For many, it was the beginning of a new era in Zambia’s political emancipation, marking the first electoral victory for an opposition party since 1991. For others, that day marked the beginning of a brutally authoritarian regime of the Patrotic Front (PF) government.
Although it is probably clear to anyone who has read this column, it is my position that in the past year Zambians have not seen any real change in terms of economic gains and other developments in social sectors of society that were promised to them by the new government, but instead have seen the management of Zambia’s public affairs take a turn for the worse.
What has been outstanding are disjointed pronouncements from PF officials who argue that Zambia is a now a better country even when there has been no growth in employment, leaving many of our citizens going to bed each night hungry and unable to enjoy the basic dignity of a living wage. The only people doing well seem to be the government and its friends, with secret salary raises of 100% and ridiculous judicial interference to help a newspaper editor escape his debts to the taxpayer.
It has to be stated in very categorical terms that various matters relating to the state of the nation are not in order. These are serious issues that impact all our lives, and we must view the success of our nation as something above the bickering of partisan exchanges. The government and the general public must work together towards strengthening unity and peace in the context of a political, religious, cultural and ethnic diversity.
Zambia has survived since 1964 as a united and peaceful nation and this very special gift of God. This should not be lost under the PF regime, which we have seen resorting to manipulating ethnic conflicts and tribalism in order to shore up its weakening political position. The great foundations of the unity of Zambia must remain the bedrock of each and every successive government so that the people of the nation can continue their journey of peaceful holistic development and political tolerance.
Under the PF government, there have been situations and events that threaten public peace, unity and collective participation in governance and socio-economic activities. The PF government and the Zambian people must remain resolute and calm and refrain from any outrageous activities that will compromise or threaten the peace.
Zambia must conquer evil with good, and hate with love. That means that it will take more than just attacking President Sata and the PF over their demonstrated incompetence, but also offering solutions. The government, in turn, must exhibit a greater level of tolerance for the opposition and freedom of expression, and would do well to make more appointments of competent individuals from outside its ranks. If Zambia is to survive Year 2 of the PF government, we must work together to see results.
Interparty political conflicts
There is lack of consultation between the PF government and the opposition political parties on key national issues. This does not help to foster a positive relationship in a multi-party democratic system where political diversity is an essential element for checks and balances.
The PF government and its cohorts must learn the co-existence and regular consultation through meaningful dialogue among all the political parties in the Zambia regardless of their sizes and parliamentary representation. Further, this government must take the initiative and call the opposition political parties for dialogue that should help bring about reconciliation and resolve the contentious issues affecting the general public and the governance.
The PF government has always refused to use the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) effectively to resolve their differences, even when they were in the opposition. Now that they are in government, the ZCID presents an opportunity for effective resolution of disputes.
The ZCID helps opposition political parties to play their critical role of holding the government accountable for their actions, promises, the pursuit of the development agenda and social service delivery to the people through a just system and a national vision.
It is expected that the PF government should not perceive the opposition political parties as enemies that should be destroyed but rather as allies for development.
The opposition under the PF government has always showed maturity and exercised wisdom in sharing and commenting on policy issues to ensure that we place the common good of Zambia ahead of self.
In this regard, the PF government should be of a service and its leaders should be servants because this is expected to strengthen the understanding that the power of leadership does not rest with the leaders but with the people. Leadership is not on top. It is about being at the bottom and pushing the people up from the beneath.
The PF government, its officials and cadres continuously use violence and hate speech against critics. This is regrettable, unacceptable and retrogressive.
Opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has been a victim of attacks from the PF for criticizing the government.
Hichilema was arrested for hate speech. Earlier, he was tear gassed together with his members at the Lusaka central police station. Recently, Hichilema and his members were openly attacked by PF members at the funeral of former First Lady Betty Kaunda.
The PF and its members must exercise restraint from the use of foul language so that they can edify the general public. It is unfortunate that the independent Post newspaper has continued to amplifying such unacceptable utterances and feeding the public with insults generated from the PF.
The Post newspaper must exercise caution in ensuring that they publish their news only in acceptable tone and language. The Post newspaper needs a new style of reporting that will enhance unity and the positive development of our country.
Crop marketing and agriculture
The earlier position of government to only buy a maximum of 153 bags of maize from each farmer is unacceptable. This has negatively impacted on the morale and the business plans of farmers in Zambia who had planned to sell over 153 bags of grain.
