Labour minister Fackson Shamenda yesterday bluntly told the Daily Nation that the ruling Patriotic Front party had changed from the promises it made to the Zambian people as it was now in government.
In a phone interview, Shamenda said the people “should expect” the Patriotic Front (PF) to change as it was now in government and could not be expected to keep to what it promised whilst in opposition.
“Just because we preached against increasing the salary for the president Rupiah does not mean we still have to stick to that position; If you were a defender, your role would be different if you took up the role of a striker. We were in the opposition and our role was different but now we are in government,” Shamenda confessed.
And commenting on the Daily Nation revelations of President Sata’s salary increase, Shamenda said that without the K87 million increase, the President salary would be equal to cleaners.
“Why are you against President Sata’s salary increase? Do you want him to be getting the same salary with cleaners? You are playing politics by having published that story and let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with the President having his salary increased. In fact, would not mind increasing his salary three times in a year.
Shamenda has accused the Daily Nation of “playing politics” for exposing a hefty K87 million salary increase for President Michael Sata, and subsequent increases for his immediate lieutenant and Cabinet ministers.
In a what sounded like an annoyed tone, Shamenda banned the Daily Nation from ever calling him for comments on any issue if the newspaper until the paper declares the names of “its shareholders”.
This is despite the President earlier directing him and his Cabinet colleagues to explain the government position to the public.
The one-time Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president complained that the Daily Nation had been exposing criticism of his government and wondered why the newspaper had published the salary increase for President Sata when the PF government had allegedly awarded a 200 per cent salary increase to the lowest paid civil servant in the country.
Shamenda said Zambians should be concerned that President Sata was ranked the lowest paid in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region adding that if it were possible, the government would have adjusted the President’s pay threefold in a year.
He said the government had awarded civil servants a 200 per cent pay rise and that it was only logical that President Sata was equally given what he termed “a modest increase”.
Shamenda, when reminded that President Sata had aggressively criticised former President Banda over such salary increases, said things had changed and that Zambians should expect what the PF was against to continue.
He said the PF and President Sata did not criticise the salary increase of former president Banda but that what they were against was paying general workers in the civil service salaries that could not sustain them.
When asked why President Sata had increased his salary three times in two years, Shamenda shouted: “What is wrong with that? What do you want the President earn. Do you have a problem with the President’s salary?”
In 2008 while in the opposition, President Sata attacked former president Rupiah Banda over the salaries and accused the former president was being insensitive but soon after ascending to the presidency, Sata increased his salary twice in three months.
Former President Rupiah Banda was getting K164,120 million per annum and when he was acting President the former Head of State refused to append his signature to a parliamentary Bill for increased salaries of the Executive and parliamentarians and sent back to the House for revision.