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 LUSAKA, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) — Zambia’s opposition Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) have called for the withdrawal of the bills to increase salaries and allowances for the president, ministers and other constitutional office holders, according to Sunday Times of Zambia.

    At a public rally held here Sunday by the two opposition parties and civil society groups to press for withdrawal of the bills, PF leader Michael Sata described the bills as immoral, saying they would continue pressing the government to withdraw ahead of a planned demonstration outside parliament building next week.

    “This government should show leadership, especially that President Levy Mwanawasa is currently in hospital. It is imperative for Vice-President Rupiah Banda to show true leadership on this matter.

    “We will not stop fighting this matter until the bills are withdrawn. This is the time for Zambians to unite on a matter that will affect their lives once it is approved,” he said.

    UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema expressed dismay at the intended salaries. He said most sectors of the economy required sufficient funds to boost economic growth and that it was the obligation of the government to protect the citizens.

    “To award themselves these hefty salaries is highly immoral and irresponsibility of the highest order. We are here to speak for the people who can’t speak for themselves. Government should show accountability in the manner this country is being run,” he said.

    About 10 civil society organizations also issued a communiqué at the rally opposing the proposed allowance hikes.

    But Local Government Deputy Minister and spokesperson of the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) Ben Tetamashimba said it was not possible to withdraw the bills because they had already been passed by parliament Friday.

    He accused the political parties of merely politicking. With the three bills passing through the third reading, what now remains is the president to assent to them so that they become law.

    According to the bills, the president shall be paid a salary calculated at an annual rate of 164,120,016 kwacha (about 48,271 U.S. dollars) while the vice-president would get 99,227,544 kwacha.

    The speaker would get 86,284,817.40 kwacha per annum while his deputy would get 75,117,123 kwacha per annum.

    Cabinet ministers and their deputies would get 75,117,123 and 70,161,239 kwacha per annum respectively.

    The secretary to the cabinet and the attorney general would respectively get 159,340,959 and 135,485,950 kwacha per year. (1U.S. dollar = 3,400 kwacha)

Editor: Bi Mingxin