By Nalukui Nawa, PhD Associate Professor School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
As Zambia and many other countries are commemorating the International Labour Day, I remember watching with joy from this end as hundred thousands of people from different walks of life celebrated this special day which in the New Zealand Calender is celebrated every 4th Monday of October.
Watching the Labour Day proceedings last October filled me with joy but again gave me much more thought. As New Zealanders marched and demonstrated their different skills sets on that day, joy filled their hearts and you could read a from there faces they were proud New Zealanders!! Politicians, Church leaders, business tycoons, scientists, professors, doctors, and the ordinary workers marched together in a colourful procession in a humbling sight that filled me with joy. Quickly, it dawned to me that they have every reason to celebrate with the world; their country is up and right with the world that is worth celebrating its growth and many opportunities for its people.
And from there my mind took me back home, my sorrowful Zambia where peace beacons in the midst of abundant poverty. That poor country Zambia where the politicians in government are daily becoming rich without creating opportunities for the suffering poor. Labour Day commemoration- honestly, I find it hard to understand what joy this day brings to the many Zambians back home who are struggling with many social-economic challenges. Would it be morally upright for many Zambians to celebrate this event when many others have lost their jobs? How do you commemorate this day whilst tens of thousand Zambians around the country have lost their jobs in the wake of economic downturn and unceasing load-shedding? How do you celebrate this day when many of the qualified youths cannot get jobs after completing their education?
How on earth can you have the courage to commemorate this day when the government has failed to create opportunities for the people who could in turn create jobs for others? How could you celebrate this day when politicians like Chishimba Kambwili are openly stating that jobs are awarded on the basis of nepotism and favouritism? In the wake of this joblessness, economic meltdown and high cost of living, it is hard to understand why Zambians must assemble in numbers in different provincial and district parade squares to commemorate the Labour Day Celebrations.
Are they going to be celebrating poverty? Are they going to be celebrating poor salaries and imposed wage freezes that have gone into third year now? Are they going to be celebrating Edgar Lungu’s increased salary? Are they celebrating job loses around the country? Are the Zambians going to be celebrating the PF’s strategy of only giving jobs to relatives and cadres? With this in mind, I turned to the World Bank Report this morning and painfully looked at New Zealand and Zambia’s performance. It is a world of contrasting fortunes; I am hurt by these facts from the World Bank Economic Outlook… New Zealand is basking in increased productivity with a robust GDP growth rate of 36.8% in 2015, (284.97 billion US dollars in 2015). GDP per capita US$ 41,754.
Annual Inflation rate is at 1.8%, unemployment rate among a classified labour market population is 1.02%!!! Literacy levels are at 96% and the pupil drop out rate from primary to secondary level is at 0%. Maternal mortality rate is at 2.0%. Mortality due to malnutrition is at 0%!!!.
The New Zealand Dollar is among the world’s best performing currencies. On the other side of the coin is a country called Zambia, the Real Africa ravaged in poverty joblessness and economic destitution. Let us look at the similar set of statistics: Zambia has 79% national poverty levels (one of the highest in the world)- 86% Eastern province, 84% Western province and 83% in Luapula Province), unemployment rate of 73.7% among a classified labour market population (that means there are only 3 job spaces available per every 10 people actively looking for jobs on our market)!!! Zambia’s GDP is growing at 5.7% (16.65 billion US dollars in 2015), GDP per capita US$ 1,400 (putting Zambia among the poorest countries in the world). The pupil drop out rate at primary and secondary level is 43.35% and 33.91% respectively. Literacy levels are at 52%. Maternal mortality rate is at 34.5% in urban Zambia and 56.3% in rural Zambia. Mortality due to malnutrition is at 62.3%.
With such challenges, economic and social problems that the country is going through, Zambians are not seeing the need of celebrating this Labour Day and it would be in fact insulting to wish the a Happy Labour Day Commemoration. #ABetterZambiaIsAllWeWant