By Sycorax Tiyesa Ndhlovu
While Zambia is rich in both natural resources and in human capital such as minerals, vast arable fertile land, enough water bodies and relatively favourable climate coupled with a relatively high population of graduates at different academic and professional levels; and being politically independent for more than 50 years with sustained peace and stability, our country’s economic development has remained relatively low compared to the available quantities and qualities of such resources. Such a situation can be attributed to ‘dirty’ politics most politicians practice in this country.
Since the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1991, despite some positive efforts each successive government was or is making to improve on the lives of majority citizens, one can argue that ‘dirty’ politics have contributed a lot to destroying Zambia’s economy.
Oxford Advanced Learner‘s Dictionary defines politics as activities involved in getting and using power in public life; and being able to influence decisions that affect a country or a society. This implies that good politics is always practiced in public interest.
Considering the above definition of politics, one can argue that ‘dirty’ politics is an immoral, dishonest, unfair and malicious way of getting and using power to influence decisions against public interest.
It’s from such a definition of politics that one can analyse how different successive groups of politicians have been practicing politics to serve public interest or not.
Referring to the sustained depreciation of the Kwacha against the US dollar and its effects on prices of goods and services, former finance minister in the Movement for Multi-party democracy (MMD)’s administration, Ng’andu Magande last year was quoted saying the economic hardships Zambia was facing were more due to governance than to economic related issues.
One of the meanings to such a statement is that the way the current government is running public affairs is creating such economic challenges; while the other meaning is that some political players in Zambian economy are contributing to such national economic malaise.
While admitting that every government makes some mistakes in running of public affairs, the way some opposition leaders react to some real or perceived government’s mistakes can contribute more to national economic hardships some citizens experience.
For example, some opposition leaders have been quoted in some media circles that Zambia, under PF government, is a failed state. What has happened in this country for it to be described as a failed state? And if Zambia is now a failed state, which foreign investor can invest in such a state?
If direct foreign investment (DFI) isn’t coming because some opposition leaders say negative unjustifiable statements or wash dirty linen in public against the Head of State and his government, can meaningful job creation and the subsequent poverty alleviation be achieved?
Moreover, abusive language, hate speech and malicious statements against the Head of State and his government from some opposition leaders create an impression that our country is in political turmoil.
Such statements used in local and international media create an impression that our country is politically too unstable for foreign investments. Even investors already in this country can withhold their further investments till a perceived political instability is wiped out. So between the current government and the opposition leaders, who is contributing more to such economic hardships in our country?
In any country, low or no DFI have negative effects on job creation and poverty levels. Therefore, in the PF government, for example, low investments to sustainably exploit many rich natural resources in this country; and the subsequent low job creation and high poverty levels can be attributed to sarcastic language, hatred, and hate speech common from some opposition leaders against President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his government leaders as quoted in some media houses.
Additionally, some politicians have promised Zambians that they (politicians) will provide free education from grade 1 to university level when they come into power. Such promises make most citizens to be too lazy to work hard to be self-reliant in academic related expenses.
Usually, most pupils and students who receive free education in whatever form don’t work hard; and delay finishing their studies because they have little or no personal financial commitment in their academic process while those who are self-sponsored work very hard to finish their academic programmes to free themselves from such expenses.
A good example is University of Zambia and Copperbelt University students on bursaries. It’s reported that most students who initiate and participate riots in these institutions are those on government bursaries.
Therefore, appeasement policies for political expedience even in areas where citizens have capacities to be personally responsible can also promote laziness and dependency syndrome in most citizens; thereby negatively affecting sustainable national socio-economic advancement of a country.
Another retrogressive approach to national economic advancement is reversing progressive policies and laws already put in place for political motives. For example, the Amended Constitution states that for any ward, mayoral and parliamentary political candidate aspiring for such positions, one is supposed to have a minimum of grade 12 school certificate or its equivalent.
Such a clause was submitted in the Draft Constitution for a purpose in national political and socio-economic advancement.
This is because most Zambians are unable to rise to expected levels of economic advancements owing to not only that they suffer from inadequate entrepreneurial skills but because they also have humble formal education backgrounds.
Therefore, demanding a minimum of grade 12 school certificate or its equivalent before one aspires for such political offices inspires many citizens to achieve relatively high academic qualifications which are catalysts to one’s professional achievements and; in the process, and if well applied, lead to sustainable socio-economic advancement for both respective individual citizens and for the country.
Learning that some presidential candidates are promising to remove such a clause from the Zambian constitution for whatever reasons, when such presidential aspirants come to power, casts doubts on whether Zambia will make progress politically, socially and economically or not.
Moreover, some citizens and some politicians involve themselves in forms of economic sabotage for economic or political motives. For example, some politicians are reported to be in politics for their personal business’ interests. But if one is in politics for such a purpose, one might deliberately be contributing to creating artificial shortages in certain commodities to give an impression that a government in power is ineffective in improving the lives of many citizens. In such a situation, the politicians can say that Zambia is a failed state!
Economic sabotage can also include and lead to unfair pricing by some opposition leaders in their private businesses to incite citizens to rise against the current government.
Admittedly, the Kwacha to a US dollar had depreciated to about K15.00 to a US dollar; and that annual inflation has risen to about 22 per cent. But how can one explain skyrocketing prices of some essential commodities even when the Kwacha has maintained its strength against the US dollar from about K15.00 to a US dollar to about K11.30 per US dollar?
One can argue that prices of some essential goods have risen because the exchange rate between Kwacha and the US dollar has been; and is still unpredictable. But how long can this unpredictability take?
Another person might also argue that shortages in some commodities like mealie mill influence increases in their respective prices. But are these shortages genuine or artificial? Isn’t ‘dirty’ politics playing its role in the pricing of essential commodities to paint a negative picture of the current government; especially that presidential and general elections are around the corner?
With high levels of tribalism, even if government of the day facilitate more development projects in almost all districts, those practicing tribalism can’t appreciate what the government is doing in almost all districts of this country; and will, therefore, continue antagonizing the current government.
False promises, promoting dependency syndrome, economic sabotage, practicing tribalism in politics and malicious statements against the Head of State and his government are part of ‘dirty’ politics which contribute heavily to destroying our economy.
Therefore, politics based on real issues, done honestly, objectively, factually, fairly and serving public interest can help to advance sustainable socio-economic national development process of Mother Zambia.
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