A good young friend of mine, a UNZA and Oxford University graduate, who is very conscious of the perilous path Zambia has taken by ignoring, among other morbid things, the miserable plight of callboys and party cadres, recently asked me this frightening question: where do callboys and party cadres go when they are removed from markets and bus stations? I had no immediate answer. In truth, I don’t know where they go, most of them.
To prod my friend who has an excellent education background, to accept the historic political and moral responsibilities his Zambian educated middle class are failing to shoulder, I rudely reminded him that the problem with the growing presence among us and behaviour of the callboys and party cadres is not the fault of the callboys and party cadres as such, it is our creation, we, the educated middle class whose historical mission is also to act as a brain and moral bank for society: we have tolerated lies, mediocrity, ill-discipline, corruption, inequalities, unemployment and mass poverty. We have normalised these things instead of fighting to uproot them from Zambia. This is the source of our national poverty and the inevitable presence among us, of the impoverished miserable violent youths called callboys and party cadres. I have published these thoughts elsewhere.
Now, where exactly do they go, the callboys and party cadres, once they are removed from bus stations and markets? They are alive somewhere. They need to find other ways, tougher ways, of surviving. They do not just vanish into thin air. They manufacture new violent forms of crime. No human being has the right to let society cause them to die slowly from hunger and poverty. Human being turns to crime when the normal, legal society shuts them out. This is an iron law of human life: when it becomes impossible to survive within the law, human beings resort to crime to survive. To say this is not to say that all criminals are poor people! This is simply to acknowledge the obvious fact that when the law fails to sustain human life; human beings survive outside the law.
Criminal gangs, Illicit alcohol, trading in and smoking smuggled cheap cigarettes, dangerous drugs, prostitution, pick pocketing, burglary, and eventually graduating to kidnappings, blackmail, extortion and murder are the eventual “underground crime world” we are pushing young Zambians we are denying jobs to emigrate into. There is no passport required to enter this dangerous and violent underworld. This criminal, dangerous underworld country is created when a majority of young people are denied legal, viable, decent and sustainable livelihoods.
There is no alternative for Zambia to resolving the massive youth social and economic crises young Zambians are enduring everyday than for a genuine patriotic Zambian government committed to solving our many crises to trust Zambians themselves to be their own social and economic liberators, rather than trusting the IMF, World Bank and imperialist donors whose mission is to loot and plunder our resources in order to protect and advance the interests of their capitalists and countries.
The UPND government’s ahistorical and wrong, cynical reliance on foreign finance to reignite and help Zambia grow its economy is a dangerous path and offers no urgent mass solutions to the youth crises Zambia is confronted with.
The UPND and IMF austerity measures are pushing up the cost of living and doing business in Zambia, every day. Rent, fuel, transport and food costs are rising everyday making survival harder in our conditions of mass youth unemployment. Economic opportunities, always in short supply, are shrinking every day.
The air in Zambia is pregnant with the drive to push young Zambians to embrace capitalism, without in fact explaining to our young people that it is first colonial capitalism, then state capitalism and since 1991, neo-liberal capitalism which have reduced us into a country of beggars, liars, thieves, and the corrupt. These things inevitably sustain mass poverty and deadly youth unemployment.
The UPND and Hakainde Hichilema are touting CDF as a panacea to many of our economic and social problems at the local level; a lie the future will reveal. We are a copper, gold and precious stones rich country that celebrates turning its young people into scavengers at dangerous mine dumps.
“Do something for yourself, stop the culture of depending on government”, “Grab opportunities when they present themselves” and so on have become common refrains thrown at our youths, by Hichilema and the UPND government. Implicit in this mean neo-colonial version of capitalism is the accusation that our youths are poor because they stupid, lazy, incapable of exploiting opportunities and used to being dependent on government. The truth, however, is that our current politicians are incapable of unlocking our natural and human resources to overcome our crippling social and economic crises.
Meanwhile, as they offer this miserable advice, the UPND politicians, including Hakainde, are relying on government to secure a deal with the IMF for foreign money to start flowing into Zambia, so that they could cream off their commissions.
Zambia can resolve to confront its social and economic crises. Zambia must declare a national state of social and economic emergency, largely affecting young people.
Zambians, using their intelligence, education, talents, skills, and its businesses and abundant youth labour force can use mass infrastructure programmes in the interim to give itself breathing space by absorbing youths in these projects as we rapidly work to place our economy on a medium and long term new job led development and growth path.
The social and economic state of emergence would allow us to nationalise the copper mines and other key economic sectors and place them in the hands of disciplined, well trained qualified managers; a good hybrid mix of foreign and Zambian managers. Instantly, Zambia would have, as many have already said, more than enough foreign exchange and government revenues to begin to lay a solid foundation for long term national social and economic development.
Government needs to work with the Zambian business community and learn how they can upscale, innovate and expand their businesses, and open up new economic opportunities.
Government itself must directly invest in mass job creating sectors such as agriculture (including food storage, processing, manufacturing and distribution), infrastructure, energy, new mining projects, communication and the digital economy, manufacturing of important industrial and domestic goods.
The majority of Zambians have no access to electricity, clean safe water, decent housing and sanitation. These backlogs are inherited from our colonial era. No IMF programme, mythical “investors”, or local capitalists will resolve these challenges.
Zambia has massive backlogs of modern roads, railways, bridges, irrigation dams, modern well equipped primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities, public social spaces including leisure parks, museums, and so on. Government determination to resolve these backlogs would generate millions of temporary, long term and advanced education and skilled jobs. No IMF or imaginary investors will create these things for Zambia.
The ”private sector” in our circumstances, a country on the margins of the global capitalist economy, can never be the “engine of growth” or a mass generator of the jobs Zambia needs. You have to be suffering from a special mind numbing disease not to recognise how all the post-colonial countries have been damaged and kept backward, by imperialism so wrongly called “foreign private investors” and their local surrogates.
Only a genuine patriotic Zambian government committed to resolving Zambia’s quadruple crises of mass poverty, systemic and structural unemployment, corruption and inequalities, using Zambia’s natural resources and absolutely convinced that only Zambians can be their own economic and social liberators, can do all this.
When we somehow “disappear” callboys and party cadres without giving them decent, legal sources of income and wealth, we manufacture a violent dangerous criminal underclass. It will soon overwhelm our country. It will take over government. Hakainde Hichilema has already conceded government is infiltrated by criminals. Now, imagine callboys and party cadres together with the existing criminals imbedded in government, openly running our country! That is what awaits us, if my educated Zambian middle class good friend does not assume his historical responsibilities!
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