By Kapya Kaoma
On October 13, 2021 President Hakainde Hichilema spent 2 hours on Radio Phoenix in an attempt to erase his false campaign promises, while satisfying his narcissistic ego with populism. If you were at work, you missed nothing of substance. President HH knows it–poverty is the most effective vaccine to the ballyvirus. The shrinking bellies of Bally worshipers are leading them to question whether Bally was simply the Baal incarnate. But the good time to lie is when knowledgeable people are busy–10am to 12pm. So this is what you missed: President Hakainde does not read your letters, but if you call during a talk show, his team will ensure you’re attended to. As for your wallets, the prices of mealie-meal will not be at K50, maize at K250, fertilizer at K250, and a dollar at K5. As for free education, forget it. For jobs, only the Civil Service is coming next year!
President Hakainde is a populist politician. He claims to know the suffering of masses when his lifestyle is billions of miles apart–inimitable of the Trump Presidency. And who could miss it? The Trump phase, “it has never happened before in the history of this country,” accompanied each one of his unsubstantiated claim about his economic propaganda. HH knew that he had no evidence to support his claims, but he employed the marketing trick of making a customer trust his lie.
If the President intends to tell the people the truth, let him present a policy paper on his agenda. This would provide economists, stakeholders and policy experts with an opportunity to respond. But as it is, there is nothing serious to respond to–but Trump-like rants. In short, HH didn’t tell us anything. I can talk, but say nothing. I will build a great hotel, and employ one hundred workers in Zambia. I will also build an airport next to my villa. I have networks. I just came from America. The truth is, I told you nothing. This is what HH did; abstract promises.
President Hichilema is desperate–even his worshipers are running out of patience. Whereas he originally pledged to meet his initial promises upon taking office, now we have to wait for 2022. This is a strategic move that would keep his worshipers hopeful–if he can create jobs for civil servants (the job market he personally controls), then he could assure others to wait for 2023. Alas the shattered dreams, a faint flip of light the New Dark government still gives until the dawn of 2026.
On the employment of teachers and nurses, a qualified journalist would have raised the following questions: what is the number of unemployed teachers and nurses in Zambia and how many would the New Dark regime employ in 2022, 2023, 2024, etc? Are these going to be a contract or permanent positions? If so, how would the bigger Civil Service be handled going forward? How many teachers and nurses are projected to graduate between 2022 and 2026 and what is the administration planning to do with them? How much of the total budget would be dedicated to the Civil Service, and how is the Administration going to pay for it? Is this just a populist decision that future administrations will have to contend with? How about the funders and other stakeholders?
Moreover, in this New Dark universe, government workings are like household companies. Unfortunately, they are not–they are many moving parts to it. The corrupt PF regime abused infrastructure and other Tenders, but cheap is not always the best. The President’s example of the Lusaka-Ndola High Way tender cost of around $1.2 billion vs $300 million appeals to an ignorant mind, but the bigger question is what is included in the package? He himself is an example. President Chiluba went for a cheap liquidator in HH, and Zambia lost billions of dollars in national assets. Similarly, Mwanawasa went for the Nchito brothers–we spent more in investigations of corruption than we recovered. We have done the same with soccer coaches–the results speak for themselves. We need to be objective in understanding issues relating to government contracts and procurement.
It seems President has a number problems. This is uncommon–not every business owner understands numbers. The budget involves income and expenditure–so the issue is on how many more Civil Servants would be added to the government payroll next year. The President spoke about spending, but not money coming in. One wonders if he has reversed his promise on a moratorium on contracting new debts. And who can trust anything this man now says?
Besides we need to raise revenue and increase our tax base. A bigger Civil Service would only put an extra burden on the national economy. We have a huge international debt to service. Growing the Civil Service is not a sustainable solution to unemployment–creating private-sector jobs is. This would demand providing tax incentives to Zambian investors, currently enjoyed by foreigners.
Shockingly, the President deflected his failure to meet his promises as deliberately planned–Zambians should get used to the New Dark Regime way of operation. The turtle speed means efficiency. Obviously I expected a push back. But worry not. Didn’t he promise to provide free education at a turtle speed? Didn’t he ask those unemployed graduates who marched to the polls in their gowns to wait for jobs at a turtle speed? Didn’t he tell farmers he would buy their maize at a turtle speed? As the 2021 grain is going to waste, your Bally is fixing it at a turtle speed–Chimbwi with no plan!
The New Dark Regime is out to undo the wrongs of the corrupt PF regime. But it must not think it is the first to rule Zambia. History and humility are key to wisdom–pride is self-deception. Policy decisions are not made on mobile phones or radio talk shows, but on expert advice.
But what is wisdom to a baby President?