By Charles Tembo

POLITICAL scientist Neo Simutanyi says President Hakainde Hichilema should state clearly that he does not desire a government salary so that the allocation can be frozen for the next five years.

President Hichilema has not received his salary since he was elected in August 2021.

He says a salary has never been his motivation for seeking public office.

According to him, he has not received his salary because he simply didn’t pay attention as he has been too busy trying to better the lives of the people.

But Simutanyi said while it is commendable for the President to do that, the decision is not personal but a policy issue.

“While it is commendable that for the first time we have a Head of State who is prepared to work for Zambians pro bono, the decision not to receive a government salary cannot be a personal one. It is a policy issue. This is because salaries of constitutional office holders are fixed and approved by Parliament. President Hichilema should state clearly that he does not desire a government salary so that the allocation can be frozen for the next five years. That would enable the Ministry of Finance channel the funds to other needy areas, including the paying of hundreds of civil servants currently not on payroll because the government has no money,” he said. “But the idea that President Hichilema has been too busy to worry about his salary is most troubling as it suggests that as President all his needs are met by the State or his personal income is so high that the government salary is nothing in comparison. Whichever is the case, President Hichilema has exposed a serious contradiction in the remuneration of our heads of state.”

He noted that this has exposed that while the President has access to government salary, he may have access or receive donations in cash from well-wishers.

“Which is that, while they are entitled to a government salary, they may have easy access to government funds or receive donations in cash from well-wishers. In 1993 it was discovered that an unscrupulous individual was drawing President Frederick Chiluba’s presidential salary from a bank account in Ndola. We have also witnessed other former presidents either reducing their official salary or donating huge amounts of money to so-called worthy causes, schools, churches and health facilities or youth and women’s empowerment ventures,” he said. “In 2019, for example, former president Edgar Lungu took a 50 per cent pay cut and a year later demanded that his cabinet colleagues donate 20 per cent of their salaries to the government to help the government meet its debt obligations.”

Simutanyi noted that “all these decisions which was clearly unconstitutional”, was predicated on the assumption that cabinet ministers and senior civil servants received hefty salaries, which should be shared with the ordinary citizens.

“It was a cheap way of hoodwinking the Zambian people into thinking that our political leadership was empathetic to the plight of the Zambian poor. While I dare not question the morality of President Hichilema forgoing his salary, as the first Zambian president to do so, I am interested to understand, whether he has access to government funds outside his official salary. He may be a very wealthy man, by Zambian standards, but there are many wealthy heads of state in Africa who receive official government salaries. So the question of declaration of his assets, especially his commercial interests may not easily go away,” he said. “Zambians may wish to know whether their President has another way of earning an income other than his official salary. It will also be important for President Hichilema to pay special attention to his salary as unscrupulous individuals will begin to draw it since he does not need it – others will see an opportunity to pocket it, as was the case with Chiluba’s salary. But as far as I am concerned, President Hichilema should not shun his salary. It is his entitlement and he is at liberty to use it in any way he pleases, including donating it to charity.”

Simutanyi said not receiving the government salary gives the impression that “it is unnecessary; it’s too little compared to what he is worth or there are many other official revenue streams in State House that he can draw on”.

He said President Hichilema should come out clean on the matter.

“While I commend President Hichilema’s declared selfless service to our country pro bono, I am acutely alive to the temptations in that highest office given his extensive commercial interests. In the interests of transparency and in adherence to our Constitution, I will urge President Hichilema to come out clean and declare that he does not desire to receive a government salary during his presidency. Such a declaration should be followed by a policy pronouncement that will be gazetted by Secretary to the Cabinet to the effect that the salary of the President will be frozen on his instructions and the funds allocated to other causes,” urged Simutanyi.

“We don’t want to hear of a presidential slush fund or so- called presidential initiatives as another way of siphoning public funds to private pockets. It is my hope President Hichilema will raise the bar on probity and integrity in the office of President during his tenure.”


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