Zambia’s trial and error leadership

Zambia has come a long a way from being one of the richest countries in Southern Africa to one of the poorest. We are told that in the 60s Zambian Kwacha was stronger than the United States Dollars and equal to the UK Pound. A Traveler would travel from Zambia to Kenya using the Kwacha. For many years, God has favoured this country. Unlike many African countries, she is a country that has never experienced civil strife. She is considered as one of the richest in factor endowment/natural resources in Africa.

The country production levels in relation to the population have been declining in real terms. Agricultural productivity has not been spared. While the yield per hectare has been going up in Asia, the same has been dropping in Zambia. In 1991 Zambia had 3.5million cattle when the population was less than 9 million but now she has about 3 million against the population of 13 million. Zambia has the same size of grazing land as Kenya but Kenya produces more than 40 times dairy and beef than Zambia. Health system has literally collapsed. Though mortality rate slightly declined from 106 per 1,000 live births in the 1970s to about 95 in 2000s she has become worse in relation to other countries. Poverty has remained stubbornly high at 67%. Unemployment rate is equally alarming at about 3.5 million of employable labour. Formal employment has remained stagnant at about 500,000 for more than twenty years against a population that has doubled. The Government has been the highest employer with about 180,000 workforce, yet the private sector should have been the highest employer. Perhaps it is important to acknowledge that the mushrooming of informal sector has to some extent cushioned the negative impact of unemployment, though it is being threatened by the minimum wage. The puzzling question which pegs an answer is “why has Zambia become the poorest in the world in a country of plenty?”

Currently, the challenge facing Zambia’s economic and social development is ignorance, lack of patriotism and short memory of citizens; having morally ruined, selfish, visionless and misguided leaders; lack of mechanisms by which citizens can hold elected leaders accountable while they are still in office.

Zambia has over the years neither invested in innovation nor acquired technology to increase its capacity to create wealth. The technology comes and goes with investors after exploiting the natural resources. Zambia sees education as an overhead/cost rather than an investment. Universities have become political institutions rather than source of knowledge through research.

Arguably, another problem is political and economic institutions placing all political power in the hands of a single individual or a small group who have unlimited powers to expand government, resulting in weak economic and political institutions; lack of professional bureaucracy; nepotism; corruption; reneging on promises; inefficient use of resources and frail legal systems, which are all symptoms of big governments. Abuse of power and lack of direction has not spared PF Government. When PF shortcomings are cited by well meaning citizens, die hard cadres who have stopped reasoning take it as hatred.

PF took over government machinery to fill in positions and not to provide leadership. Leadership demands vision, which seems lacking by those entrusted with mandate of running the country. During the reign of late President Mwanawasa, he came up with following:
• Vision 2030, where he envisioned a middle income country by 2030.
• National Development Plans, which were abandoned by Late President Chiluba
• Mid-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)
• Policy documents for each ministry

One year and three months of PF being in office, we have not seen or heard PF programmes, which give details of their directions, strategies and resources required. People are time and again being referred to the PF Manifesto, especially by the vocal Secretary General. For instance the PF manifesto has about 4 pages on agriculture. It requires to be expanded into a Government Policy document which should have strategies, milestones, and benchmarks. To-date civil servants are still using MMD policy documents. The Minister of Sports and Youth is busy distributing Government funds without any PF Government programme. The Minister of Justice has abandoned his role as a custodian of justice and is busy fighting opponents rather than ensuring that matters related to people’s justice are addressed. Most of the programmes and projects PF is implementing now and those that are in the pipeline such as roads projects, Millennium Challenge Account for Lusaka water and sanitation, Irrigation support projects were started by MMD. The unfortunate part is that President Sata has not given inspiring direction apart from politicking. He has not been focusing on issues that affect ordinary citizens such as abnormally high mealie meal prices, ritual killings, water and sanitation, army worms etc. The President has remained mute in State House on serious issues while focusing on political opponents who are being denied freedom of assembly. The President has been exercising power without programmes and control. He has been mutilating the law under the pretext of meaning well for the nation. You can see from the pronouncements and haste decisions he has been making. New districts are being created every day, ministries are being bundled and unbundled, civil servants including security wings being harangued at every occasion, opposition parties are being demonized, RDA transferred to Statehouse, some projects such as stadiums not planned for in Government budgets, tribunals are constituted without proper basis, constitutional are abolished today and restored the following day, etc. In my view in exercise of his powers, he does not investigate the implication of his decisions on government systems, structures, resources, civil servants and citizens at large. Some decisions are a recipe for corruption such as transferring RDA to State House. For instance he merged Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Ministry of Livestock but to-date the two ministries are still budgeted by Ministry of Finance as two distinct ministries.

Perhaps we should conclude in this manner. Zambia is faced with double tragedy, the first having selfish (not passionately concerned about welfare of citizens but themselves) leaders who are skilled in political language and appeasement and on the other hand having a population that has embraced slavery as a way of life due to docility/illiteracy. You can see the level of ignorance even in the educated people, who take creation of districts as development. Do they really understand what development is? Those who were fighting for people’s liberties such as newspapers have abandoned the noble cause and are now lining up for contract favours at State House. Zambians have been in slave camps for many years so much that they now feel it is normal life. Freedom is not freedom until it comes with knowledge. Knowledge wields great power that gives eternal freedom. The mindset of man has often emerged to be oppressor to him/her. It impossible for visionless people to lead ignorant people to a reality that they themselves are not sure exists. The result is injustices, nepotism, corruption, a society that does not value life, civil strife, etc. We deserve the best but in our ignorance we opt for the minimum and average. We suffer as though we were appointed to do so where we have daily learnt to beg for bread. The Zambia we people desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is ours if we as citizens opt to refuse mediocrisy from our leaders and we also resolve to work hard and participate in the economic growth of our nation.

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