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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Zambia should do away with By-elections

Columns Zambia should do away with By-elections

By Alexander K. Vomo

How much does it cost our country to run the by-election and the money spent for campaigning? As a concerned citizen I have a right to suggestions. I’m not here to campaign for anyone or criticize the government but I would like to bring up a suggestion and through my suggestions I must mention why we should do this, and it may sound criticizing but that’s the facts that we cannot run away from.

I would like to start with a suggestion of do away with By-election in our country because it has become too much of it and too costly that the country cannot afford, there is no money to run a By-election.

Solution to this should be that, if a President, MP or councilor resigns or anything happen that would require a replacement, if it’s a President that means the ruling party at that time should appoint someone within their party to continue the presidency. If it’s MP or Councilor, it should be that the party the MP/Councilor came from, they will appoint from within. If that MP was with the opposition, then the opposition should also be given a chance to appoint someone from their opposition party.

I would take you back for an instance when Honorable Harry Kalaba resigned, he was an MP for PF therefore, in a case like this PF would appoint an MP to replace Honorable Kalaba, same way another example when the government fired the outspoken Honorable Chishimba Kambwili who was also from the PF, PF still gets a chance to appoint a replacement with no By elections. Same goes to the instance of the Kaoma councilor who was a UPND and resigned, with no by elections the government should have given an opportunity to UPND to appoint a new representative, this could have saved the country so much money plus no one would have died.

I’m a Zambian a nonpartisan but Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu is my president I cannot run away from that fact. Mr. President sir, you have the mandate as per our constitution for you to run our nation, please have a listening hear and listen to our suggestions we cannot run the country but can bring up some suggestions.

The country is broke to put it in a simple language. If civil service personnel are not getting paid for months, then we have a problem in our nation that makes me have a right to talk, I know someone is reading and saying I’m mad because when you say the truth now in our country then you are against the ruling government no I’m not I would like to see a better Zambia than us keep on voting for a change instead of a right person. Please Mr. President as long as you are the president in office, I’m on your side and respect that but we must be truthful, numbers don’t lie.

How is a school teacher who has not been paid for months going to perform well and give the best education to our Children, how is the City Council employee going to do the right thing who has been assigned to allocate plots to citizens when this employee has not been paid for months, how is a medical doctor taking care of our lives going to administer proper medication and do well with no pay. In fact, point of correction some new medical doctors are now on payroll since last month although they did not get salary arrears.

Let me give more details and reasons why we should do away with By-election:

  1.  Zambia Debt to GDP is at 59%. Zambia’s external debt at the end of the first quarter of this year had increased to $10.178 billion from $10.05 billion at the end of 2018, the debt pile had pierced the $10 billion level after jumping from $8.74 billion at the end of 2017.
  2. Food inflation is at 12.4%. This means the Cost of food in Zambia now for a family of 5 is not less than $300 if we factor in the price of mealie meal which a family of 5 may feed on two bags in a month.
  3. The annual inflation rate in Zambia climbed to 10.5 percent in September 2019 from 9.3 percent in the prior month. This is the highest inflation rate in almost three years, amid rising prices of food (12.4 percent vs 10.3 percent in August) as the country has been struggling with a severe drought which is causing a lack of the staple food mealie meal and a looming humanitarian crisis. Meantime, poor rainfall is affecting electricity generation created mostly through hydroelectric power, a situation that will drive the country to import power from South Africa can we even afford that?
  4. Foreign exchange reserves have plunged to $1.4 billion dollars (maybe completely gone by now) from a peak of nearly $4 billion five years ago. This Mr. President will put us in a probability of default when it’s time to repay these loans.
  5. Our Government Budget is at -7.60%. This equates to the deficit of 7.50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product as of 2018.
  6. We have not remitted over K418 million (USD $31,646,085.00) over the past 4 months towards repayment of civil servants’ loans, this has forced some affected micro financial institutions to suspend disbursements of funds to government workers until payments are made. From these Micro Financial institutions, most employees have gone on forced leave and now fear of losing their jobs as their institutions may decide to downsize on the number of staffs. Various civil servants have loans with different Micro Financial institutions which government is mandated to pay on their behalf but has not done so over the past four months.

