Friday, 19 September 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

There is one issue Zambians have not put into perspective and debated with the seriousness it deserves—the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Emoluments) (Amendments) Bill—and its implications.

This Bill, which is almost certainly law now, aims to give public office holding politicians inflation busting salaries and other emoluments that could only be a remote dream for the over 80 per cent of Zambians who are officially certified as poor.

Under the Bill, the highest paid official is the Vice President whose proposed salary is K99.3m salary, K94.2m special allowance, K90m responsibility allowance and K64.4m utility allowance. Toting these figures up gives one the sum of about K350m per annum.

The least paid in this category, a private member, will earn close to K210m per annum. In addition, there is a constituency allowance that will range from K26.1m for a Vice President from a rural constituency, to K17.4m for a nominated private member.

This is from the kitty that cannot adequately support the University of Zambia, the Copperbelt University and other institutions for lack of funds. This is the same kitty that cannot adequately fund other social service infrastructure and delivery.

This is a kitty that cannot adequately pay teachers who live and work in the remotest parts of the country, policemen who live in some of the most deplorable conditions anybody can ever think of living.

One just needs to visit Sikanze Police Camp which shares a boundary fence with the Ministry of Finance. These essential people in society are lucky to walk home with K1m per month or K12m per year--way, way incomparable with the K350m that the Vice President with all the other attendant privileges he/she would be earning under the Bill. This is not to talk about the President whose emoluments are, strangely, not included in this Bill.

It is very difficult for government to pay risk allowance to the policemen who risk their lives everyday to protect citizens and their property, it is equally difficult to pay a teacher or a nurse working in the “deep dyoli” his/her rural hardship allowance which, if I am not mistaken, has even been scrapped. For these people, making their salaries see them through to the next month would make an economics professor suffer from a headache.

I do not dispute the need to amply remunerate people, but it is the double-faced nature of the politicians and top civil servants who tell the unions that there is no money to pay lower ranking civil servants good salaries when they themselves award themselves immoral emoluments.

If the justification is to stem corruption among political office holders and to allow them to concentrate on the job of governing (read misgoverning), who is going to stem corruption among underpaid policemen? Who is going to stop teachers from selling ice-blocks and fitumbuwa to pupils when they are supposed to be concentrating on teaching?

I believe that the national cake must be shared equally but it is clear that our politicians want the actual cake, the cream and the cherry and even the crumbs, if they can sweep them all up for themselves, leaving nothing for the rest of the population.

As the nation goes to the presidential by-elections in the next six weeks, this is an issue that would-be voters need to reflect upon as they prepare to cast their vote. They should know what the rest of the life of this parliament is going to bring, bearing in mind that this ministerial salary increments are an annual occurrence and also that there is gratuity at the end of the term and we are talking in terms of unmitigated billions of Kwacha here.

The crusade that PF’s Michael Sata and UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema started by sharing a public platform for the first time was a good start if it was going to stop the people in government from plundering the economic under the guise of the law. It is not any different from the alleged plunder that took place under President Chiluba for which he and his accomplices are now facing charges.

Teachers, nurses, policemen, lowly-paid Zambians in all sectors of the economy, and indeed, the jobless, all should come together to stop the plundering of national resources we are about to witness by the caretaker—soon to be elected—government headed by Acting President Rupiah Banda.

The Zambian electorate should take this unprecedented presidential by-election as an occasion to fire warning shots to their governors that they cannot take any more nonsense.



I thought the issue of benefits for the late President, Levy Mwanawasa’s family was addressed by Attorney General Mumba Malila who adequately and objectively interpreted the law. Malila explained that since Mr Mwanawasa had died while in office, his widow, Maureen would be entitled to 50 percent of an incumbent’s president’s salary and other trappings that are entitled to a former president.

Maureen, according to Malila, would enjoy these benefits for as long as she did not join politics. There was something about children of 21 and below also benefiting from this arrangement.

As such, I do not see why the PF presidential candidate, Michael Sata should bring up the subject of government not stating how it would look after Mr Mwanawasa’s family as a national asset, or something to that effect.

There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed in the nation which should form the basis of the campaigns for the forthcoming presidential by-election and particularly the continuity of cases involving the plunder of national resources involving former President Chiluba and others.

Those who say they would carry on Mwanawasa’s legacy should show the nation how they will tackle corruption in the nation instead of being quiet about it.

And talking about bribing the electorate, imagine if it were Hakainde Hichilema or Sata distributing 500 x 25 kg bags of mealie meal in Vulamukoko in Katete what hoohaah would have come from the MMD accusing them of politicising a traditional ceremony. But because it is the acting President doing it, it is OK.

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