During the national youth day commemorations on March 12, this year, Finance Minister Hon. Alexander Chikwanda took a swipe at NGOs calling for immediate enacting of a people driven constitution as promised by the PF government, during electioneering. He further lampooned NGOs as entities that are formed by people who have failed to make it in life.
As expected, this didn’t sit down well with some people, particularly the civil society. In no time, they started firing salvos at the minister demanding a retraction of the discourteous remarks or better still, a public apology.
Hitherto, there has been no word from the minister; not even an effort to clarify what he meant by the unpalatable remarks attributed to him.
At a time when a good number of our young people are still roaming the streets in search of jobs despite graduating from universities and colleges or indeed resorting to alcohol and drugs abuse to vent their frustrations, the nation expected the minister to spell-out a “blue print” to extricate our youths from the quagmire where they, unfortunately, remain ensnared. Instead, Hon. Chikwanda went to town pouring scorn on individuals who are doing so much with so little to ameliorate the plight of impoverished people in society.
The problem we have with some of our leaders is that, whenever they go to Levy Junction or Arcades on Saturdays and see smartly dressed and cheerful folks carting away trolleys fully laden with assorted goods, they tend to forget there’s still abject poverty in greater parts of Zambia. We don’t have up market suburbs Kabulonga or Ibex in mind, but places such as Shango’mbo, Lungwevungu and kwa Kaputa.
We therefore can’t find better phraseology to describe the conduct of the minister than the words of the judge in the OJ Simpson trial; it’s either the minister is “very ignorant or simply arrogant.”
Perhaps the minister should be advised to briefly abandon the comfort of his ministerial mansion and take time to visit nearby places such as Soloboni, Chibolya, Chipulukusu or Kantolomba shanty compounds. He’s surely going to be moved to an ocean of tears by the level of poverty that is going to confront him.
Nevertheless, the minister would definitely be relieved to establish that a good number of civil society organizations are trying their best to serve vulnerable people in such localities through various programmes:
1. Home based care – volunteers regularly go around the communities to bath and dress the wounds of people dying of AIDS. These are some of the people who have either been abandoned or neglected by their own blood relatives!
2. Educational support to Orphans/Vulnerable Children – A good number of OVC are receiving educational support in form of user fees, shoes, books and uniforms etc. In the absence of such support, some of these children might have ended up on the streets as urchins.
3. Food parcels to impoverished households – Where as some families in shanty compounds survive on a single meal a day, others don’t even remember when they last had a decent meal. But thanks to the effort of NGOs, some these families can now enjoy a meal.
4. Skills training for street kids – In both Lusaka and the Copperbelt, a good number of NGOs are rescuing street kids from the streets and empowering them with life skills and seed capital. Without such kind of support, some of these street kids might have ended up as dangerous criminals.
With this humble information, it’s our sincere hope Hon. Chikwanda is now going to view NGOs in a much better light no matter how much they may choose to agree or disagree with government.