Having given these details, I would like to state that we as a country benefited from the World Bank/ IMF-organized debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Practically all external debt was cancelled in 2005.
Until 2011, we had limited our borrowing while the economy had grown 6-7% annually since 2002. By the end of 2011, when the Patriotic Front (PF) government won the elections and took power, the external debt stood at only 1.9 billion USD or 8.4% of GDP, according to official and World Bank sources. Since 2012, however, the government has borrowed more than four times this amount.
Most loans in the 1980s and 90s, and even up to 2011, were provided by multilateral banks such as the World Bank/IDA and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other development donors on concessional (low interest) terms. The new loans, however, are mostly on commercial terms, meaning higher interests and shorter time frames. The main new sources for the Zambian loans are the commercial Eurobond market, and Chinese credits and loans, as well as banks in India, South Africa, Nigeria and the Arab world.

Until 2011, we had limited our borrowing while the economy had grown 6-7% annually since 2002. By the end of 2011, when the Patriotic Front (PF) government won the elections and took power, the external debt stood at only 1.9 billion USD or 8.4% of GDP, according to official and World Bank sources. Since 2012, however, the government has borrowed more than four times this amount.

In 2012, we followed the example of several other African countries and decided for the first time to raise money in the Eurobond market at commercial rates. (this was a mistake Mr. President sir) the response was very positive. The first 750 million USD loan was quickly over-subscribed, and the interest rate was a reasonable 5.6%. However, the loan must be repaid in full within ten years. Encouraged by this relative success, we managed a second Eurobond loan in 2014, this time borrowing 1 billion USD even though the interest rate had jumped to 8.6%. Despite the high price, we still decided to go for a third Eurobond loan in 2015 and borrowed 1.25 billion USD at a 9.4% interest rate. We have thus altogether borrowed 3 billion USD at commercial rates and must start heavy repayments in 2022.
I’m sorry but I must mention that the then Finance Minister (Mrs. Margaret Mwanakatwe) made a statement promising to create a “sinking fund” i.e. savings to enable repayments in time. I believe with the situation we are in, we have not done this so-called sinking fund. She went on to say that Zambia’s increasing debt load is an investment for the future and shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but this is a concern to us as citizens. Some sources have stated that Instead of saving, we have started to look for ways to extend the loan period or enter new loans to be able to repay the present ones. As the year 2022 is approaching, this is becoming more urgent. Sir, there is no way we can borrow more to pay what we have borrowed before it does not work that way.

Mr. President sir, in June 2019. (specifically, June 19th) when you were in Maputo, Mozambique’s Capital, you said that Zambia is not in a position of a crisis. You said and I quote “When you find that you are being strangled by debt, you hold back and see how you can realign your position so that in the end you continue being alive, you don’t suffocate. We have realized where we are, and I think we have taken measures; those measures will see us get some breathing space so that the economy begins growing again. In a few years, we will see Zambia boomerang and rise again to that growth rate which is acceptable.” Sir I would like to remind you that we are now in a crisis and suffocating. We need to start considering cost measures like what I’m talking about here DO AWAY WITH BY-ELECTIONS., as one of them to build the economy back like you mentioned in your interviews in Maputo.
We should only hold presidential elections which is every five years if anything happens to the president before five years, we will only appoint from the ruling government.

We have borrowed from several non-Chinese sources, including bilateral government loans, loans from fuel suppliers, the Arab Development Bank (BADEA), Israeli sources (for defense purposes) and from regular international banks in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa. Most of these loans probably have commercial market conditions.
Meanwhile, our borrowing from Chinese sources has increased dramatically in recent years. Starting from a relatively low figure in 2011, then it reached at least 2.3 billion USD at the end of 2017 according to official sources (Ministry of Finance 2018). The major creditor is China’s EXIM Bank. Other loans have been obtained from China Development Bank and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATEC). The EXIM Bank and the Development Bank provide loans on partial concessional terms and are thus less costly than commercial terms.

I would like to recommend that we had a relatively healthy macroeconomic position in 2011, resulting from a high economic growth since 2002 and a sound government budget. However, the growth had a relatively small impact on living conditions for the majority. We initiated a high number of construction projects. Numerous road projects were started, some have since been completed, while several have stalled and been left half-finished. Among the most spectacular projects are the expensive Mongu- Kalabo road crossing the Zambezi flood area in Western Province.
Because there is no money a four-lane highway to the Copperbelt region, and the bridge crossing the Zambezi from Kazungula in Southern Province linking Zambia directly with Botswana and Namibia. These projects are on standby.

