The PF never promised us more crime in our cities but that is exactly what Zambia has inherited by making the decision to vote them into power. The travel advisory by the United States government last week on Wednesday warning its citizens to be aware of the increased crime rate in the country should come as no surprise. There are two major drivers behind the current crime rate in the country: the high cost of living; and the sense of lawlessness that has characterised the short time that the PF has been in government.
When a nation is facing economic hardships, it is to be expected that people at the more vulnerable end of society that lack any form of social safety net will be tempted to resort to petty crime to get by. This can quickly establish itself into a pattern of behaviour that becomes a way of life, outlasting the harsh times and becoming a fixed feature of society. It can also become a full-blown disease that allows petty thieves to graduate into hardened criminals, developing themselves into organised networks that finance politicians and determine outcomes of electoral contests. Eventually it become hard to tell the politician from the criminal; the normal from the abnormal; lies from truth. Soon – out of selfish interest and vain conceit – people begin to sing praises to those in power in an attempt to make them appear less of a threat to the people than they really are. But the truth is never far and the reality of what the people are feeling can never be ignored.
The economy is taking a devastating toll on the lives of ordinary Zambians: mealie-meal prices are skyrocketing; transportation costs are ever rising; the cost of importing goods is at its highest levels in our history; the deteriorating purchasing power of consumers has meant that businesses, markets and stores that need strong sales to keep their businesses afloat, are experiencing a very distinct shortage of customers.
In the meantime, life goes on happily for those in power and the minions that depend on them. Every time fuel prices increase, members of cabinet, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries and other civil servants at a particular grade of seniority do not feel the effect of this increase. Their conditions of service are set in such a way that they continue to enjoy their full allocation of fuel (regardless of the price increase). Senior politicians from the ruling party remain silent in the face of violence perpetrated in their name because it suits their short-term interests to do so. A country intimidated into silence will not demand its right to better leadership nor challenge the abuse of power and corruption that characterises nations that deny their people the right to assemble and speak freely.
But now is not the time to remain silent. Now is the time to rise up and be counted among those that would defend the Zambia we want our children and their children to inherit. Remaining silent should never be an option when faced with provocation that threatens our common heritage. The PF were not elected to serve their own supporters. Such thinking is not born of the type of leadership our nation requires. The PF were elected to serve the people of Zambia. Their surest way of retaining that power should not be based on intimidating those with dissenting voices. It should be based on a determination to address the most pressing needs of all communities while supporting the ability of every person to attain their highest potential.
We each need to ask ourselves some searching question and answer them honestly: “What am I doing today to stand up against the tyranny of intolerance that has characterised my country”?“What have I done to ensure that I will leave my country better off than I found it”? “What am I doing to promote greater tolerance and inclusivity”? “What am I doing to ensure that violence does not become an accepted part of our culture and the means through which we resolve our disputes”? We need – in short – to be asking ourselves: “What am I doing to make a positive difference”?
The failures of the PF are not the PF’s problems. They are our problems. The sooner we realise this the better. Let us not fold our arms and continue being accomplices to mediocrity and tyranny by our silence or unwillingness to act or get involved. Zambia belongs to each and every one of us and we have a duty to make it the place we can all feel proud to belong to.