The government has failed to rescue cotton farmers from ginners who have forced the peasants to sell their maize at K1, 700 and not the planned K3, 000.
The PF government had promised farmers better incentives, more inputs and a stabilised crop marketing system. This has not been delivered. In any case, the opposite is the truth.
The government promised farmers better planning for crop marketing since late interventions in the past had yielded vices such as corruption and making farmers to be susceptible to exploitation by brief case buyers. This has de-generated under the PF government.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) under the PF government is less vigilant and has failed to curb corruption in the marketing system that is often associated with paying for invisible maize, incorrect accounting, corrupt and inefficient transportation system, poor storage, lack of transparency and lack of integrity of staff at various levels in the marketing system. This is because it has been infiltrated with PF cadres who have been employed and many of these lack requisite qualifications.
Constitution drafting process
The constitution making process is one of the biggest failures of the PF government in its one year anniversary. While in the opposition, Michael Sata promised Zambians that he shall deliver a durable constitution within 90 days. Zambians now lament the lack of critical direction and road map in the constitution making process as the committee tasked with the job has failed to produce the draft constitution within the much publicized 90 days window. The process has meandered through twists and turns and Zambians have lost interest in the programme.
The delay in putting up a legal framework grossly affected the legitimacy of the Technical Committee Drafting the Republican Constitution and also affected the acceptability of the final product. Zambians have reiterated that they wanted a referendum commission to be formed soon and the referendum Act should be amended in order to remove the unfavorable clauses.
The Corruption fight
Contrary to Michael Sata’s public utterances that he is allergic to corruption, the truth is that his administration is basking in graft.
For instance, Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba is clinching public tenders without any lawful procedures. His then deputy Colonel Panji Kaunda was almost sucked after he tried to blow the whistle on his boss. Mr Mwamba got the tender to transport fuel that was donated to neighboring Malawi during the funeral of Bi wa Mtharika. Post Newspaper owner Fred M’membe has also got several government contracts and the tenders to transport grain at the FRA. He now wants to clinch the tender to supply fuel to Zambia.
Some fuel supply tenders have been awarded corruptly while it was reported in the media recently that State House Press Aid George Chellah paid for an expensive house from the National Housing Authority. The house costs K900 million.
Zambians are asking whether there is a ‘fight’ at all in the corruption fight. There is rhetoric but no real results to show what the resources used in the so called fight are achieving.
Michael Sata has been accusing Rupiah Banda’s regime of wanton corruption but he has shamelessly failed to prove his allegations.
Failure in identifying, arresting and prosecuting the corrupt persons associated with corruption renders the talk about corruption fight as a mere political rhetoric and a public relations utterance.
This is because lately, Zambians have observed that people with questionable character or record in the public and political sphere have been appointed to influential positions by a government that claims allergy to corruption.
For instance, expelled Mufumbwe Member of Parliament Stphen Masumba is appearing in the courts of law with a forged diploma in accounting. Michael Sata also appointed Mutembo Nchito as Director of Public Prosecutions, although Mutembo acquired loans worth over US$30 million dubiously from the Development Bank of Zambia and these matters are before the courts.
Judge Ngoma, Michael Sata’s own instrument of violence is a senior management fellow at ZESCO Limited even after he was sent to jail for assaulting a former PF member Sam Zulu. Ashell Kampengele who was also convicted for assault on Sam Zulu is the district commissioner for Lusaka.
Michael Sata revoked the court convictions of the duo after he won the elections and rewarded them with jobs in public institutions.
The depth and sophistication of corruption under the PF is alarming and has reached epic proportional levels of a national disaster.
The time has come for Zambians to decide now by playing a part in dealing with corruption by not paying a bribe and not receiving one from the PF government especially in the parliamentary by-elections they are creating.
Zambians must cleanse the society through a moral transformation that will restore integrity in the citizenry. Corruption as is being tolerated under the PF has bad ability to reverse any positive gains in our little development efforts by pushing the country back several decades behind and drowning innocent Zambians wallowing in unending poverty.
The appointment of ministers from the opposition political parties
The appointment of ministers from the opposition is constitutional. But, it would have if this is not done in good faith since now it is being viewed as a ploy to dis-empower the opposition.
