What is the Difference?
By Gray Soko
It is now six months since the PF took over from the MMD and many are still wondering if the PF really has a different vision for Zambia from what the MMD had or is just seeking to improve on the MMD policies.
Some have asked the PF to clearly spell out what its direction for Zambia is. So far the PF has only been clear on what it will not do i.e. it is not for nationalization or introduction of the mining windfall tax. On these points the PF has been very explicit. The question that one begs to ask is whether there is a clear new direction the PF will take to move Zambia forward.
Recently the Minister of Finance said the PF was basically following the MMD 6th Development Plan, this may be because of the short time between the budget implementation and the PF coming to power but there were no major policy shifts indicated when the President opened Parliament either. The approach to the rehabilitation of the road network for example is still following the MMD style of road mending instead of taking a holistic approach to the road and rail network. Unless the network is changed, huge amounts of money will continue to be spent annually on mending roads. We have yet to hear of plans to open up new roads that will be different from the “ Cape to Cairo” network and open up new areas for development. We still hear the same MMD ideas on the agricultural and tourism side. “More money in your pockets” will only be realized if there is a major shift on job creation. We need to hear more about industrialization and value addition and trust Bob Sichinga is working overtime on this and not following the rhetoric of his predecessor.
On the governance side, apart from downsizing the cabinet with an increase in deputy ministers there have been no major changes. The much debated post of District Commissioner is very much in place and is generally being filled by party loyalists rather than professional administrators. President Sata has however indicated he wants the efficiency of the “colonial” commissioners to be reintroduced with the help of the British. There is of course a wish for effective decentralization but as Ms Nawakwi recently observed, unless there are concrete constitutional provisions, we shall continue talking about decentralization for decades without any tangible results. The PF Secretary General has scoffed ideas on federalism because of the “size” of the country which I find rather surprising. I would have expected that he would welcome ideas on how to make decentralization more effective and practicable rather than cling tenaciously to the “manifesto”. It is time we seriously took on board “Think Tanks” to put in place effective programmes and not rely on the self righteousness of party manifestos.
apart from downsizing the cabinet with an increase in deputy ministers there have been no major changes
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (MMD) has come under fire from some MMD constituencies who have perceived him as not offering effective “checks and balances” to the PF. This may be far fetched because as of now there have really been no major policy shifts anyway. The MMD itself is taking a long time to recover from the September 2011 blow and unless a new visionary leader emerges to energise the party, it may be on unstoppable slide into oblivion like UNIP. With its parliamentary seats declining due to successful petitions, we may have a repeat of a defacto one-party state. We still have good political leaders ( General Miyanda, Charles Milupi, Elias Chipimo Jnr, Hakainde Hichilema , Edith Nawakwi ) but until they realize that in their divided small state their ability to influence events is minimal, the political landscape of Zambia will remain the same.
The expectations of the Zambians for the PF government to make a difference are indeed great and after six months of “stabilization” in government I expect the PF government to blaze a new trail for Zambia to move forward. With all our resources, material and human, we should not be where we are in the next five years.