ANDREW Banda has warned the PF government that another increase in fuel prices will be “a time bomb”.
He says the known businessmen who oil the PF, including President Edgar Lungu’s presidential empowerment fund, are the ones who have caused an escalation in prices of petroleum products, seed and fertiliser as well as construction materials.
“Let’s put it clearly that the situation we have found ourselves in, this dire socio-economic situation the PF has put us in, unfortunately is irreversible. We can’t get out of the situation and nobody will forgive our foreign debt the way they did with that debt Dr Kaunda left us with until we have a credible government and leadership that the international community can deal with; renegotiate our debt,” he said. “And let me put a notice to the PF: Increase in fuel prices is a time bomb. I can tell you that Zambians will not take this. You are courting trouble. Just like the impending increase in electricity tariffs…Zesco is owing Eskom of South Africa, and it owes the Mozambicans. We are owing everybody. Why didn’t we pay?”
Banda said in Malawi, as the case was with most SADC countries, fuel was cheaper than in Zambia.
He said according to the PF, fuel was expensive in Zambia because the US dollar had strengthened.
“But we are saying the dollar is expensive because Zambia is highly indebted. And they [PF] have caused this because of reckless borrowing,” Banda said. “And now they’re quarrelling with the Americans, the Swedish and the Germans. But we know that 40 per cent of our national budget is funded by donors. And you quarrel with those, you are committing suicide. I’m not saying we should be begging. The danger of not being civil, failing to come to a dialogue table, is we risk making the dollar go above K25 and this will escalate everything.”
Banda said another factor making fuel, farming inputs, and construction materials expensive was the use of middlemen in importation processes.
“And we know who these middlemen are – the so-called well-wishers who fund the PF and the Presidential Empowerment Fund,” Banda said. “When we talk, they say we are bitter. No, I’m a patriot. I love my country. But I have the right to question why my country is being mismanaged. Why has the economy shrunk to two per cent growth when we were growing at seven per cent per annum? Why are 54.2 per cent Zambians living in poverty? Why is it that 41.2 per cent of the population is unemployed? And it’s worse now with the six months of load-shedding. Then today you are saying mealie-meal prices have gone down!”
President Lungu on Wednesday tweeted: “Delighted to hear that mealie-meal ex-factory price has reduced from K150 per bag to K130 and proposed retail price is K136. This comes a few days after I commissioned the expansion of African Milling – a clear demonstration of the role private sector plays#BuildingZambiaTogether.”
But Banda alleged that African Milling “are the same people involved in fertiliser imports, fuel and other sectors.”
“It’s a cartel. This is what we have been saying. We know these people but we won’t mention names today. The PF have politicised the fuel sector, fertiliser and seed import and supply. These are the well-wishers funding them, funding the Presidential Fund and all that,” he said. “What they have done with African Milling, is this sustainable? No! The only way sustainable is to lower production costs – invest in technology, research, among other issues.”
Banda also said the crisis was real because whereas Zambia’s revenue stood at $26 billion (GDP), the country owed close to $20 billion.
“We further owe $750 million in Eurobonds which was meant to mitigate shortage of power and many other issues, but that too can’t be accounted for,” said Banda. “And then we have the $1.2 billion which even our grandchildren will have to pay for! So we’re not bitter. We are being realistic in questioning this mismanagement.”