What the hell is going on, about the under 42,000 government jobs in health and education? Can the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission hurry up and get the selected workers employed? They have had enough time in the world to finish all the “phases” of the recruitment processes: it is time to end the torture of all those more than 200,000 unemployed mainly young workers who applied for these extremely few jobs!

Suppose Zambia was at war immediately the UPND assumed office after our August 2021 elections, are we being told that it would take more than half a year not to complete merely selecting 40,000 recruits to be trained to fight to defend Zambia? I know of course that it can be argued that recruiting soldiers in war time is completely different from recruiting health and education workers in peaceful times. The problem, however, is that if we were a healthy normal country, the teaching staff shortages and the critical understaffing in our clinics, hospitals let alone health centres in the public sectors would constitute an emergency, an actual war time crisis that required and demanded the necessary sense of urgency from the Zambian government.

Alas, we are so used to slow, mediocre and shoddy government services perfectly infused with rampant corruption and theft that many of us no longer care about what actually goes on in government, until we urgently and badly need something, from government. Just like the ongoing shortages of essential and critical medicines and technologies facilitate the deaths of many Zambians wo are reliant on the government health services, the understaffed government schools kill the futures of millions of Zambian children by giving them a mediocre education which in fact promotes a negative attitude towards learning and education, in many young people.

Could it just be possible that the UPND government is so damn scared of the civil service it inherited from the Patriotic Front (PF) that it cannot trust it not to load the under 42,0000 jobs with PF cadres? Could it be that the IMF actually needs proof that the new government jobs will not affect the debt repayment programme agreed between itself and the UPND government? Could it be plain lack of urgency, humanity and responsibility to the Zambian people by those entrusted to design and carry out the recruitment exercise? What the hell is going on? The unemployed people in this country who are largely young and whose lives we are destroying by denying them an income donot care about announcements about “phases” in the employment of the 42,000 government jobs: they want to hear that they should either report for work or have been left out, period.

Time and life cannot be recycled, once lost they are both gone for good. No one remains young for ever; each passing second adds on to our years on Earth and brings closer our death day and our old age, whichever will come first. In Zambia, however, death comes first for many Zambians, before they age. Collectively, as a people and a country, by not treating with the urgency the employment of young people deserves, we torture and send to an early grave many Zambians and we arrest Zambia indefinitely into a country populated by young people.

Zambia cannot afford to wait a second longer to delay employing a single young person desperate for work. The morbid signs of a country pregnant with unemployed young people are all there to see in all our villages, towns and cities: everywhere you look, there is a young person loitering, doing nothing. Many of these young people are reasonably educated and would gladly grab an opportunity to either self-employ themselves or find work, any paying work. We are fast worsening conditions for alcohol, drug and other substance abuses by young people. Our police cells and prisons are full of young people whose only crime was to steal something in order to buy food.

Of all moments in our history, today the government should be the last employer of resort because the mass suffering our horrible unemployment creates threaten the security of the state and country. We instead know that government is playing games with paying government suppliers and others are speculating that this is because the UPND wants its own people to get some of the government business. Why can’t changes to the government’s tender and supply system to include those previously left out be done while simultaneously not killing existing jobs by starving existing suppliers cash by government?

We have heard about the cancellation of hunting licenses. Is there anyone in government possessed with any compassion and sense of urgency about the plight of all those Zambians especially young people in our rural areas who annually benefit from the hunting season? Whatever it is that needed to be fixed, could this not be done without depriving the communities in the hunting areas the cash they badly needed? One hopes the government could be sued to compensate all the individuals and communities who are being punished by these draconian measures. Once more no one in government cares about the impact on seasonal jobs for young people such reckless government decisions have.

We are told the government has no money to repair roads, mend broken bridges like the one in Vubwi, pave gravel roads, repair our broken national roads, make new roads where they are needed, build new schools, clinics and hospitals closer to communities previously denied such services. As for the unfinished PF infrastructure projects, they must wait, indefinitely. All these priorities must wait for the government to clinch its deal with the IMF. Medical supplies to our health centres, clinics and hospitals must wait for either when the government has collected some money from taxes for this purpose, or for when the IMF deal will have been clinched. There is, as we have already been told, actually no alternative plan to the IMF deal!

In each of these things the government is not doing, thousands of jobs are being lost, business opportunities linked to these government expenses are being squandered, and the lives of millions of Zambians deteriorate as Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND friends wait for the IMF. Crucially, young Zambian lives are sacrificed at the altar of an IMF deal whose future is neither here nor there.

The illusion that public private partnerships in which the private sector will make available money to repair, construct and maintain our public infrastructure while the government gives loan guarantees and other financial security to the private sector is just that; an illusion!

Every government, extremely indebted or not, has the sovereign responsibility to repair, sustain, construct and expand necessary and essential infrastructure to enable a country to be socially and economically viable. Otherwise such a government has no reason to exist. A declaration of social and economic emergency and the necessary nationalisation of our rich mineral endowment and big business involved in mining could easily see Zambia flush with cash, restructure its debt and begin to put the country on a sustainable development path centred on mass provision of employment especially for our young people and the provision of the necessary social infrastructure and creation of economic conditions for fast tracking the social and economic recovery of the country.

Neither the IMF nor the “private sector” can dig Zambia out of the deep hole it has dug for itself. The Zambian people, guided by a government with absolute faith in the ability of Zambians themselves, using their talents, intelligence and skills can work their natural resources to produce the wealth the country needs to recover and escape the current hell it is trapped in. Mobilising young people for such production is essential to the recovery of the country. This is in fact what history teaches us: no “private sector” especially foreign private sector, and IMF debt have ever rescued a country from the kind of crises Zambia is experiencing.

Will the government employ the health, education and all other necessary public sector workers, and take urgent full responsibility for the plight of unemployed young people? The alternative is social and political chaos, and permanent national mass poverty.

(Send comments to: kalindawalo2010@gmail.com)