Reflections on 2018 and expectations for 2019 as a year of activism

UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma during press conference in Lusaka-picture by Tenson Mkhala

The year 2018 just like any other year under the reign of the Patriotic Front was miserable for most Zambians regardless of status in society. The levels of poverty in both rural and urban areas continued to skyrocket unabated. The cost of living for many people shot up. The cost of the food basket went beyond 5,000 Kwacha per month for an average family of six. Many people’s incomes are well below K5,000 per month. Some estimates indicate that many people survive on less than $2 per day. Food has become very expensive. Some people go to the market to buy animal skin instead of steak to feed their families. Chicken heads and legs, nyama soya are the closest to a smell of beef or chicken on the table in urban areas. In rural areas, some people are reported to be surviving on mangoes and wild fruits. There is serious hunger in the country. At one time, the country was shocked to receive embarrassing reports by an international institution that classified Zambia as the hungriest country in the world.

Amidst all this poverty, the Apamwambas are living in luxury; increasing their salaries, flying all over the world and buying jets. This is despite the average salaries for most workers in the formal sector such as civil servants being scandalously low and strained by a wage freeze for a long time.

The Patriotic Front has continued on its trajectory of poor policies and planning resulting in the collapse in socio economic service delivery. Sectors such as Education, Health, Agriculture, manufacturing and Tourism have continued to receive visionless attention under the PF government leading to a decline in economic growth. When the PF took over government in 2011 , the economy was growing at 6 to 7 percent per annum. It has shrunk to 3.5 percent. Some analysts even think growth is below 3%. This, as UPND argues , is not enough for a nation striving to attain a prosperous middle income status by 2030. UPND’s vision is to grow the economy by not less than 10 percent per annum in the long run.

SOCIAL ECONOMIC SECTOR
The PF has failed to arrest the high levels of unemployment in the country resulting in most of the qualified labour force mainly youths to engage in illicit activities as a means of survival. In 2018, for example, 27,000 graduate teachers applied for deployment in the civil service but only 2,000 were recruited by the government, throwing more than 25,000 graduate teachers back on the streets with the

private sector not strong enough to absorb such a huge number. This is against the backdrop of a national teacher shortage of 30,000 as of June 2018. Has anyone taken time to find out what has happened to the 25,000 graduates that were not successfully absorbed into the public sector despite paying affiliation fees to the Teaching Service Commission.

The Health sector is reeling under a nurse shortfall of 20,000 as of November 2018 despite the hundreds of graduate nurses that are churned out onto the labour market by the several tertiary institutions annually. The PF promised to employ 30,000 nurses by 2030 which means an average of 3,000 per year. They can hardly employ even 500 per year. Such pronouncements are not anything new with the PF. Promises of 1 million jobs to be created between 2015 and 2021 are yet to be fulfilled but what the nation has seen is a myriad of retrenchments especially in the mining sector.The government itself has imposed an employment freeze, except for essential services and filling vacant positions.

The year 2018 under the PF also saw more than 56 thousand youths applying for recruitment in the police service but only a paltry 1,000 were recruited, throwing another chunk of 55,000 youths on the streets without any tangible survival prospects.

The agriculture sector has continued to register dismal performance with the infamous Farmers Input Support Programme ( FISP) becoming a complete failure. The national maize annual output has been declining over the years due to poor policies . Late delivery of farming inputs , a discredited e-voucher system and late payment for the crops bought from the farmers has compounded the poor tonnage yield thus affecting national food security. A bag of mealie meal today is selling between 90 and 100 kwacha in some parts of the country, which many people cannot afford. Most farmers have given up on government initiated programs opting for private driven programs. A classic example is Gwembe district where the Food Reserve Agency only managed to buy fifty two (52) bags of maize in the 2018 crop marketing season with most farmers opting to trade with the private sector which offers a higher purchase price and paid upon delivery. This lack of confidence in the government crop marketing system by the farmers shows that the PF’s performance in the year 2018 has continued to be dismal leading to a failed social economic sector.

The PF government has failed to protect the poor and vulnerable people in society. Large sums of social cash transfer funds meant for the poor have been stolen or mismanaged. Corruption has taken centre stage in society. Government is in the forefront promoting corruption by awarding contracts to friends, relatives, PF cadres and Chinese nationals without following tender procedures. Ubomba mwibala alya mwibala has been institutionalised as a normal PF government policy. People complained about fire tender, ambulances, road contracts, toll gates and many shoddy deals but government closed its ears.

POLITICAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS
The year 2018 started and ended with the country heavily sliding into dictatorship. The nation continued in 2018 to witness some of the worst human rights atrocities with shrinking political space. We have had political players summoned and arrested by police on flimsy charges such as unlawful assembly, conduct likely to cause the breach of the peace through the use of the infamous Public order Act. Police wantonly used live ammunition and other brutal means in stopping peaceful demonstrations resulting into the death of one UNZA fourth year student from tear gas suffocation. The police had in 2018 stopped and arrested members of the clergy assembled in a church on a charge of illegal assembly on the Copperbelt. The UPND President Hakainde Hichilema was summoned to appear before Ndola police on fake allegations. Both the civil society and political movements have continued to have their space invaded by both police and political players while the media continued to operate under threat with a number of community radio stations invaded and threatened with closure for hosting opposition political players. A media practitioner is currently serving a jail sentence for publishing an article questioning a judicial judgement. Some opposition political players were pursued into cemeteries and beaten while ruling party cadres have continued to reign terror in bus stations and markets contrary to national statutes. A trajectory of lawlessness continued to characterize the PF rule in 2018 while efforts by the church to spearhead a process of national dialogue and reconciliation have been met by stiff resistance from the PF and its surrogates who stand to lose out.

THE UPND IN 2019
As the country’s major political party, the UPND under the leadership of President Hakainde Hichilema will step up its role as the political watchdog and provide hope for a people that have lost hope for tomorrow owing to the poor governance levels under the PF.
The UPND expects the PF government to solve the problem of unemployment especially among the young people. This should be the number one priority. If the PF government fails to seriously tackle unemployment, they should leave office because they are incompetent and time wasters.
We equally expect the PF government to solve hunger and poverty in the country. They cannot continue to wine and dine while the people are wallowing in poverty.
In 2019, we expect the PF government to put to an end the wanton looting of national resources through corruption. If PF is allowed to continue to embrace corruption, there will be no country to talk about come 2021.

The party through its vibrant legislative and civic leaders will continue providing checks and balances on the PF government and its corrupt, extravagant and dictatorial leadership. The UPND has declared 2019 as a year of activism and calls on all Zambians to join in the movement against dictatorship, corruption, economic malaise, exorbitant spending by government as well as break down in the rule of law. While our Members of Parliament will continue to question PF policies which are negating national growth, we call upon Zambians to seize this opportunity and demand for accountable leadership from those mandated to deliver social and economic services. It remains up to the UPND, Political Players, the Church, Civil Society, Student movements and all citizens to respond to the clarion call and place Zambia first ahead of any selfish political and sectarian interests. We call on the church to continue with its National Dialogue process and we remain hopeful that a voice of divine reasoning shall intervene.The UPND wishes to assure the nation that it shall without conditions participate in the church driven National Dialogue Process as we believe it is the only sure way of restoring national confidence and pride among Zambians. The nation is bleeding from the ills of tribalism, nepotism, regionalism, corruption and mismanagement. We however remain optimistic that together as a people, we are strong enough to overcome and the UPND is ready to lead that crusade in the year 2019.Better days are coming ahead. We shall be bruised but our resolve is much stronger going forward.

Our People, Our Land, Our Power

(The author is UPND Chairman – Information and Publicity)

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