We are a young country rich with an extremely young labour force and massive minerals, water and other natural resources, found throughout the country. We can afford every human being in Zambia a full, rewarding, and happy life.
Much of Zambia’s population is squeezed into Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe and Mufulira, with the rest of the provincial capitals and smaller towns and villages sharing the rest of the population of Zambia. The high population densities in the small towns of Zambia are a reflection of our inability to make rural areas attractive places to live, work and enjoy life, especially for our young people!
We can change this picture and begin to attract many young Zambians to move out of the unhealthy, congested few urban centres, while simultaneously making those who struggle in rural areas want to stay in our beautiful but poverty infested rural areas, by transforming both our urban and rural landscapes into liveable, healthy, rich with economic and social opportunities places.
I said in my article in this newspaper, titled “Where do Callboys and Party Cadres Go, Once Removed from their Livelihoods?”on the 28th of April 2022: “Zambia has massive backlogs of modern roads, railways, airports, a harbour, bridges, irrigation dams, houses, 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.”
I remain convinced that a genuine patriotic Zambian government committed to resolving Zambia’s quadruple crises of mass poverty, systemic and structural unemployment, inequalities and corruption, using Zambia’s natural resources and absolutely convinced that only Zambians can be their own economic and social liberators, can do all this. Such a government of course would prioritise national collective ownership of our natural resources and all strategic economic sectors and firms.
What I glaringly failed to raise in that article is our failure, in the past 58 years of our independence, to evenly distribute economic development and its fruits, throughout the country generally, and to all our rural areas in particular. In fact, it is this singular failure which also largely contributes to promoting tribalism and narrow provincialism, as our unscrupulous and thoroughly unpatriotic politicians exploit the unequal distribution of the fruits of independence throughout the country, by raising the spectre of tribalism as the cause this poor distribution.
We have failed, 58 years after our independence in 1964, to transform our rural areas into liveable, happy, life opportunity rich areas for all Zambians. Instead, Zambia is stuck with a near collapsed Copperbelt Province, Lusaka and the line of rail, and a post-independence incoherent and frankly speaking, quite chaotic unevenly spread sites of underdevelopment throughout the country. It is time to decongest Lusaka and distribute development evenly throughout the country.
I owe a big debt of gratitude to all those who made comments and some soft and not so gentle insults, on my article of the 28th of April, 2022, about the fate of young unemployed people called “party cadres” and what their fate has become, post our August 2021 elections. What follows below is my synthesis of some of the ideas from the comments and discussions I have had, since then, on the subject.
Zambia is neither the Copperbelt, Lusaka, nor the line of rail. It is all of the 752,618 square kilometres, divided into 743,398 square kilometres of land and 9,220 square kilometres of water. We are roughly 19,642,123 of us, in Zambia this year, according to the Central Intelligence Agency of America, in their World Fact Book. Alarmingly, slightly more than 45 percent of our population is below 14 years. Nearly half of our population is between 15 and 54 years old and, shockingly, less than6 percent of our population is older than 55 years! Zambia has an incredibly young population which, combined with mass unemployment translates into a very high dependence ratio.
A prerequisite to transforming Zambia is developing the necessary consciousness of ownership and respect for our natural resources as belonging to all Zambians, and fighting to wrestle control of economic and social development planning from our parasitic politicians who are drunk on foreign money, and vesting this power, democratically, in the popular masses of Zambia. This would mean, for example, no bunch of politicians for the moment in government can contract both local and foreign debt, give rights to access and exploit our natural resources including land and water, without full, transparent and democratic participation of citizens. This would require making appropriate changes to our Republican Constitution and laws. What are some of the things we can do?
1. Education: From birth to death must be public funded, a human right, and available for every Zambian to enable them to learn and acquire the necessary knowledge, cultureand essential skills to freely, democratically, productively and happily cope with the fast-paced changes current technology driven life entails. For this kind of high quality publicly resourced universal education to come into existence, we must overhaul our entire current education system, and refocus it to meet the needs of a country that requires a useful mix of academic and practical skills, cultural and moral regeneration, without privileging one over the other, to enable the process of dynamic and healthy redistribution of our population throughout the country to take place. To plan for such a revolutionary reorientation of our country’s education system requires longer time frames than the current political cycles of 5 years – this requires generational visioning, as planning tools.
2.Population demographics:The population demographics of any country are also a reflection of the system of ownership and quality of economic value that circulates in the population, general development, material and cultural wellbeing of the majority of the people of such a country. Zambia has a population demographic skewed towards young people below 14 years as a reflection of our failure to fundamentally transform our economy and society since independence, in favour of the majority of Zambia’s people. We are thus a very poor country incapable of feeding its own people, meanwhile we are a natural resource rich country.
Our democratically formulated popular vision of a transformed Zambia would entail determining the optimal population distribution and growth rates for the various phases of development of our country to guarantee every human being a chance to live a full life, on the basis of the forms of ownership of our productive forces and their stage of development. We have no shortage of skilled and educated Zambians to do this kind of planning.
3. The struggle to eliminate poverty:At the heart of our national vision and all planning would be the strategic goal of eliminating, and not alleviating, poverty. Poverty includes material and cultural deprivation, rather than just income and asset poverty. A simpler way of doingthis is to determine the minimum material and cultural threshold beyond which no human being in Zambia must be allowed to fall. This would also mean, for example, making universal access to nutritious and appropriate food, education, health, clean and safe water, shelter, and a basic income all human rights protected by the Constitution. The fantastic thing about all this is that Zambia has a rich natural resource base and a population which if scientifically organised and democratically managed, can achieve these simple things for every human being in Zambia, within the shortest possible time, actually.
4. Our Constitution, development and poverty: When I served on the Mwanakatwe Constitutional Review Commission, I recall petitioners pleading for making social economic rights fully justiciable – enforceable –by entrenching them in our Bill of Rights. Almost six decades after our independence, there is one fundamental lesson we cannot fail to learn about our politics and politicians: like all politicians all over the world, when left to their own devices, they will milk the country dry, sell the family silver, incur impossible to pay debt and impoverish the majority. Time has come for us to make it a duty for a bundle of essential and necessary rights for any human being to live a dignified life, to be entrenched as justiciable rights, in our constitution. Central to these rights of course would also be the right and duty for every right aged healthy person in Zambia to work. This requires a democratic national constitutional process. It can all be done!
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