In addition to road building, we also borrowed for other infrastructure purposes, such as a new terminal for the Lusaka airport and a new airport in the Copperbelt (Ndola), which are also moving very slow because of the same reason if there was money it would not take this long to complete these projects. The truth of the matter is that there is no money we cannot sugar coat it.
Other loans were for hydropower plants including the Itezhi-Tezhi on the Kafue river, additional turbines in the Kariba Dam, and a major new plant to be constructed in Lower Kafue Gorge. Most people agree that borrowing for investments in infrastructure is necessary for developing countries as it makes trade and travel easier, providing improved access. The economy will grow with improved transport and communications and a stable energy supply. Only cost measures will make us end Load shedding.

We are experiencing high unemployment and poverty levels of 41.2 percent and 54 percent respectively, coupled with inequality, violence, corruption and other socio-economic challenges. If we don’t wake up as soon as possible we are going to be worse than our friends next door.
I will end here so that I can give chance to those bloggers who just insult and think when you speak then you are mad. go on Cadres!


  1. Elections in Zambia are a farce. Reminds me of my Zambian exes who always pretended to listen when they wanted something from me and yet did the opposite. Very similar to the pf. I am now happy to be with my white wife who genuinely listens and cares for me. I love my vanilla ice cream baby

    • A posittive appeal worth considering though a bit lenghty.
      To the point would have been to show the cost of an MP and/or Councellor bye-election. What it cost to prepare the Election Commision, the Presidential campaign Team, the Vice-President’s Team, Ministers, Government and Party Officials, the Policing; Tear gas discharges, vote buying, food and Tujilijili donations,… etc. vis-a’-vis what that amount would have settled in terms of say, paying delayed govt/council salaries, drilling boreholes, buying medicines, repaying loans and local contractors.

    • I beg to disagree with the author, Elections are important and should not be done away with. The Nation should budget for this adequately. In a well managed economy the cost of an election is negligible but when rampant corruption is unabated and economy mismanaged then you would think it is a drain.


  2. Perfect analysis. There is a suggestion already that the party that won should just find a replacement in the case of death or resignation in between the five year period from last election to the next. The contested election should only be every five years. We have had an election previously a few months before the main election , where an MP just serves a few months and off again they go and re contest in the main election. We can solve so much and even the violence can be minimized! Great analysis.

  3. Actually it’s the same UPND sycophants and zealots and enemies of progress who are into group think mentality who are not supporting Bill 10 under parliament where it’s proposed that the party which held a seat appoints a replacement all because it’s Supreme leader HH of the UPND has told them not to support the proposed amendments…

  4. Unfortunately even if you do away with bye elections you still be in the same boat if you had undisciplined president like lungu. He will find ways to waste and steal our money

  5. ..well articulated with factual numbers.. But will they hear…a big NO…this analysis is for the sane not the insane, who have been governing the nation in campaign gear from the day they were leashed…. We have never let the technocrats govern, offer credible guidance, its all about uneducated ministers with limited understanding of issues to be in the forefront of the final say….worse even PS level has sunk to cadreism, even MDs in so called parastatals need to think like a cadre for them to clung on to the position… Strategic thinking of growing these firms goes out the window the day they get dubiously appointed…. Its a disaster I tell you…. We have sunk so low as a nation to have let these low life uneducated people to lead us into chaos… Getting out of this ditch will…

  6. …… will take a strong person and team to formulate drastic policies that will be too bumpy but so long they will bring better change for the people it will be worthwhile….for now, will continue in campaign mode and worse now that 2021 is around the next turn…Zambia bleeds indeed!

  7. Yes by-elections are costly and it would do good to do away with them, but the solution you’ve suggested of the party whose MP, Councillor, Mayor, or council Chairperson resigns, dies or is fired being replaced by that political party is not good enough.
    1. It would be breed unimaginable corruption. Political contestants are chosen based on loyalty not ability, what’s to prevent individuals paying their way to the ballot?
    2. Model would be used as a tool to manipulate the electorate. Imagine this, an MP, Councillor, Mayor or council Chairperson is fired from a party after falling out of favour with party president, party can concoct whatever it wants for justification.
    3. It’s bad for democracy. In a more civilized democracy where everyone is elected on merit this would work…

