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President Elias Chipimo’s Inaugural NAREP Convention Speech

Posted Feb 11, 2011

Speech delivered at the opening of the Inagural Convention of the National Restoration Party at Chalo Trust School, Chudleigh, Lusaka on 17 February 2011

by

Interim President: Elias C. Chipimo, Jr

Introduction

The chairman of today’s proceedings; representatives of foreign missions accredited to Zambia; representatives of political parties in Zambia; distinguished invited guests; the women of Zambia, my fellow youth: welcome.

Welcome to the Inaugural Convention of the National Restoration Party (NAREP).

Let me say one important thing from the very outset: this is a no frills convention. We have worked hard to keep costs to a minimum and to ensure that we can have representation from all the corners of our vast and well endowed nation.

My heart is filled with joy at the honour to address you as the National Restoration Party interim president. Ours is a movement that was formed to bring real and meaningful change to our country – not in 2016 as some have tried to speculate, but now. For we believe that the vast majority of people in this country have seen enough, heard enough and tolerated enough of leadership that has lacked vision and ambition to take Zambia to the heights that God always intended for her to rise to.

As a party in opposition, we have barely been in existence a year but already, by God’s grace, we are achieving a feat that other, more established operators seem to find hard to accomplish – the hosting of a national convention. For that I say thank you and congratulations to all that have played a role in making this event possible.

But this is only a small part of the task that lies ahead. We have many dragons yet to slay:

  • Our youth remain unemployed and marginalised from society, yet they represent our future
  • Our women are prey to abuse and intimidation although they form the bedrock of our societies
  • Our chiefs have been too long neglected yet they are true custodians of our customs and local resources
  • The churches that can provide the moral guidance that is sorely lacking in all our communities are not encouraged to play their role.

Perhaps the biggest dragon that we have yet to slay is that of mediocre and self-serving national leadership that lacks any sound vision to take Zambia to new heights and address the long-standing poverty that is evident all around us.

A Turning Point

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now at a turning point in our nation’s history. To the far north of our continent, the young are restless and demanding real change. Their commitment has not gone unrewarded as we have seen regime after regime that has held onto power either fall or have its foundations shaken to the core.

If we are wise, we will reflect on these events – collectively. This is a time of change. It should also be a time of tolerance. It should be a time of energetic and visionary leadership. Youthful leadership – that can capture the concerns and aspirations of the many marginalised communities that I have seen in my travels across the country.

For I have seen things that I wish I had not seen; heard stories I wish were not true; witnessed poverty that shames me into action for a cause that is far greater than just changing the leadership of this country. We have a mission to transform minds and be an example of the change we all want to see.

But how can we do this?

We need to be leaders that have a vision – for a nation without a vision will perish.

We need to be leaders that are prepared to be held continually accountable to values – as NAREP we uphold 8 core values:

  • Excellence
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Service
  • Equity
  • Humility
  • Commitment
  • A sense of community

None of us is a saint and we will all make mistakes. But if we make values the centrepiece of everything that we do, we can begin to transform ourselves and our nation into a society that promotes excellence over mediocrity; order over corruption; giving over greed; and responsibility over neglect.

I will repeat the words that were spoken at the launch of the party. They remain true today as they were on the day they were first publicly uttered:

“This is our promise – our commitment to you: we will work for you and support you, without discrimination on the basis of gender, tribe, nationality, origin, race, religion or even political affiliation. We will work tirelessly because that is our duty to you as leaders – to serve all of the people. This is reflected in our motto: “a heart for the people”. As a part of the NAREP leadership, we will serve not our interests but yours. If we do this right, then our interests will be served too. And when all is said and done; when it is time for us to usher in new leadership, we should walk on, not seeking to hold onto power or waiting to be thanked by our nation, but thankful that we have been able to perform our duty well when the challenge of our time called upon us to do so.”

So whenever someone asks me why NAREP chooses not to wait until 2016 before contesting presidential parliamentary and ward elections, I remind them of why I became involved in politics in the first place: because I have seen women, men, children go through things no man; woman or child should have to go through. I have seen people living in places they should never be forced to live; I have lived to see the abnormal become normal in my country and can only imagine what those who fought for our freedom and for self-rule must feel when they look at the state of the nation they find themselves living in today.

But we cannot simply hold our head in our hands and lament at the mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect that we see around us. We must rise to meet this challenge

  • a challenge as real as our struggle for independence
  • a challenge as real as our fight to bring down the rule of a man who held onto power for 27 years
  • a challenge as real as the struggle of our north african brothers and sisters in tunisia and egypt to bring down the rule of ageing regimes that had long forgotten why they were there in the first place – to be a beacon of hope for the people that they led.

And the lessons are there for all to see except those for whom life seems to present few problems: minsters and politicians who can seek treatment abroad at tax-payers expense when the cost of a communal shelter for childbirth in a rural community can be constructed for less than 1,000 dollars.

