If there has ever been a time when our country has needed very good leadership, it is now. This is the worst this country has ever been since independence in terms of leadership.
The problems and challenges our country and our people face today would stretch to the utmost, even the best leadership possible.
Today, 66.2 per cent of our population is below 25 years and 28.5 per cent of our people are between 25 and 54 years old. We have 2.9 per cent of our population between 55 and 64 years. Only 2.4 per cent of our people are 65 and above.
This means that over 80 per cent of our people are probably below the age of 35. What does this mean? This means that over 66 per cent of Zambians were born after 1991, after the end of Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s leadership. Those who were five in 1991 are now 30. Those who were 10 years old in 1991 are now 35. And those who in 1991 were 15 years old are now 40. This means that the dominant culture, politically and otherwise, is that of the 1991 Third Republic. What type of people grew up under the Third Republic? During the last 25 years, we saw a frightening increase in the number of street children, homeless and unemployed young people. We also experienced a very high rise in school dropouts at all levels. Poverty and destitution, hopelessness and despair characterised this period.
Children who went on the street in the early 1990s are now in their mid to late 20s and early 30s. Are these still on the street? Many of them have left the street; they are no longer street children. What type of citizens are they and what do they do? These are citizens who grew up without love, the care and guidance of parents and other elders. They grew up under the most violent conditions one can ever imagine. Every day, they had to fight for survival. Even just to find food was a daily struggle for them. Our country has a huge army of this type of citizens ready for deployment in violent activities at any time. They are available for hire by anyone who wants to engage in violence. These are the citizens who today dominate the ranks of what are called party cadres. They have lived a life of violence, of no fear or restraint and of no love or compassion for another human being because no one ever gave them that in the first place. When recruited and rewarded for violence, they will do it without limit. These can maim, kill and destroy very valuable property while laughing. And they are readily available for recruitment by anyone who is ready to intoxicate them, feed them and give them some little cash. These are the young men, and sometimes young women, you are seeing engaging in the so-called political violence. We are saying so-called political violence because to them, this is simply violence. Political issues are far beyond them and matter only to those who have hired them. Yes, they will chant party slogans, but it is simply for the purpose of doing the job they have been hired to do. They don’t even know what the people who have hired them and their parties stand for. As such, they really don’t have a political agenda or issue to advance or defend. They can shout “pabwato, pabwato” when some of them have never even seen what a canoe or boat really looks like other than on a paper, a T-shirt or chitenge material; they can shout “pamaka, pamaka” when they don’t even know what that symbol mainly associated with black liberation really means. These are the citizens the current political leadership of our country is using to perpetrate violence, intimidate the population in order for them to extend and maintain their rule. They are using people whom they really do not have control over. They have unleashed a force on the population that will tomorrow consume them. But because they are so preoccupied with the present, they don’t care much about what happens tomorrow. And shockingly, some of these violent young people are finding themselves in leadership positions as councillors, members of parliament. What type of leadership are they going to provide given their background, their values and street culture? And there is no effort whatsoever being made to reorient them and make them see life differently. There is no political or civic education whatsoever being given to them. The only thing they give them is orders of who to attack after feeding them with alcohol. These elements, if nothing is done to change things, will dominate the political space of this country. Today they call the shots. Every political difference that arises in and among our political parties is resolved by the use of these young people. They are creating a political force, which now even they themselves are starting to get scared of, to be afraid of.
With the current approach of the political leadership of this country, these young people will soon make this country totally ungovernable. Today, even the police are having problems dealing with them. They have become untouchables, especially with the backing and tolerance of those in government, State House.
What is worse is the poor prospects for changing this in the economic and social sphere. At the rate we are going, the situation of our young people will not improve but get worse by the day. At the end of this government in 2021, the population of our country will not be less than 20 million people. In the next 15 years, the population of this country will double from the current 15.2 million to not less than 30 million. What will be the economic situation of the increased population? What is it that we will do in the next 15 years to cater for the doubled population? Is the current type of politicians capable of providing the leadership required to prepare our country for such an increased population? Can Dununa Reverse bring about the required changes in the governance and management of the affairs of our country to enable us cope with the increased population? If today we are failing to provide adequate and quality education for our young people, where will the resources come from in the next few years to provide for a highly increased number of them? What about the health services? What about housing? Where are the jobs going to come from? Are the numbers of street children going to reduce or increase? What will become of our politics?
We are today reaping the consequences of the type of society we have created over the last 25 years of unbridled neoliberal capitalist policies. And the poor political leadership we have today is a product of this. Listen to the political language that is spoken by your leaders! Where is it coming from? It is from the street. Why? It is because the dominant political force is from the street. We are in very serious trouble. These are very gigantic challenges requiring very high quality and visionary leadership and without that, things will get worse and worse and worse. And let’s not cheat ourselves that our lives will get better because we are getting some bribes from this one and that one, we are stealing from this and that public institution and are building houses here and there for rent and resale. What we should know is that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in. We are in this desperate situation today because we have miserably failed over the last two and half decades to provide the type of leadership required by the problems and challenges we are facing. We need leaders who can match these problems and challenges.