband, Retired General Solomon Mujuru, in a still unexplained fire in 2011.
The former vice president, while still Mugabe’s deputy, was also alleged to have held “clandestine” meetings with Ambassador Ray at undisclosed locations outside Harare.
It was claimed that Mujuru sought guarantees of financial assistance from the Americans in the event she managed to resettle power from Mugabe.
The veteran leader fired Mujuru from government and the ruling party, claiming she plotted to assassinate him.
However, Ambassador Ray denied holding clandestine meetings with Mujuru but insisted that she “has the interest of the country at heart”.
“I read of her being fired; but find it’s hard to believe the charges against her are true,” said the envoy.
“My relationship with Dr. Mujuru - both professional and personal when she was vice president - was good,” he added.
“I found her to be pragmatic and I believe she sincerely had the best interests of the country at heart.”