By Dr Canisius BANDA Development Activist
He was livid with anger.
‘To hell with the CSO!’ He shouted, his eyes widening, his facial veins bulging, both full of rage, spittle drooling from the corners of his mouth. He was referring to Zambia’s Central Statiscal Office [CSO].
‘Why?’ Innocently, I asked.
‘I feel the pain, doc. Prices are high. Vavuta vinthu. The cost of living is killing us. And these traitors are waxing lyrical about hitting single-digit inflation! What nonsense is this?’
Having been a key part of the UPND in the past, Hakainde HICHILEMA’s own vice president, I dropped my face in shame. A tear rolled down his face: ‘I can’t eat, doc. My GOtv is closed. I have defaulted on my rent for three months now. My family is falling apart, doc. Nibwanji so? Things are bad. Nilibe pogwila.’
CSO. To me, when he said those words, it sounded like he was saying Compromised Silly Office. I didn’t smile. I felt the man, empathy became me. It is not every day that a grown man cries. Kulila so munthu! I was touched. To hell with the CSO, he had said. I was certain that indeed, if the CSO with its single-digit inflation had gone to hell, they would find a lot of Zambians there, prematurely dead from the cost of living, gnashing their teeth, suffering and all. You see, we all understand economics. Knowledge is not a monopoly of the UPND.
Clearly, something ain’t kosher with the CSO statistics, something isn’t right. There is something fishy going on there. Zambians are in pain. Zambians are hurting. Zambians are disillusioned. Zambians are enraged. Cause? The cost of living, and they feel conned.
The cost of living in Zambia has skyrocketed. It is so high that it is costing lives. A textbook definition of inflation states as follows: ‘Inflation occurs when prices rise across the economy, decreasing the purchasing power of your money.’ In Zambia today, businesses are not doing well. Buyers are few, business is slow. The sell-rate of their goods and services has critically fallen. Their profit margins have contracted.
And to break even, a number of these companies are now laying off their workers. Hakainde HICHILEMA promised to create jobs. But the converse is happening. Clearly, Hakainde HICHILEMA’s trickle-down economics just isn’t working. Usually, such formulae for a people’s wellbeing, ceteris paribus, takes years, which time Hakainde HICHILEMA doesn’t have.
In Zambia today, salaries have remained stagnant in the midst of a depreciated, weak Kwacha. Imports remain expensive. Credit in the economy is low. Prices have risen. The cost of production continues to rise. And the purchasing power of citizens has severely been eroded.
This then is inflation, dear pilgrim. Tell the CSO about it. Confused Statiscal Office indeed. Take mealie meal, a key determinant for holding presidential power in Zambia. In August 2021, a 25kg bag of mealie meal was at about K120. Today, 1 July 2022, it is well over K170. You see, from then todate, its price has been inflated by over 29 percent.
And never will it ever fetch K50 as promised. NEVER. Perhaps when rotten.
With stagnant salaries, as Hakainde HICHILEMA himself lamented and observed prior to the August 2021 elections, what this means is that the power of a Zambian’s money, with reference to mealie meal alone, has reduced by over 29 percent. Meaning to purchase the same quantity of goods you now need more money than before.
This then, CSO, is inflation.
Very soon, Zambia will become the first country in the world, in the midst of a ‘falling’ inflation rate, to see citizens, fueled by anger and the need to survive, take to the streets to protest a stifling high cost of living. Indeed, it is easy to run FOR office by it is NOT easy to run the office.
‘Doctor, these people are liars. The opposite of what they promised is what is happening!’ Another citizen, complained, poverty about him all too evident. I wanted to tell him that God is in control, that He allowed all this to happen for a purpose, that another new dawn, a better one is coming, but I just kept quiet. Me and my modesty.
Instead, I said to him that for as long as the economy of Zambia remains in foreign hands, for as long as we the Africans abandon LUMUMBA ROAD, the path to freedom and self-determination, the path to political and economic sovereignty, Zambians will remain poor, suffering and pain will never end.
I said with utter conviction.
Impressed with my response, he said: ‘But why are you not in government, doctor? We need minds like yours there.’There is time for everything, I replied, advising him to read Ecclessiastes 9: 11 for further guidance. Situmbeko MUSOKOTWANE, Zambia’s finance minister says there is a Plan B for the nation’s economic recovery if the IMF route fails. What he conveniently chooses to ignore is that the IMF route has failed for many years in many countries. Zambia’s own route, focusing on the judicious exploitation of its own human and material resources, can never fail. Perhaps this Plan B, assuming it is citizen-centred, should have been Plan A.
Hakainde HICHILEMA has done better than Afcons Construction to decongest Lusaka. What a trick this one! No need for road infrastructure expansion, you see. Just hike the price of fuel and all vehicles are parked! Voila!
But it is not just the price of fuel that Hakainde HICHILEMA has hiked. He has also hiked the anger of citizens. It is becoming uncontainable. Citizens are now calling him names. Others, a tad early, have already started to say that he is a failure. And many, like the cars that now aren’t moving, the cars he has now caused to park, are now calling for him to park as well.They do not want to hear his name anymore. They are saying: ‘Uyu munthu nichani so? Ma years yayendeko fast!’
FIXED, the citizens are now annoyed and sad. This then is sad and shameful tale of the FIXER. One promise I will make and keep is this one. Hakainde HICHILEMA’s reign will be a very difficult one for him, it will be one replete with pain, suffering and disillusionment for the citizens, one which no one will forget. Calculations and tabulations failed on fuel reduction. Calculations and tabulations seem to be failing on budget management and inflation.
For now, buckle up, fellow citizens. A very bumpy and stormy ride lies ahead. Compromised Silly Office indeed. Single-digit inflation, my foot! Use a Happiness Index instead. It is a more reliable indicator of a leader’s hold on power. Impressive statistics that do not translate into people’s comfort and improved livelihoods are utterly meaningless. How people feel at any given time is by far more important than any digit.
Now all citizens’ digits are angrily and disapprovingly pointing at Hakainde HICHILEMA. FIXED.