By Henry Kyambalesa
The high incidence of strikes and other forms of work stoppages in Zambia today should be a source of great concern among citizens who have the interest of the country at heart.
It is rather surprising that all striking workers are on government payroll! This reflects very badly on the performance and competence of those who shoulder the responsibility of managing the affairs of our beloved country.
The long-term success and survival of important institutions in Zambia is partly a function of sustained industrial harmony.
Both experience and observation have taught us that regular industrial strife has partly contributed to the country’s failure to improve the performance of its economy.
Strikes and other forms of work stoppages in the country have tended to lead to widespread shortages of essential commodities, huge increases in operational costs, low worker productivity, death of patients in health institutions, and so forth.
If Zambian leaders cannot spearhead the prevention of industrial unrest, they should not expect the country’s economic and other institutions to operate efficiently.
Let me now suggest ways in which the Zambian government can contribute to the attainment of sustained industrial harmony.
(a) Provision for car-ownership and home-ownership schemes, and adequate upward adjustments in the salaries and allowances of personnel on government payroll;
(b) Provision of free life-saving health care to all Zambians that is respectful, that recognizes personal dignity, and that adequately provides for personal privacy;
(c) Provision of free formal education, abolition of examination fees and Grade 7 and Grade 9 elimination examinations, provision of scholarships for high-school graduates who obtain a Division 1 and low-interest loans for other high-school graduates and working Zambian men and women wishing to pursue further studies in classroom-based or correspondence-based study programs offered within Zambia;
(d) Improvement in Zambia’s food security through government-financed irrigation dams and canals, cattle re-stocking and disease control, free seeds and fertilizer for 2 years, a seed and fertilizer subsidy at 50% after 2 years, zero value-added tax on agricultural inputs and raw food, promotion of food canning, and promotion of agricultural schemes by municipalities, the civil police, the prison service, the defence forces, and educational and training institutions.
The government can meet these demands by performing existing and planned government functions with a smaller number of Cabinet Ministers, abolition of the positions of Deputy Minister and District Commissioner.
Having provinces that would be administered by elected Provincial Governors and Secretaries rather than appointed Provincial Ministers and Provincial Permanent Secretaries, reduction in the number of Zambia’s foreign embassies by having clusters of countries to be served by single embassies, as well as initiating restrictions on seminars and leaders’ trips to foreign countries.
It is hard to understand why the MMD government seems to be so obsessed with maintaining a highly bloated government – a government that serves itself instead of serving the people, to use the words of a Kitwe-based prominent Zambian.