This is because the identification and appointment of such persons from the opposition does not involve consultation with the leaders of the affected political parties. This is meant to undermine the opposition leadership. Mr Sata acknowledged during the opening of parliament that he has no ministerial material among his PF members. But he has been using the constitutional lapse to weaken the opposition, a thing he rejected while the opposition and he expelled 22 MPs from the PF.
But hitherto, all the opposition MPs being appointed to the PF government are placed as deputy ministers and not cabinet portfolios.
The Road carnage and gruesome killings
Zambians have observed with concern that under the PF’s first year in power, road carnage, gender based violence and gruesome murders have skyrocketed in Zambia.
This has had a ripple effect on the health service system and economy. It leads to an increase in the number of persons with disabilities as many people have been injured, maimed and amputated. In addition, many children have been orphaned as a result of these road traffic accidents leaving untold miseries to surviving families.
The government has failed to put in place favorable measures and policies aimed at improving the safety of the road users and the travelling public.
The increase in gender based violence in Zambia is alarming and the pace at which the police must be seen to be moving to bring to book the culprits should be enhanced.
Zambians want to see the police applying the same vigor and enthusiasm, which they use when arresting political figures to the fight against perpetrators of gruesome killings.
The Judicial Tribunal – The Malawian Judge
The trick by the PF to arm-twist the judiciary over Development Bank of Zambia debts owed by Mutembo Nchito and Fred M’membe failed lamentably even after importing Malawian judge Lovemore Chikopa to preside over senior Zambian judges in a tribunal.
The government failed to update the general public on the status of the Malawian Judge, Justice Chikopa who was hired to lead the tribunal on the judiciary. The government spent millions of Kwacha for his upkeep while in Zambia.
The government failed to explain the relevance of Justice Chikopa’s continued stay in the country at Zambian tax payers money. The government failed exercise caution and prudence in the utilization of public resources because it was being wasteful and extravagant by keeping a judge who had not officially started working on his assignment.
By-elections are one of the costly exercises and a major drain to the limited public resources under the PF in Zambia.
It is important that the PF government must allow parliamentarians to save the country’s valuable resources by sticking to their political parties. The shifting from the opposition to the ruling party is unacceptable.
Zambia needs an effective opposition front to provide adequate checks and balance and hold the government accountable.
Parliamentary by-elections are being used as an avenue to accumulate more seats from the opposition so that the PF can have the majority of numbers in parliament.
Minimum Wage and Youth unemployment
This is one of the biggest boobs under the government where Michael Sata and his cronies should have engaged major stakeholders such as the labor Movement, Employers and economists regarding the introduction and implementation of the minimum wage.
This would have reduced the acrimony that has characterized the implementation of this important instrument. Zambia is more of a one party state than anything and as a result of this, Zambians witnessed brutal killing of a Chinese manager at Collum Mine in Sinanzongwe.
Michael Sata and his labour Minister Fackson Shamenda are to blame because they provided a piecemeal law and they promised workers more money in their pockets, a matter that they have failed to actualize.
It is hoped the demise of the Chinese national and the constant labour unrest that characterize the job market in Zambia will save as a great lesson for the PF government in its future decision making processes that consultation is a vital asset in leadership.
Recently, a youth in Lusaka was eager to kill himself as a martyr for the unemployed masses of youth in the Zambia must force Michael Sata for an urgent need to prioritize youth employment.
Michael Sata was a very popular man during his time as an opposition leader. His fortunes have overturned. He is more of a recluse than a populist.
He is hiding from public appearances, opting to issue press statements on critical matters from the comfort of his office at State House.
The PF government needs to commitment and respect constitutionalism and good governance in Zambia. Service to humanity and the need for a just society is what motivates people.
The PF government has not shown any commitment for real change in Zambia. They have continued to ride on the success of the MMD regime.
Michael Sata and his leaders have continued to call former president Rupiah Banda as a fool, a liar and corrupt leader.
From what we have seen in Michael Sata’s one year in power, it is easy to conclude that if truly Rupiah Banda was a fool, a liar and a corrupt leader and he put our lives on the line, then what happened on 23rd September 2011 at the Supreme Court grounds in Lusaka was the transfer of power from one fool, one lair and corrupt leader to another and our lives are back on the line again.