By Dr. Henry Kanyanta Sosala
I have been prompted to write this article on Zambia’s political and economic history because of the following extract which a young ‘’blogger’’ had posted on Watchdog on 12th August 2014: ‘’I was surprised to find out that Zambia my country is topping the list of the poorest countries in Africa, whilst Seychelles is topping the richest countries in Africa with Botswana trailing behind. I cried the whole night and asked myself: where did we go wrong?’’
The truth is that the success or failure of any one generation is influenced by the success or failure of the preceding generation or generations. And just like in a relay race, the outcome depends at the very points each runner hands over the baton to the other. In Zambia we have had two revolutions i.e., the revolution that led to the attainment of independence from the colonialists in 1964 and in 1991 when the corrupt multi-partism ‘’democracy’’ replaced UNIP’s one-party dictatorship. The point is that after over fifty years of Zambia’s independence, what sort of packages have the previous generations handed over to the now generation!
Anver Versi, the editor of ‘’New African’’ magazine wrote: ‘’One of the favourite conference topics over the past few years has been Africa’s ‘youth bulge.’ We are told that by 2030, Africa will have the largest youth workforce in the world. If projections go as expected, the question is what can we do with the knowledge of this fact? The optimists see this as a boon i.e., the so-called ‘youth dividend’; while the pessimists point out that a huge population of energetic young people, with frustrated dreams, may lead to social chaos unless they can be gainfully employed. Again, most people seem to accept this premise; so the issue now is, how can we set into motion measures that will ensure that this youthful energy will be harnessed into productive activity i.e., in short will there be enough employment for this demographic?’’
I think the first thing we need to note from the above is how Anver Versi has put it: ‘’What can we do with the knowledge of this fact?’’ I repeat, what he is saying is: ‘’what can we do?’’ This simply means that he is inviting we Africans in general to begin to brainstorm on this important issue and I must therefore remind the so-called Lusaka Times bloggers to concentrate on trying to help our youths by exploring the various avenues to tackle this imminent catastrophe instead of their usual habit of concentrating on unreasonably attacking my contributions, i.e, ‘’that was why President Sata de-gazzeted you……..’’ It takes me a lot of time to research and concentration just to produce an article of this nature and normally every writer, of course, expects analytical criticism that can add value to what they write.
And in this respect, that youngster like many others wants to know ‘’where did we go wrong?’’ In his book, ‘’The Humanist in Africa,’’ Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the first Zambia’s Republican President wrote: ‘’I have never made the mistake of under-valuing the European contribution to Zambia through administrators, missionaries, professional men, farmers and industrial workers. Because the institutions of government were, on the whole, in good shape when they handed them over to us, we were able to take-off into independence from a lofty platform.’’
In the book ‘’One Zambia, Many Histories: Towards a History of Post-colonial Zambia.’’ Edited by Jan-Bart Gewald; Marja Hinfelaar and Giacomo Macola it is written: ‘’,,,,,,at independence from Britain in 1964, Zambia, rich in copper deposits and agricultural potential, was rated as one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. To be sure, there were huge inequalities in income distribution, but these, many interested observers assumed, would soon be reversed by the enlightened social policies of President Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP), the protagonist of nationalist agitation in the early 1960s and Zambia’s ruling party from 1964. Unfortunately the great expectations of independence were soon dashed for the overwhelming majority of Zambians. Mismanagement, patronage, corruption and growing political authoritarianism all took their toll.’’
An international organization, the National Citizens’ Coalition reported in Social Watch Report 2002: “When former President Chiluba took office from President Kaunda in 1991, the poverty rate was 56 per cent. When he left the government after ten years, poverty had risen to upward of 80 per cent. Large-scale corruption had diverted resources meant for the people of Zambia, while they watched in sorrow and desperation as their country headed towards becoming the poorest in the world. A characteristic feature of Zambia’s poverty is that the government and the international institutions bred it. Zambia’s poverty did not just happen; it was caused.
It is unfortunate that many people I have talked to can hardly believe that poverty and corruption are among the world’s big businesses. And here is what The Post observed in the editorial regarding the mentally-corrupted Zambians who are on foreign payrolls:“… the civil society, for more than four years remained largely silent on corruption. And when some members of the public spoke on this issue, it was often an attack on those who were making the most humble contribution to this fight……” (ibid., 20th September 2006). And according to finance minister, Ng’andu Magande, the money given to NGOs was not properly accounted for and the donors don’t ask how and where it had been taken. (Zambia Daily Mail 21st June 2007)
And here is what the South African Communist Party, Secretary-General, Dr. Blade Nzimande observed when he visited this country: ‘’The one striking feature of the Zambian society is the extent to which the structural adjustment policies pursued by the Chiluba presidency have rolled back many of the gains made during the first two decades of Zambian independence after 1964. We found, amongst many of those we met a re-emerging nostalgia for the Kaunda presidency and the advances made then in the fields of education, health and provision of other basic services. The Chiluba presidency privatized virtually all the state-owned enterprises, leading to massive job losses and the rolling back in the provision of education and health services in particular.’’ (Sunday Post 9th April 2006).
The veteran politician Ba Sikota Wina wrote:’’…over 100,000 people lost their jobs between 1992 and 1997, while the Gross National Product (GNP) per capita had fallen to below US$ 300 ranking, making Zambia one of the least developed nations in Africa with poverty levels at 83 percent. In 1997, Zambia had seen the closure of 105 companies and 224 firms in 1998 leading to 8,150 and 3,655 job losses respectfully.’’ (The Post 2nd November 2004).
