By Gray Soko
The buzz word during the election campaigns has been “ development” but I have some searching questions or observations to make:
- What if we plan a new road and rail network rather than the annual often shoddy repairs? Not only would we decongest traffic and reduce accidents but also provide quicker transportation. Such a network would also open up vast lands that are lying idle.
- What if we stopped looking at the number of second hand cars on our roads as an indication of development and planned to establish vehicle assembly or manufacturing plants? Not only would we create employment but also advance our technological knowhow as we would have to compete with the outside world for quality products and become innovative.
- What if instead of clapping the ears of transporters whose buses ( especially mini buses ) cause so much loss of life through accidents trying to arrive at their destinations on time we looked at developing an efficient and fast public transport system? Who remembers the “rail cars” of the 70s or the mooted underground train systems of years past? Perhaps not too far back, ZCCM tried a rail link within Lusaka ( Matero to Chilenge).
- What if instead of concentrating on keeping us alive by building more hospitals, clinics and mobile clinics/hospitals and importing drugs and medical equipment we planned to prevent disease, improve the environment , research on drugs and manufacture high tech equipment for use in hospitals? What if we stepped aside and reviewed the training of our medical personnel to make it the best possible? How has Cuba excelled in this field despite being under siege by the USA for so long?
- What if we made our central position on the continent our niche? Make Zambia the air and rail traffic hub of Africa. Make the “landlocked” situation work for us. We seem to have lost Lusaka’s niche for international conferences on African issues. We could even plan for Lusaka as capital for the AU, our generations of peaceful existence being our premium. The Lusaka and Ndola “international airports” are less than provincial airports in neighbouring countries.
- · What if instead of beating our chests on “bumper” harvest, referring to only maize, we develop agro industries to produce maize products like corn flakes which we still import. What if we looked at improving the nutritional status of our children as a goal rather than producing more maize for export. How can we make the school going children from poor families eat better at school ? Is Mount Makulu Research Centre for example adequately funded and are we getting full benefits of its research? Are we giving the other food products that we can abundantly produce adequate attention as we give to getting fertilizer for maize?
- What if we restructured the civil service hierarchy, which I believe follows the British model up to now to serve us better. Late FTJ once watched reporting time for civil servants and of course saw what we always see, late reporting from top to bottom. One reason is these civil servants did not have any “work” to do so why go early? Maybe up to 80% just report for work but do no work. Pay is assured though, it is not based on productivity but presenteism. Quite often you still get paid even if you are not there. Once in a while we stumble on “ghost” workers.
- What if we came to terms with what has not worked in terms of local government and boldly implemented provincial administration on carefully determined federal system. Can we seriously say the current provincial ministerial system and district commissioners add value? LPM tried to relook at the district commissioners to be technocrats but the political reward mentality of “it pays to belong to …party)was still strong.
- What if the districts had counselors appointed on merit rather than elected party cadres who have given themselves the right to curve out land for themselves. What if we had town planning again so that the haphazard “development” is brought to an end? Residential plots on graveyards, houses being built on sewer and waterlines and what should be open spaces or parks. Councils have failed and we cannot be doing the same things that have failed and expect different outcomes.
- What if we made civic and political leaders accountable to those who put them in power by having the “recall” strategy instead of them thinking the offices are theirs to keep for the term regardless.
- What if we added value to our mineral resources and exported finished products instead of making the invitation of investors to open mines and export raw material and profits thereof such an insatiable ambition. So much employment and technological development would result and the youths in technical colleges will have something to look forward to. What do the geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists, artisans look towards for when the employment opportunities seem so finite.
How I wish there would be such a debate, such a leader with vision for a better Zambia and not be content with “continuity” or the status quo.