CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka
AS PRESIDENT Lungu was launching the Patriotic Front (PF)â€™s revised 2016-2021 manifesto in Lusaka on May 21, 2016, opposition United Party for National Development (UPND)â€™s Hakainde Hichilema was also unveiling his partyâ€™s 10-point plan on the Copperbelt.
The plan has since been the subject of lively debate in political circles. In summary it proposes to fix all the countryâ€™s ills in all the sectors, from education to agriculture and end poverty, and forms the spine of the opposition partyâ€™s campaign for the August 11 general elections.
As far as the UPND is concerned, the document is a reflection of its strategy for ending the social and economic challenges Zambia is experiencing, all of which it has heaped at the feet of the PF government.
Addressing the crowd at Freedom Park in Kitwe, Mr Hichilema said the launch of the 10-point plan marked the beginning of a new journey for the country.
â€œIt is the start of our campaign for the economic liberation of each and every Zambian,â€ he told the fair crowd.
But some observers of Zambian politics have already torn the plan to shreds, dismissing it as a copycat of the PFâ€™s programmes and manifesto.
Writing in the â€˜Readers Forumâ€™ of the June 13, 2016 edition of the Daily Nation, Lusaka resident and political commentator Mubanga Luchembe called it â€˜UPNDâ€™s 10-point plan of empty promisesâ€™.
Mr Luchembe labelled the document as â€œa copy-and-paste of the PFâ€™s ideas, policies and programmes, which the ruling party is at the moment ably implementingâ€.
The PFâ€™s achievements are captured in the speeches President Lungu delivered at the two press conferences he addressed at State House in November 2015 and May 2016, and the revised manifesto.
And the ruling party is using these achievements in all the key sectors of the economy to lobby for the precious votes.
But the UPND believes and insists that its plan offers instant solutions to all the countryâ€™s problems, including those of a global nature over which the government has no control such as the crippling effects of climate change and low commodity prices on the international markets.
â€œThe UPND has a 10-point plan for Zambia. We will fix itâ€¦,â€ Mr Hichilema declared and went on to read out the plan.
Here is a peek at the opposition partyâ€™s magic wand:
Point One â€“ we will promote investment, trade and economic growth, diversifying the economy and investing in under-developed sectors with huge potential for job and wealth creation such as tourism.
Point Two will be an attack on poverty and inequality, with strong focus on youth and women. On day one we will start addressing youth and women empowerment.
Point Three will be investing in our people through education. There is no nation in this world that has advanced without a population that has the right skills.
Point Four is to electrify Zambia. The PF has failed to run the power sector resulting in load shedding, limited and unreliable access and high cost of production. Our plan is very simple, we are discussing with the private sector to build power stations from renewables.
Point Five will improve competitiveness so that our local businesses can grow and create jobs, and new ones can start up. We will tackle areas such as heavy regulationâ€¦.
Point Six will focus on aggressively cutting government waste. We are not going to have 71 ministers in our government the way our friends did. We are going to reduce on the number of ministers and review their conditions of service.
Point Seven will develop our agriculture sector. Our job once you put us in power is to reduce the price of mealie-meal. We will increase farmer support in both input provision and reduce the unit cost of production. What farmers need is a robust extension service system so that they can produce more by improving their management of fields.
Point Eight will end the flip-flops and policy inconsistencies that are costing people jobs. In this place over 10,000 miners and their affiliates lost employment.
Point Nine, building a healthy nation cannot be compromised onâ€¦.. the high maternal mortality rate remains a stain on the conscience of our nation. Immediately we take office, we are reforming procurement of medicines in hospitals.
Point 10 is good governance. We will immediately repeal the Public Order Act (POA). We are also going to embark on reforming the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to make them independent bodies to pursue corrupt elements.
In conclusion, Mr Hichilema promises that his party will deliver all these commitments.
But the big question is, is there anything in this plan that the PF has not done or is not addressing already?
It is up to the Zambian voters to scrutinise the 10-point plan and judge for themselves whether it is the tonic the UPND is touting it to be for Zambiaâ€™s socio-economic ills or a mere copycat of the PFâ€™s programmes and manifesto.
CHARLES CHISALA, Lusaka