Let me start by greeting you with a solemn Kaonde salutation used in times of tragedies – mwayandayi, or in Bemba – mwachuleni! Your challenges are my challenges as a family member in a family afflicted by the challenges of the days of our lives.
My dear family members, the mothers and the youth, the challenges besetting our country today are broad, deeply rooted, unique and costly to resolve. Unemployment levels without informal jobs are hovering around 90%. High poverty levels, which are mostly a consequence of unemployment, are reflected in at least six million of our family members living below the poverty datum line. Our country’s painful facts are that we the citizens continue failing to reap any benefits from our country’s rich mineral wealth and from the rich soils. We are not benefiting from the rich tourism potential either.
CHALLENGES UNIQUE TO YOU
The above challenges are general. But there are some that are specifically unique to you mothers and youths. You are in a society with a demanding demographic characteristic that puts unsustainable pressure on our economy. 92 per cent or 12.7 million Zambians out of our 13.8 million population, is aged below 50 years. Of the 13.8 million population 8.4 million representing 60.5 per cent are in rural areas where there are no job or economic opportunities. According to the Central Statistics Office, as a result of the rapid population growth, our country has continued to have a very young population with 45.4 per cent of the total population or 6.3 million being aged below 15 years. This means that while the 6.3 million young children hope to grow and find jobs, 54.6 per cent or 7.6 million of our population is aged above 15 years and fall in the category of potential labour force but they do not have jobs. I am ignoring those that are above 50 years old because they only constitute 8 per cent of our population so they don’t very much affect this line of thought. The majority of the 7.6 million people aged above 15 years old and who constitute our labour force are you the youths. With just around 600,000 formal jobs in our country, it gives us a real unemployment rate of close to 92 per cent in a country with a GDP growth of well over an average of 5 per cent over a 12 year period and suspiciously projected to rise to over 8 per cent under the PF government.
The question is; does the current leadership have capacity to create strategies in which the rate at which you our youths are churned out of tertiary institutions or come of employable age is matched by the number of employment and economic opportunities being made available? Our population is not existing nor growing sustainably! Our daughters are becoming mothers at an age as early as 10 years old and by the time they are 12 years old, they are into second motherhood.
So we have young children with young parents who are also children. This is a double burden on those that extend care for this double tragedy. It means that no one is even able to save for the future for themselves because of the constant social transfers that need to take place within families. This scenario has far reaching implications for our economy.
We have a huge challenge to normalise the life cycle of Zambians. Zambians need to be born, brought up normally, be educated and have access to jobs and job opportunities when they leave institutions of learning. When they start working, the jobs should be decent ones that enable Zambians to start saving towards their pensions as well as be able to invest in other assets. When they retire, they should be able to start de-saving and disinvesting in order to maintain a life style similar to what they led while they worked. This is not happening. Your leaders have failed you our mothers and youths.
YOU HAVE BEEN FAILED
You have been failed by those you entrusted with your vote. Your parents are not working and therefore unable to educate you their children competitively. You the youths do not get employed when you reach employment age and a lot of you never work at all after tertiary education. This means that we are creating a society of uneducated, unskilled, inexperienced, and uncompetitive human capital in a globalised world. It means that we will continue exporting job opportunities to foreign countries that will send the so called expatriate staff to Zambia. This means that wealth retention in our domestic economy will be very minimal because wealth management will not be held in indigenous hands. The list of implications is long.
We are doomed and who is to blame, the leadership! Your current leadership is a set of disappointing liars who every year are failing to provide effective leadership that can develop the nation yet still go back to cheat you for another vote and strangely enough you still grant it. They do not even seem to know what is wrong and therefore cannot be expected to do anything about and failure to craft policies with productive and measurable outcomes, is now the end result.
WHO THEN SHOULD BE OUR LEADER?
So then my dear mothers and youths; who should be our leader? According to Mandela, he/she should be one who tells his/her people what they must hear and not what they want to hear! Someone just cheated you into believing that he would do wonders in 90 days! You had suffered enough you believed! His lies are what you wanted to hear! According to Mandela, he is not a good leader. Kalaki calls him “Wonama”. Your leader must possess creativity and high levels of insatiable appetite to develop mother Zambia. He must have a refined mind with an impressive clarity of thought. He must be an original thinker capable of providing creative solutions. He must be highly analytical with a broad-spectrum technical knowledge. He must not be prone to silly slogans such as “Donchi kubeba”
When you come across a leader, he/she must come out as one who has travelled further than yourself in at least one variable. A leader must leave you inspired after an encounter. In choosing leaders, we should stop running away from the fact that a leadership that is equal to the modern day challenges of the 21st Century political and economic governance, need to have some reasonable level of globally competitive education. More than ever, we also need an orderly intergenerational ascendancy to governance in our land.
I do know that there are examples elsewhere where men and women of low education have made it as leaders. But such individuals are enigmas. Nothing stands in their way. It is almost like God crafted their lives to be able to break through all barriers. So we would not be blocking anyone if we attached qualifications to leadership. After all, we do attach qualification to maids. To accommodate enigmas as well as benefit from them, qualification should not be explicitly inhibitive – it should however be a shared requirement within our collective thinking.
In conclusion, I have this to say unto you mothers and youths – that for 49 years, we have put on several miles on the soles of the nation’s shoes walking a wrong path and on a journey to nowhere. You must admit as mothers and youths that you have been cheated as voters this time around and that this has already started taking its toll. You are paying a high price for trusting genuinely and the suffering you are enduring is out of proportion to the mistake you made. You only participated in a democratic exercise that has since turned disastrous. Let us all rise up and say, the buck ends here! Let us pick ourselves up and proudly soldier on while constantly being mindful of our previous mistakes. Mothers and youths, you are a big voting block and are movers and shakers in our political landscape.
Until next time, I remain your humble servant.
Lucky Mulusa, MP.