Zambia’s political elites in power are slowly and systematically poisoning our democratic process. They are inhibiting the ability of our public institutions to maintain good (impartial, transparent and accountable) governance. They are damaging our economy, robbing us of the prospects to achieve the prosperity and development envisaged in the Vision 2030.
I know many people, even fellow well-meaning Zambians, will claim that my comment today is simply the ranting of a bitter, formerly imprisoned person who is trying to get back at the state. Countrymen and women, citizens of the world at large, hear me out: with an open mind, allow me to present my evidence and then by all means, dispense your judgement…
But let me say again:
Zambia’s political elites in power are slowly and systematically poisoning our democratic process, curtailing the ability of public institutions to conduct good governance, and robbing us of the opportunity to be a prosperous country.
Here are three points for every Zambian citizen, indeed even those in power, to think about
1). The Slow Poison of PF Elite State Capture:
Have you ever wondered why the amended new Constitution (Act No.2 of 2016) was so hurriedly approved, despite the obvious rampancy of legal lacunas in the way in was drafted? Articles 103, 104 and 105 have drafting problems that are costing the country dearly to this day because they curtail the right to be heard.
Going further, Article 121 provides that “The Supreme Court and Constitutional Court rank equivalently”. Legal experts will tell you that you end one Supreme Court of final determination to avoid legal stalemates. Zambia is perhaps the only country in the world where you have two highest Courts in the land. And junior judges can be appointed to the Constitutional Court, administratively promoting them to be equals with senior judges.
Why is that? Could it have been an accident? No, not at all!! The Constitution was rigged so that scope for unduly influencing at least a portion of the Judiciary could remain. This was political state capture at its highest level of evil.
As soon as the PF political elite had adulterated our Constitution, they had succeeded in capturing and securing the state or the public sector as their instrument for personal self-beneficiation and political power retention. With the political power and now the materials wealth they have since amassed, they now direct the fortunes of the country into their pockets much to the misfortune of the masses.
2). Deplorable Inhibited Governance:
My second point…
Because of the aggressive, intolerant, arrogant, ignorant and divisive nature of the PF-style of political elite state capture, a culture of fear and anxiety has blossomed in the civil service. Permanent Secretaries now see themselves as “Temporary Secretaries” who are at the beck and call of the politicians in power. They can be dismissed in the public or national interest at any time, or they can be moving to what is perceived as an irrelevant Ministry, Province or Spending Agency. They are “yes-men” and “women” whose professionalism died a long time ago. They are simply trying to keep a job, hoping to survive the brutality of a merciless state capture system that has them, as Authorizing Officers, signing their lives away in illegal misappropriate, abuse and wastage use of public resources.
Why else would a fully competent and qualified professional Permanent Secretary go 3,000% off-budget in approving an unplanned, unbudgeted, unauthorized, in-other-words illegal purchase of 42 overprices, second-hand, wheelbarrow-looking Fire Engines at US$ 1.0 million each? Why would he ignore that his ministry’s budget line for the Fire Engines was the equivalent of less than US$1.3 million? Why would a Director of the Public Procurement Authority pretend to be clueless about international benchmark prices of Fire Engines and adamantly claim that the tender process was competitive and compliant with the Procurement Act? Why would the so-called head of state ignore this scandalous matter of high level corruption in his government under the guise of letting the relevant arms of the government deal with the issue when, in the same breather, he feel comfortable to instruct RATSA to curb road carnage? At all levels, why are these people acting in such an immoral manner, idly standing by or even defiantly defending the blatant misappropriation and corruption as it happens?!
And when citizens like Laura Miti and my dear friend Pilato peacefully protest against the wasteful expenditure of public resources on non-priorities or cry out against the possibility of widespread corruption, they are arrested by the state. Fellow Zambians, what is our country coming to?
In case you did not realize it, “when exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, [then you know] you are being rules by criminals”. These are the extents to which the PF elites will go in safeguarding their illicit interests.
And if you think that the abuse of office and state resources that we saw in the “Firegate scandal” is an isolated incidence, think again. Here are some appalling fiscal statistics from 2016, showing just how callous your PF government has become. All of these statistics are publically available in the Ministry of Finance Economic Reports:
- In 2016, the PF government budgeted to spend K805 million on pensioners whose moneys where falling due in that year, but only released K398 million, which was only 49% of the budget allocation. In similar way, the Empowerment Funds, Water and sanitation and the Social Cash Transfer scheme only got 23%, 61% and 48% of their respective annual budgets. All these very important social protection programmes were grossly underfunded in 2016.
- In striking contrast, in order to support the so-called head of state and his administration to go on trips in the same year – and mind you, this was an election year – the PF government spent 104% and 310% of what it had budgeted for toward Overseas allowance, and Public affairs and summit meetings, respectively. If the PF government can overspend this much on its president and high ranking officials in an election year when it should be trying to impress the voters by spending on the poor, then you know that it truly feels it has cemented its state capture; the leaders in PF just do not care anymore about what the Zambian people see or say.
|Expense Item/programme||2016 budget amount (K million)||2016 spending (K million)||2016 spending (% of budget)|
|Water and sanitation||285.0||175.1||61%|
|Social Cash Transfer||250.0||119.0||48%|
|Public affairs & summit meetings||82.7||256.6||310%|
|Compiled from 2016 Economic Report by MOF|
This level of poor economic governance is becoming endemic and entrenching in public systems.