Tackling Poverty

Do our leaders think about these realities when they collect their allowances as they travel abroad? Or when they consume the nation’s precious resources on never-ending workshops?

Our unwavering and determined goal as NAREP will be to tackle fully the causes of our poverty from its very roots. For we believe that poverty will not be tackled by “tackling poverty”. Such an approach is focused on addressing symptoms rather than the underlying causes of poverty. We must move towards an approach that is fully focused on tackling the causes of poverty. In order to do this, we need to create the environment that will fertilise growth and empowerment across the whole country so that the potential of every Zambian can be given the chance to be more fully realised. This will require us to rethink our whole approach to development delivery.

As NAREP, we believe that effectively tackling the causes of poverty will require the construction of a completely new economy; one that will move the nation away from its “line-of-rail” mentality to one that is focused on making rural communities a necessary and integral part of our overall economic development. We can start by setting out a clear and simple path to national development.

Our economic plan is anchored on 4 pillars:

  • bio-fuels and clean local energy production
  • agricultural production beyond the line of rail
  • trade of goods and services with Zambia serving as a regional inland hub
  • technological innovation

In line with the overall goal of moving Zambia away from its dependence on a single commodity, it is possible for Zambia to become an alternative energy superpower following the example set by Brazil. The opening up of land for the production of alternative energy on the strength of a bold new national energy policy will positively impact agricultural production by facilitating the development of infrastructure that will support the more effective use of our 420,000 km2 of medium-to-high potential arable land. Consequently, Zambia will be better able to take advantage of its strategic geographic location and offer a convenient inland hub for regional trade, commerce and political as well as social engagement. Being a regional trade and services centre would align well with Zambia’s geographical location and its people’s nature, cultural orientation and historical experience.

If this approach is adopted, the following can be realistically achieved:

  • 1,000,000 new jobs within 5 years in both rural and urban areas
  • 10,000 new business owners in each province within 6 years
  • full rural electrification within 7 years
  • major new roads connecting all provinces to modern towns and cities within 10 years
  • dramatic reduction of taxes

 

Jobs will be created through:

  • building national infrastructure for water, sewerage and sanitation
  • developing new rail and road links for mining and industrial operations
  • developing concrete roads to link rural locations to line of rail infrastructure
  • implementing policies to stimulate national demand for bio-fuels and alternative energy
  • increased industrial productivity through local alternative energy initiatives
  • increased activity in other growth sectors such as tourism, logistics and other services

Each of these initiatives will have a commercial foundation to ensure that they are sustainable and can be fully supported through a combination of commercial and concessional lending.

New business owners will emerge as a result of:

  • implementation of policy initiatives to stimulate local demand for bio-fuels
  • government-initiated private sector-driven construction projects
  • support services to major government-driven public works projects

full rural electrification will be possible because of:

  • extensive use of wide application and cost-effective solar systems
  • cost effective and easily implementable mini-hydro systems
  • use of locally developed bio-fuel resources

major new roads will be developed on the back of the alternative energy programme and the development of infrastructure to support mining and industrial operations

tax reduction will be achieved through a combination of the following:

  • broadening the tax net
  • improving efficiency in collection
  • incentivising taxpayers
  • transparency in application

 

In order to ensure the responsible development of this plan, as a party in government, NAREP will commit itself to introducing:

  • a small cabinet of selfless and committed leaders
  • accountability through performance-based monitoring of all government actions
  • unprecedented transparency and new rules on tendering

Conclusion

The challenge of implementing NAREP’s radical vision will require us to:

  • recognise that there is no inherent contradiction between financial stability, economic growth and improved social conditions for the majority – all three can be embraced within a well-defined multilayer framework
  • have clear and timely communication and be open about the serious challenges facing Zambia as well as the sacrifice that will be required from everyone to overcome them
  • have a clear strategic economic vision for the country and delegate implementation to a strong civil service that will be encouraged to robustly challenge any deviation from the vision

We will not succeed in more uniformly developing the nation if we continue to rely on failed ideas and the tired an ineffective leadership of the past. In 2011, we must put into office responsible, values-based leadership that is determined to promote sound fiscal responsibility, strong institutional integrity and clear accountability – leadership that truly has a heart for the people.

Let us rise together and demand from our leaders what we the people desire:

  • free and fair elections on a constitution that adopts 50%+1 – no referendum is required to achieve this
  • equal access to the national broadcaster for all political parties
  • a fixed date for our elections
  • a code of conduct to compel parties and their leaders to condemn political violence and to take steps to deal with it when it arises within their ranks

 

These demands are not unreasonable. They are legitimate concerns in a legitimate democracy.

 

We have a chance to have our voices heard this year. Let us go forward with one heart: for the people.

 

I thank you and may God’s grace be with you all.