    • cont’d
      3. It’s bad for democracy. In a more civilized democracy where everyone is elected on merit this would work. Intra-party democracy is non existent in our political parties.
      I have an alternative suggestion. Anytime that any MP, Councillor, Mayor, Council Chairperson of any political is fired or resigns from a political party that sponsored them, that individual should automatically become an independent member while holding that position for the remainder of the term. However that individual cannot publicly campaign or render support to any political party till after term ends.
      Take Harry Kalaba’s case, why should any member who’s chosen to resign on ‘moral’ grounds be punished for doing the right thing.
      Furthermore make a provision in the constitution that will allow a…

    • cont’d
      Furthermore make a provision in the constitution that will allow a political party from which an individual resigns to take legal action if that individual is thought to have violated the party’s constitution.

  8. Mr Lungu has no vision for this country no plan external debt as of 2011 was standing at 1.9 billion as of now its 20 billion then they say we still want to rule PF you are not even ashamed of yourselves buch of criminals.

  9. These FACTS if taken seriously would help our ailing economy. But ALAS!! Who would listen to you my dear? Those in power don’t have time for statements like yours. They prefer to be caressed and soothed with cream and butter and pampered with good news that they have built roads and hospitals.

    Right now you are an enemy of their so-called PROGRESS my friend.

  10. yes, we should do away with by elections because too much money is spenton useless elections coupled with violence by the those two. i dont agree though, that the party whose mp, Councillor or whatever dies or resigns be replaced by someone from the same party. instead the candidate who came in second position at a time of the elections should take over. kwamana


  12. First of all, I appreciate your humble appeal Mr Alexander, you’re indeed a Bona-fide Zambian whose interest is to see your country, Zambia move forward and improve on the economy. Your advice is indeed spot on, as you’re are not pretending to do politics. Thanks a lot ba Alexander. Indeed the powers that be must heed to this noble advice. Zambians cannot go beyond this tightened belt. Alex you have simplified it all in economic terms to accommodate noneconomists. Really the President must put his economic policies in order, or else Zambia is doomed. The Mwanawsa regime did its best and left a sound economy. Zambians must also learn that the removal of Felix Mutati had a hidden agenda. After Mutati left the debt jumped beyond expectation. Mutati had limits on where to borrow. The moment…

    • @ Mr. Preacher, i agree with you. Let it rain you have a point too. Hope everyone can get sense to it, we are at the point of finding solution to fix our Economy very soon these loans are going to mature and how do we pay them back. The banks we have been getting these funds from are going to come after us and grab every parastatal firm we have remaining, already Zesco is the only money making industry we have remaining.

  13. Good suggestion worthy digesting. My take though may sound a bit wired, allowing MP who resigns to continue will promote anarchy in that MP will only be using parties to get to Parliament. For me, a person who resign should relinquish his position & never allowed to re-contest in future. where MP dies in office,let the one who was second take it. For counselors, let the seat remain vacant until next election, what difference does it make whether we have one or not? to some extent this would even apply to MPs. No difference at all.

  14. And you think any of these guys will even read the article. They wont as they dont care. They are all Mr and Mrs/Miss I know everything and I can solve all problems without anyones advice. They only consider what they think and not what others think. There have been a lot of good suggestions from some bloggers on this site but Politicians dont dive a faki. Typical black African style

    Thumbs up for trying though

  15. The author has done a lot of work to put this piece together but has spoiled his own effort by ending with an outdated slogan of calling anyone with a different view as a cadre. Sir, having a different view is not necessarily cadrerism. I do however, agree with you that the insults on this blog should tell someone something and that is low level faculties for people who cannot dialogue and resort to abuse of others and even being used by political parties to maim or even kill others- IT I NOT RIGHT. The opposition have a rare opportunity to put up motions to change some of these things for the better of our great nation. However, the opposition MPs have chosen a different route- Absentee law makers, who shoot down anything. They represent no one except themselves and their immediate…

  16. A better option would be that if any MP or council or should resign or die during his or her tenure then that seat will remain vacant until the next general elections. No one not even the electorate miss these people as things continue to run even in the absence of these people like for example when a council is dissolved and there are no councillors but council continued operations. When national assembly is dissolved and there are no MPs but development continues. Only for the President or vice president then the party can nominate somebody as a replacement to act for the remainder of the tenor.

  17. Well articulated and enlightening more so for us in the diaspora who are a bit rusty with what’s going on in Zambia. Keep composing. Great work.

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