The statement made in Parliament recently by Vice President George Kunda that the government was treading carefully on the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill because it can be used for espionage by what he referred to as some irresponsible and unpatriotic media houses does not make sense because state secrets are not supposed to be made available to the media even if the Bill was to be enacted.
Besides, voices of dissent and criticism of the government come from citizens who love their country. There is a need for George Kunda to avoid using rehearsed statements designed to brand Zambians who are critical of mediocrity in the governance of the country as being unpatriotic citizens. We are fed up of such language, which was often used during the UNIP era, and which has now been adopted by the MMD government.
In fact, the preoccupation by President Rupiah Banda’s administration with enacting legislation designed to regulate the operations of NGOs and the private media is a clear case of misplaced priorities. Zambians have now become tired of asking MMD leaders to address their demands on the government. Among other things, Zambians want a smaller and more efficient government, free formal education, merit-based scholarships for vocational training and university education, low-interest educational loans, free life-saving healthcare for all Zambians, greater and sustained food security, and greater employment opportunities.
Moreover, they want lower PAYE and value-added taxes, lower interest rates, safer local communities, improvements in garbage collection and disposal, improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas, improved public infrastructure, lower water charges and electricity tariffs, a system of justice that is free and impartial in both word and deed, greater care for children and the handicapped, a genuine effort to address the scourge of corruption, sustained protection of the fragile natural environment, and consolidation of our oneness and common future as members of the Zambian family.
Criticisms of the MMD government by some segments of Zambian society are clearly a result of government’s failure to address these demands. If the government can start tending to these demands and set timeframes for meeting them, they will be surprised how quickly the criticisms will subside and give way to genuine praise from both the private media and the general public. It is as simple as that!
Private media institutions are, therefore, not the problem; it is an inept government that is actually the problem—a government that has clearly failed to address the sources of the discontent among citizens and continued to castigate the private media through which such discontent is expressed!
If Zambians expect the Rupiah Banda administration to address their basic needs, they are fooling themselves; they will eventually realize that they have government leaders who are more interested in lining up their pockets, and the pockets of their kith, kin and sympathizers.