OPPOSITION UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy in charge of administration Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba have stormed the Copperbelt Province, saying they will hold massive meetings with people and miners with or without police giving a go-ahead.
This is against advice from Vice President Inonge Wina who said in Parliament last week that the challenges that the mines were going through should not be politicized.
Mr. Hichilema vowed that his planned meetings on the Copperbelt would go ahead as long as the people in the area wanted to listen to the UPND leaders ‘‘message of hope.’’
The UPND leader who is on the Copperbelt for a series of political meetings yesterday met with bus and taxi drivers in Ndola who vowed to rally behind him and promised to teach the PF a lesson in next year’s general elections.
The drivers informed Mr. Hichilema that their decision to rally behind him was purely as a result of exploitation from the ruling PF through the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) who they accused of charging them exorbitant taxes, adding that transport taxes have been highly increased under the PF.
They also complained that acquiring a Public Service vehicle (PSV) driver’s licence had been made complicated and unbearable for many drivers on the Copperbelt, saying they had tried to seek audience with President Edgar Lungu during his visit but that they could not meet him.
One of the drivers who spoke on behalf of others said public service drivers on the Copperbelt were fed up with increased taxes introduced by RTSA from time to time without consulting other players in the transport sector.
Meanwhile, Mr Mwamba popularly known as GBM, questioned the calibre of people surrounding President Lungu saying they have pushed the Head of State into trouble with the people for alleged failure to advise him accordingly.
Mr. Mwamba asked the people on the Copperbelt to vote for the UPND next year so as to install new government of intellectuals with the capacity to manage the country’s economy for the betterment of all Zambians.
And UPND leader said he had fruitful meetings with key stakeholders especially in the mining sector with a view to sharing ideas and finding some solutions to the plight of the workers facing massive job losses.
“Of interest is that the commodity prices on the international market are not as bad as a few years ago when prices dropped to US $2000 per tonne,’ said Mr. Hichilema.
Mr Hichilema said this meant that with a bit of Government support like many other countries such as Chile have done, Zambia should not be in the situation where people were losing jobs.
He said there were so many outstanding issues and misunderstandings with the PF government that needed to be resolved now including Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds, adding that some mining houses such as Konkola Copper Mine were owed as much as US $200 million in VAT refunds.
Mr. Hichilema said it was clear that no one in Government was taking issues about mining seriously, but instead heaping blame on the external environment.
He said he realised that there was need for serious Government intervention to solve outstanding issues, rather than just leaving it to the workers and their unions to solve the problems.
“On our part we shall do our best, but we are very limited on what we can do as we do not have the mandate to fully intervene. However, we will continue to advise our colleagues in leadership which we have done repeatedly,” Mr. Hichilema said.