The recent shortages of mealie meal in Zambia have sparked a debate over the role of socialism in the country’s economic policies. Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the current President of Zambia, once attributed the shortages of essential commodities under the Kaunda era to socialism. In response to this, Dr Fred M’membe, the President of the Socialist Party of Zambia, defended the socialist ideology, saying that socialism was not responsible for the shortages.
“It’s very sad that some key political leaders of our country don’t know or understand what caused shortages of cooking oil and other essential commodities during the last part of Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s reign,” Dr M’membe stated. “These leaders are out of ignorance attributing the shortages of many consumer goods under the Kaunda era to socialism.”
Dr M’membe went on to explain that the period of shortages was at the height of the liberation struggle in southern Africa when Zambia was blockaded and cut off from many neighboring countries. “Oil prices had shot up worldwide,” he added. “They had to start companies to produce their own cooking oil and other essential commodities. And these were the companies some of these leaders denigrating them today came to privatize at very exorbitant fees or commissions and enriched themselves.”
Dr M’membe argued that socialism was not responsible for the shortages of mealie meal in Zambia today. “Socialism is not about, or synonymous with, shortages of mealie meal, cooking oil, and other essential commodities,” he said. “Socialism is about a better and dignified life for all our people anchored on equity, solidarity, humility, and honesty and sovereignty of their homeland.”
Dr M’membe also pointed out the successes of socialist states like Cuba and Vietnam, which have managed to improve the lives of their citizens despite facing blockades and economic sanctions from the West. “Whatever their attempts to credit China’s achievements to capitalism, that is a great socialist state pursuing socialism with Chinese characteristics,” he said. “And this is what its leaders say. They attribute their economic successes to socialism.”
He added, “Capitalism has for centuries failed our people. Let them show us where capitalism has succeeded in Africa?”
Dr M’membe emphasized that Zambia needs a citizen-led economic development agenda which, under a socialist government, will be attained. “We want a Zambia where Zambians can have genuine businesses and not these crooked dealers, tenderpreneurs, and those who come to loot our resources and take the profits to offshore bank accounts,” he said.
In conclusion, Dr M’membe stated, “No matter what they say or do, socialism will one day triumph in our homeland.”