Normally before Zambian constitution office holders, including the president, have their salaries and allowances increased, the issue is tabled before the National Assembly (even though it is not debated meaningfully because Members of Parliament, who are beneficiaries, say they do not debate themselves). Whatever the case, these increments are usually reported in the national press.
In March this year, however, President Michael Sata’s salary was discreetly increased by nearly 100 per cent, together with those of other constitution office holders, an action which no media organisation picked up on until three months later when the investigative citizen news website, Zambian Watchdog got wind of it.
In a nation where the average government employee earns less than K40 million (about US$ 9,000) per annum, State House admitted the salary and allowance increment for the president but denied it was 100 per cent, saying it was only 58 per cent. But before the ink of that denial was even dry, another Statutory Instrument increasing the president’s remunerations was unearthed by the same website.
Zambian Watchdog, which insisted that the increment was almost 100 per cent, gave the following breakdown:
Statutory instrument no. 17 of 2012 says president Michael Sata now gets K327 million [nearly US$73,000] per annum.
According to the same Statutory instrument signed by Finance minister Alexander Chikwanda, president Sata also gets an allowance of K80 million.
Former President Rupiah Banda was getting K164,120,016 per annum.
Rupiah Banda’s other allowance was K59,494,734 per annum.
Vice- president Guy Scott now gets K198 million
The justification by the Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda, of the second statutory instrument attracted the attention of netizens. Chikwanda, the man who acts as president in the absence President Sata, told critics:
They are excited over nothing because the president’s salary is not outrageous compared to what the Bank of Zambia governor and other heads of parastatals like Zamtel and Zesco […] There is a gap of about K80 million to K100 million deference [sic] from what the President gets… President Sata has nothing to do with the salary increment and when I sign a statutory instrument, I do so not because the President has ordered me to do so. It is done by the standing order by a committee of parliament and approved by the Attorney General before I sign.
Some of us from the private sector have significant companies, not those toys they talk about, but you don’t hear us making noise about it. We are not in government for salaries. We are here to serve the people.
Commenting on Chikwanda’s justification of the presidential salary increment, user Bob wrote [the site does not have permanent links for individual comments]:
What nonsense! A president’s salary cannot be compared to that of a CEO of a financial institution because there are many stark incomparables. For example, The BoZ governor has a PHD while the President has the equivalent of Grade 7. Also, the BoZ Governor buys his food from Shoprite while the President just eats and does not even care who pays his bills. These manouvres by the PF government will bring them down, mark my words and time is ticking as usual.
Like many readers, Kasonko took on Chikwanda on his word that he was rich:
Get out!! If you are not in government for salaries why are you increasing your salaries? If you are rich why are you increasing your salaries idiots!
Kimbanguist wondered what goes on in African leaders’ minds:
It is ‘nice’ being President in an African Country with massive poverty and illiteracy. Watching all the people languishing in grinding poverty and dying from curable, preventable tropical diseases. Enjoying the opulence of state house. How do these leaders sleep at night after visiting the dusty shanties, seeing all those malnourished children lining up to the dusty roads dressed in rags like miniature zombies? African leaders have no shame!!!!
Cleo called President Sata a hypocrite:
there’s a difference when everything else is paid for [in State House], and there is even a bigger difference if the same president had a problem with the former president’s meagre salary, which now defines him as a hypocrite.
A reader calling himself nshilimubemba defended the salary increment:
But the head of state needs a good pay for the sleepless nights he spends, and the insults from bad people no need for us to complain we who enjoy his labours
On Facebook where there was an equally robust debate on the presidential salary increment, Chola Angel also defended the increment:
[…] First the problem in Zambia as I always say is that people are lazy, they don't want to work hard and find themselves at the top but what they do is start criticising the guy at the top. Blaming him or her for their failures. What other monies does the President get? He gets free things like the chopper, Main car and escort cars, free rental state house. All these are about position. So why should a salary be an issue. For me the President's salary as Zambia's economy stands today should not be less that K150m per month. That is a very stressful job and you literally dedicate yourself to that for 5 years.
[…] this article brings us back to the campagin days and the promises made by the PF of putting more money in peoples pockets. Seems there is one pocket that needs to benefit more.