By Joseph Kangwa
Zambia is truly going in the wrong direction economically, socially and politically. All this is as a result of the irresponsible and selfish leaders we have entrusted to run our national affairs. What the Zambian citizens are witnessing and going through today is simply a tip of worse things to come, we are heading to a catastrophic end. Having poor and inept leadership in government, one that does not serve the interest and wellbeing of its people and the Country but theirs and those connected to them.
We totally agree with the outgoing British High Commissioner’s concerns about the direction the country is headed to, it’s the wrong one. The issues Mr Fergus raised in his goodbye statement are genuine and very cardinal. If we had responsible people in government, who care for the masses, they would have taken time to reflect seriously on all the issues that were pointed out. Comparing the questions posed by Mr Fergus and the government’s response, the following are our views:
1. Debt: why has it soared to unsustainable levels? Government has been consistently spending more money than the taxes it raises (including other sources) which are mostly used on allowances, Public Service official’s trips and so on and so forth. A government that is serious and committed to repay its debts, should focus on revamping its economy by concentrating on measures that would improve that economy rather than spend more on consumption. Instead of essential services that will add value on the general wellbeing of the masses.
2. Corruption: what should we make of persistent reports about rampant corruption? The Auditor General’s and FIC reports among other information. There is a popular English saying, “he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.” Unfortunately, the approach to the fight against corruption seems to be a comedy of errors where some high profile cases end up nowhere after a lot of assurances by government that the perpetrators of such corrupt activities are going to be brought to book. A very serious example is that of the 48 houses in Chalala area of Lusaka which smelled of high-level corruption but the case ended nowhere rather in a mysterious manner.
3. Political Dialogue: Has the National Dialogue Forum done anything to foster reconciliation and reduce political tensions ahead of the 2021 election? Or is the proposed legislation only generating further controversy? How do you expect NDF, which was rejected by the masses through their representative organizations like religious institutions, CSOs, political parties among other stakeholders, to genuinely foster reconciliation and reduce political tension? It had nothing to do with reconciliation neither was it aimed at reducing tension. As evidenced by the resolutions of the forum, the NDF had nothing to do with the wellbeing of the poor masses nor the country at large but only to benefit a few people who are politically connected. That’s the reason why it has been rejected by many.
4. Drought/Poverty: Neighbouring countries have declared food security emergencies. Why hasn’t Zambia done so? It is because not all of us are affected by hunger the same way, no wonder it cannot be declared as a National Disaster because some (from the elite group) have the capacity to feed themselves while the majority are wallowing in abject poverty and starvation.
5. Freedom of the Media/ Expression: Is Zambia becoming more or less free? Are Zambian journalists and institutions inclined to exercise self-censorship over fears that their licenses might be suspended? How can there be freedom of media and expression when ruling party cadres harass media houses that try to report objectively in maintaining checks and balances by covering different political parties and sharing their views or labeled as opposition’s media institutions? Journalists are being threatened and beaten by the minions of certain political parties while others are detained or jailed for giving their opinions on national issues.
Suffice to say, the PF government’s response to the outgoing High Commissioner of the UK was unacceptable and a mockery to the victims of the challenges the country is experiencing. The manner in which the government has responded to the issues raised by Mr. Fergus shows how irresponsible and arrogant people in this regime are. It’s sad to note that any organization, institution and/or individual that tries to tell the PF government the realities gets hated or labeled as partisan and enemy of the state. It seems like there is no room for criticism and advice to government leaders.
The Socialist Party in the Province is urging them to be honest when it comes to dealing with national issues. The issues that face this country are beyond political parties. Hunger, for example, chooses not which political or religious persuasions you have.
We, therefore, challenge the government to address the situation of poverty as soon as possible- especially the government has stated clearly on the availability of resources to deal with food insecurity. They need to ensure that prices for the staple food are reduced and where there are shortages the commodity is made accessible. This is not difficult to deal with but of course, this calls for seriousness and great responsibility by those tasked to lead us.
The Author is the Copperbelt Provincial Spokesperson for the Opposition Socialist Party in Zambia, led by Fred M’membe and Cosmas Musumali