3). An Ailing Economy
My final point…
If you want to check the health economy, look at its performance on creating jobs and reducing poverty. An economy performing poorly on one or both of these is ailing.
When the late Mr. Michael Sata (may his soul rest in peace) assumed office in October 2011, his inaugural speech to Parliament in part said and I quote:
“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament, offering employment opportunities for our people, especially the many young men and women leaving educational institutions in our country is critical to the fulfillment of the PF manifesto which promises job creation and putting more money in our people’s pockets.”
Now, let us look at the issues of job creation (or job destruction) under the PF government. Again, all the statistics I am referring to are in public domain; they are official statistics published in the Labour Force Surveys of the Central Statistical Office.
In 2005, during the reign of MMD, Zambia has a total of 4.1 million people in employment. Out of these only 495,784 were in formal employment. The total employment only grew by 3.8% per year between 2005 and 2008, with formal and informal employment growing by 1.0% and 4.2%, respectively. PF took over office in October 2011 and in mid-2012 Central Statistics undertook another survey, which showed the creation of jobs had improve; total employment had risen by 4.9% very year with formal employment increasing by an impressive 16.4% (and informal by only 3.4%). Remember that at this time, PF had just come into power, so there was really nothing they had done. They had not yet devised any policies or structural reform programmes; the late Michael Sata was then even struggling to form a Cabinet. The PF simply inherited a success story on formal employment creation from the MMD.
|Formal (period growth rate)||3.1%||65.7%||11.4%||8.2%|
|Informal (period growth rate)||12.6%||13.6%||5.6%||-58.4%|
|Total (period growth rate)||11.5%||19.4%||6.5%||-47.7%|
|Formal (annual avg. growth rate)||1.0%||16.4%||5.7%||2.7%|
|Informal (annual avg. growth rate)||4.2%||3.4%||2.8%||-19.5%|
|Total (annual avg. growth rate)||3.8%||4.9%||3.3%||-15.9%|
Now look at how they not only squandered the opportunities but also messed up the jobs. From 2012 to 2014, the annual growth in total jobs slowed to 3.3% and formal and informal employment declined to 5.7% and 2.8%. The Labour Force Survey shows that formal jobs between 2014 and 2017, formal employment has only increased by 2.7% per year, the worst performance since the 2005-2008 period. Informal employment and total employment literally reduced by 19.5% and 15.9%, respectively. We actually lost jobs so that by 2017 Zambia only had about 3.1 million employed people. This outcome was even worse than the number of jobs (4.1 million) in 2005.
I am sorry to bore you with too many numbers. But my point is this, between 2014 and 2017, we lost about 2.8 million formal and informal jobs. Where is the 2013 promise of one million decent jobs between 2013 and 2017? Where is the promise of more money in the pocket? These were all lies country men and women. The lies were told in order to trick people into installing a selfish, callous and immoral ruling party. Unfortunately, the Zambian people have fallen prey to this trickery all too often.
Let us look at one last example: In late Michael Sata’s inaugural speech to Parliament in October 2011, he said:
“I would like to see that the pronouncements in economic performance translate into substantial reduction in poverty indicators in our communities all over the country. The challenge of my government is, therefore, to improve the quality of life for the majority of our people, especially those in rural areas. Our goal as a pf government is to achieve higher and sustained economic growth that will uplift the well-being of the poor in our society.
When Mr. Sata passed away, his successor allegedly announced that he had no vision and would pursue the vision of Mr. Sata. I would assume this means completing the agenda to “improve the quality of life for the majority of our people, especially those in rural areas.”
According to the Living Conditions Survey of the Central Statistics Office, in 2010 about 77.9% of rural Zambians were living in poverty. These are the poverty levels that PF inherited and promised to reduce in order to “uplift the well-being of the poor”. By 2015, a full four years after PF took office, 76.6% of the rural population was still living in poverty. The PF government only managed to reduce rural poverty by 1.3% since assuming office. The rural poor as still as poor as ever; nothing has changed for the better for them!
I am not surprised that this government no longer wants to conduct Living Conditions surveys. They are embarrassed; ashamed because they lied to the Zambian people. They have lamentably failed to bring down poverty, to create jobs or even to improve the economic environment. They only know how to waste money on trips abroad and useless Fire tenders.
What I have presented to you today is just a tip of the ice burg; there is a mountain of evidence of the political, legislative and socio-economic failure of the PF government. When I say the PF elites have poisoned our democracy, undermined our governance institutions and robbed us of the prosperity envisaged in Vision 2030, I am not exaggerating or being bitter. My fellow Zambians, the evidence is very clear: we are headed for disaster unless we make a quick and fundamental change.
It is most unfortunate that we share very different values and morals with the PF government. We have many ideas that would have helped them to improve our great country, but given the past injustices that this government has orchestrated, they are too busy trying to consolidate their power positions in Zambia to care about solutions for development. Any outside voices and ideas will simply fall on deaf ears.