By George Jere
Are we going on a road map to development and peace or to the hopelessness period of the first and second republic that blighted our lives to 27 years of negative growth?
Below are the factors at play in our country that I believe will determine the direction and future of Zambia.
After the demise of dictatorship in our country in 1991 Zambia embraced multi-party democracy.
Unfortunately this noble ideal was first tampered by our diminutive late president Chiluba who wanted to go for a third term.
Since then retrogressive policies such as restricting presidential candidates in political parties in Zambia crept in.
The likes of late president Levy Mwanawasa who preferred to stand alone in party presidential elections. The late even encouraged fellow politicians to kneel before him.
And for President Bwezani Banda he shouldn’t have been asked to wake up at all to come and lead our nation.
Peaceful resiliency by the Zambian people to strive for a better future is what led the Zambian people once more to elect a new party president in the name of Michael Sata.
The emergence of thugs on the political scene in the last 20 years is unfortunate. Recently a thug was even appointed as an advisor in one of the opposition parties. This is disturbing.
The Zambian people deserve better standards from politicians.
All parties in Zambia should have zero tolerance to any form of political violence
We should move forward by introducing a code of conduct for politicians.
Insults, alarmist statements, tearing of speeches etc should be nipped in the bud.
The press in Zambia can also help by exercising self censorship. My appeal, the moment the press stops peddling insults in their papers the culprits will in turn stop competing in this unsavory sport.
Standing regulations for monitoring the conduct of parties should be made stiffer in conformity with democratic ideals of a modern country. An independent body can be formed to work together with the registrar of societies. The conduct of PF in trying to encourage political dialogue should be praised. Opposition parties such as NAREP AND FDD should be commended for their political maturity and hopefully this should be emulated by other parties.
Political parties especially in Africa have a tendency to destabilize a nation. Who would have known that Kenya after so many years of peace would be rocked with violence by unproven allegations of vote rigging? I am of the view that Vote rigging is an impossible feat to achieve especially if one takes into account modern day electoral regulations.
NATIONALISATION OR FREE MARKET POLICIES?
..Our country today is at crossroads as to which roadmap to follow..
Recent nationalisation of ZAMTEL and the cancellation of the railway concession has sent shock waves and rocked investors’ confidence. They are just wondering who is next, a very sad state of affairs indeed.
Can the state run a business? The answer is an emphatic NO. A review of their performance in the past is a stark reminder that running a business shouldn’t be in the hands of the state.It is a complete joke. To justify my unsavory comment why it is a joke to run a business entity by government (parastatals): Just take a closer look at the picture I took recently whilst driving from Ndola to Lusaka.
On the picture you can see ZESCO pylons on both sides of the road hardly more than 20 metres from the highway.
It doesn’t take rocket science to predict that this is a disaster in waiting. ANY Highway is a busy road. The probability of a vehicle or worse a bus full with passengers careering of the road and hitting these high tension cables is imminent. Maybe it will require the electrocution of so many people to spur someone in ZESCO to reallocate the ZESCO pylons to more than 2km from the highway.
In fact some four people have already been electrocuted on this road in the recent past.
Unfortunately their station in life (sand dealers) didn’t attract enough public outcry or alarm ZESCO to reevaluate their bizarre decision to place high tension cables so close to the road.
Such poor decision making process in parastatals is endemic. It is a result of the way they are structured right from formation. The first thing a minister will do is to appoint a person he knows, a relative or tribesmen. Then the officers so appointed will in turn resort to the same system right through the organisational chart. End result of this nepotism is wrong personnel occupying positions of authority. The results are there for all to see as reflected by the bizarre decision of placement of ZESCO pylons.
When Zambia’s economy was 80 % in state hands, the parastatals used to pay only 20 % of taxes to our treasury. Treasury funds are used for social services and funding of the budget. And the scenario was, it was the 20% private sector that used to pay 80% of monies collected from taxable income. ZIMCO a state holding company never declared a dividend in more than 20 years of it’s existence .Evidence that the Zambian people never benefited from state enterprises.
…THE NEED TO CONTROL…
So why do people today advocate state control? One wonders despite all this compelling evidence that state companies cannot perform.The answer lies in political popularism and vested interests. It is a wicked call by politicians to effect nationalisation policies that has subjected mankind to the worst forms of poverty.
…THE CONSEQUENCES OF NATIONALISATION…
For example, after nationalisation the economy of Zambia shrunk by 50 % in the 27 years former President Dr. Kaunda was in charge. And a grim statistic for Zambia, our copper production in 1968 was 700,000mt. Production sunk to a mere 250,0000mt in 1991 when President Kaunda was kicked out.
In 1964 Zambia was the fourth richest country in Africa. And after the end of Kaunda’s disastrous rule Zambia was ranked the forth poorest country in Africa.
And Just take a look at what our neighbour president Robert Mugabe did to the economy with his nationalistic fervor. Displacing more than 400,000 farm workers in order to give farms to hundreds of politicians and senior army personnel.The confiscation of land can only be described as day light robbery in Zimbabwe. We had no indigenous farmers in Africa before the white man came. Therefore, to claim that indigenous people were displaced is a blue lie ;
Gathers of wood and hunting was our pre-occupation not farming.
….HAPPY WITH INDEPENDENCE?
I will be the first to admit that independence in Zambia in my view has lost essence.To fellow citizens who doubt my statement, I have this to ask on the conduct of our founding fathers in Africa:”Which one is more dehumanizing? Lack of political freedom or poverty?”
…….CHINA. CHANGE OF POLICY…
China a stalwart of state control of companies had to change economic policies 20 years ago from state participation to private sector ,…commonly known as capitalism. Because of this change china has witnessed a massive transformation of the economy to what it is today.
God forbid that in today’s economic environment some leaders are advocating unworkable systems such as nationalisation.Refusing to learn from past mistakes is the greatest betrayal of the masses they lead. Recent objections on state participation in the economy from the Christian council of Zambia (CCZ )are encouraging. Rev Susan Matale is dead right to object going back to the policies of nationalisation of the economy.
…A FEW EXCEPTIONS IN AFRICA-BOTSWANA …..
Smart governments like Botswana stayed away from state control of firms. From a Poor country whose only asset was cattle at the time of independence, Botswana today has the second highest foreign exchange reserves in the whole of Africa second only to south Africa.Successive leaders in Botswana since independence have realized the importance of welcoming private investments because at the end of the day the state collects 35% of corporate tax from every enterprise operating in their country. Money so collected is used to fund social services that transform the lives of its people.
My Ernest and sincere appeal to the Patriotic front government, continue with the privatisation policies of MMD. The PF government shouldn’t seek advice from former and current dictators who destroyed the lives of millions of their countrymen through bad economic policies. Full privatisation of the remaining companies such as ZESCO and railways is a must. They are crucial in turning the wheels of commerce into economic development. Current symptoms of power outages and a Nonexistent railway system in Zambia means state participation in this sector has lamentably failed.
Britain in the 80s faced the same problems and the politics of privatising power and railways systems in the country. The problem required a bold step by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to sell these companies (railway, power) to the private sector. She dismissed idle arguments by former socialists that the industries were “strategic “to the country and shouldn’t be privatised.
“One wonders how strategic the state companies are when their woeful performance negates the very strategic role they are supposed to play.”
Today in UK it is a success story with so many private companies involved in the generation and distribution of power and railway systems.