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Will New Government Walk the Talk? Jesuits in Zambia on President’s Maiden Address to MPs

Zambia's President, Hakainde Hichilema. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Members of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have lauded President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) for his maiden address to the 13th Parliament that “struck the right codes” but, reflecting on previous speeches, wondered if HH would chart a new path and “walk the talk”.

“HH’s speech was brilliant and struck the right codes in all the areas. But Zambians have been treated to brilliant speeches before. Will HH and his team be different? Will HH and his team walk the talk?” the Jesuit scholars pose in their Monday, September 13 statement signed by JCTR Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe.

JCTR officials add, “The nation is willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt as people wait to see how these brilliant ideas are going to be implemented with clear targets that will be periodically measured by all the stakeholders.”

In his September 10 speech titled, “Creating a United, Prosperous and Equitable Zambia, Restoring Economic Growth and Safeguarding Livelihoods,” HH vowed to strengthen the efforts in fighting corruption, highlighted his government’s economic recovery plan for the country, and pledged to foster democracy, among other promises.

In the September 13 statement, JCTR officials say, “From the faith dimension and social justice perspective, there is a lot from HH’s speech that calls for a deeper reflection.” 

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“Every Zambian of good will must laud HH’s consistency in calling for unity and peaceful co-existence.  A call for unity from ethno- and geo-centric perspective emphasizes that we are one despite diversity in ethnicity, race or place of origin,” officials of the research institution say. 

They add, “The unity that Zambians are aspiring for under the new administration is a  social-economic equity where the national cake of this richly endowed country is shared by all Zambians.”

“In this context, what divides us is not only diversity in ethnicity or political affiliation but also socio-economic disparities that have divided one people into two societies of ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots,’” JCTR officials say. 

They add that the new President’s pronouncements on issues of governance “are very reassuring.”

“Zero tolerance policy on corruption in all its forms is progressive with clear policy direction by introduction of specialized fast-track stolen assets recovery mechanisms and courts for corruption and economic crimes,” the Jesuit scholars say.    

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They add that the President’s pledge to stop excessive public expenditure and to enhance debt management and transparency “is a very progressive agenda as various stakeholders have tirelessly been lobbying for this since 2016.”   

They further say that the new government’s promise to respect the rule of law and separation of powers among the arms of government “is very progressive given that the current constitution gives the executive too much power, and in so doing undermines the separation of power.”

“With respect to the constitutional reforms,” the Jesuit scholars say, the pledge to revive the process of expanding the Bill of Rights to integrate cultural, social, and economic rights “is definitely a very progressive agenda although there is no hint at a possible roadmap to achieve it.” 

In the September 13 statement, JCTR officials say Zambians expect “nothing less from the 8th National Development Plan which is promised to be a robust economic transformation agenda that will deliver on the national vision and the aspirations of the citizens.”

“The nation’s appetite is now whetted, and the Zambian people are now looking forward to the presentation of the 2022 national budget to see how the policy measures outlined in the President’s speech will begin to be actualized,” the Jesuit scholars in Zambia say.

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