Zambia's parliament has approved a salary and allowance increment of 15 percent for the president, vice president, cabinet and parliament members. The approval came as President Levy Mwanawasa, who reports say was opposed to the increment when it was first proposed, is recovering from a stroke in Paris, France.
The Zambian opposition and civil society have also reportedly registered their opposition to the salary and allowance increment. Some have suggested that the cabinet has taken advantage of President Mwanawasa's illness to fast track the increment.
Forie Tembo is a member of parliament representing the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). He told VOA the salary increment is justified.
"What I'm trying to say is that the 15 percent increment for cabinet members and others, I think it has covered all because even the civil service were be given a 15 percent increase. But I feel most of the people are aggrieved because of probably the responsibility allowances which were given to cabinet ministers. That's the reason why certain people decided to walked away in parliament, mostly people from the opposition," he said.
Tembo said President Mwanawasa, members of parliament, and cabinet have not had a salary increment for quite some time.
He said the parliament and cabinet did not take advantage of President Mwanawasa's illness to fast track the increment as has been suggested by the opposition and civil society.
"I don't think that is true because the 15 percent increment has actually affected everyone. Because we don't have any union to represent us, the bill had to be tabled to parliament to approve. I feel that's the normal way," he said.
According to some accounts, an ordinary Zambian citizen lives on an equivalent of one U.S. dollar a day. Tembo said ordinary Zambians are affected by the every day high cost of food and energy. But he said Zambian civil service should go through their unions to bargain for any wage increase.
"On the ordinary Zambian, the only crying which is there is the normal crying which is almost affecting the whole world in terms of food prices. The price of food has gone up; the fuel has gone up. Those are the normal crying that are there. The ordinary Zambians, mostly the civil servants, they have trade unions to represent them. If they feel that their salaries are too low, why can't they ask the unions to bargain with the government," he said.
He agreed that members of parliament should petition the government on behave of their constituencies for increased in civil service salaries. But Tembo reiterated that the union petitioned the government and members of parliament will support them.