I do not think it requires the genius of Solomon or the creative and analytical mind of a political scientist or of a giant economist to realize that Zambia to-day is in a political and economic quagmire. And I think that in order to have a somewhat clear view of our present predicament, it is essential to look back to our history. Of course, political history can be variously defined. However, in my own opinion, political history consists in analyzing and illustrating how social authority is organized and applied in any given place and time; it is how different peoples react to the challenges of their development and environment. In this article, I have dealt with imperialism and capitalism in relation to Zambia’s political and economic history. The word ‘’imperialism’’ stands for ‘’domination.’’ Irvin Babitt wrote: “…..the man who stands for nothing higher than the law of cunning and the law of force, and so is, in the sense I have sought to define imperialistic.”
And in this respect, about over seventy per cent of Africa’s problems leading to devastation and poverty have been deliberately created by the capitalist-exploiter. And on the basis of the ‘’law of cunning,’’ the capitalist-exploiter has developed the instinct or genius for colonizing to the edge of a razor. His unequalled energy, his indomitable perseverance and his personal independence makes him an adventurous pioneer. And thus, capitalism survives on the sucking of the poor people’s resources. The capitalist-exploiter is a great strategist and he is as well blessed with the gift of wit and he leads with truth but never to truth.
Now listen to Dr. Caleb Fundanga a former Bank of Zambia Governor about what I am talking about: ‘’The crisis that sub-Saharan Africa is facing today can be seen as having to a large extent been created by the world financial system, which encouraged ill-advised borrowing and investment in import substitution industries in the 1960s; despite the fact that these policies obviously caused imbalances, this was not given serious consideration so long as the debt continued to be serviced. In the recent deep repayment crisis, these institutions which themselves advocated disastrous policies are now turning around and blaming poor nations for supporting the same policies.’’ (From the book ’’Planners and History’’)
Of course there are brief climatic periods in history when the destiny of any nation seems to resolve itself for better or worse as is the case today in our country. The important questions we are now facing are: What happens now? Where do we go from here? And by which means?
Then how do we go about it? Can regime change, as some people have been suggesting solve the current state of affairs in Zambia? Can, for example, regime change from PF to the main opposition UPND party bring about viable political and economic changes in Zambia? Let us listen to what Shisuwa Shisuwa a radicalized genius who calls ‘’a spade, a spade,’’ and whom in Bemba can be described as a person, ‘’Ushitina napo lwiswile’’ wrote in Diggers: ‘’Given the increasing unpopularity of the incumbent, do you think the UPND is the answer to the current political and economic problems? Suffice it to say I don’t think that UPND offers a radical or truly transformation agenda, if it’s manifesto or the public pronouncements of it’s leader Hakainde Hichilema is anything to go by. It may be that the UPND and HH are reluctant to outline a detailed vision for this country for fear that under scrutiny it would reveal that it would do little to make the lives of the majority of poor Zambians better and instead widen the privileges that western, Chinese and South African multinational corporation already enjoy……As far as an increasing number of Zambians are concerned, Hakainde Hichilema has little to offer other than a desire for power and is bolstered by multinational corporation who want their man…’’
One notable feature of the current Zambian politics is that it does not induce any sense of reality because it does not take place via viable critical analysis of economic and political determinants except the trading of insults and therefore unproductive and useless rhetoric takes precedence over reality. And thus the sad reality is the fact that the entire nation is on the same intellectual and political wave-bands and this was also easily identified by Dr. Blade Nzimande, when met the leaders of different political parties and the civil society groups in separate meetings: ‘’What is disappointing in Zambia is the extent to which virtually all the major political parties that will be contesting elections this year (i.e., 2006) are effectively committed to a path broadly similar to that of Chiluba.’’ (Sunday Post 9th April 2006).
But, the curious question is why are our two main political parties on the same political and economic wave-bands? This is because UPND and PF are ‘’protest political parties.’’ The formation of UPND came about through frustration when Mr. Anderson Mazoka scooped a party treasury position in Bauleni, but the elections were eventually deliberately nullified since his presence in MMD threatened some top leaders within the party. And the PF was formed through bitterness when President Chiluba dribbled Mr. Michael Sata.
After Dr. Chiluba’s third term bid lamentably failed, he immediately hatched the ‘’fourth term bid,’’ in which his strategy was to eliminate Mr. Sata from the presidential race and rule the country by ‘’remote control’’ through a bootlicker i.e., pulling strings behind the scenes. And in his carefully planned scheme, the master-dribbler came up with a combined mathematical simultaneous and quadratic equations strategy that did not need much campaigning to eliminate Mr. Sata. Dr. Chiluba invited Messrs. Emmanuel Kasonde, Michael Sata, Chitalu Sampa and Erick Silwamba from Northern Province and Messrs. Mwanawasa and Kavindele to contest for the MMD presidential candidature before the National Executive Council (NEC). This in reality meant that the votes for the Northern Province candidates were automatically split and then whoever emerged as the winner would then contest against the victor from Mwanawasa/Kavindele camp.
In this equation if you added the split votes for the Northern Province camp, you could see that they were higher than what Mr. Mwanawasa got. You can as well note that the master- dribbler had also insured that his scheme would not in anyway misfire since he didn’t invite anyone from other provinces because he knew that could definitely upset Mr. Mwanawasa’s chances of victory.
And indeed, ‘’humanly speaking,’’ there was no better choice who would be a submissive and a docile bootlicker than Mr. Mwanawasa. But finally when Mr. Mwanawasa was clothed with power, he proclaimed a very simple message: ‘’Zero tolerance on corruption.’’ And immediately heads began to roll including Dr Chiluba’s. And here is what Mr. Mwanawasa told Mr. Amos Mapulanga in an interview ‘’I am even regretting……I wish I had accepted my mother’s advice not to come back to politics because it has brought me at an edge with somebody who was very dear to my heart. Perhaps had I not become President, our relationship could have continued.’’ (The Post 24th October 2004).
(TO BE CONTINUED)