The old adage, ‘Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime’, is one that is lost on our leaders in the Patriotic Front (PF) government today.

Indeed, if our leaders understood this saying they would have created jobs, they would have made it easier to conduct business, they would have strengthened the country’s economy instead of weakening it. But no, they have done the opposite and now that it is election year they are busy dishing out cash to desperate citizens who are struggling to make ends meet. They are taking shortcuts instead of fulfilling their past campaign promises.

We are not surprised by this strategy because we understand that our leaders are not men and women of will who would take the harder path of teaching people how to fish. We understand that they are not innovative leaders. We also understand that what they do best is looting, and then they want to use the same monies stolen from taxpayers to entice the starving electorate during campaigns.

That is why we were shocked by the announcement that the Patriotic Front has banned candidates from dishing out cash donations as they conduct their campaigns. We were shocked because that statement by the PF national mobilization committee chairperson Richard Musukwa was anti-PF in nature.

Unsurprisingly, Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo was also caught unaware by the directive, perhaps because splashing cash is the best way to empower citizens in his view. Indeed, upon receiving news of the ban, Mr Lusambo admitted that it is hard for him and his PF team to empower people without dishing out cash donations:

“For me and my team in Kabushi constituency, we wait to get more details from the national mobilisation chairman because there are a lot of empowerment systems, which we have implemented. For example, when you are empowering the marketeers, there are no two-ways about it, you just have to give them cash! Unless you say, ‘you will start buying fish; you start buying tomatoes; you start buying vegetables, you start buying impwa; you start buying mulembwe…’ to start giving the marketeers. So, that is why I am saying this statement, the best person to give us the stake of the statement or the issue is the national mobilisation chairperson,” said Lusambo.

We strongly disagree with the Lusaka Province Minister when he says “there are no two-ways about it, you just have to give them cash!” If Mr Lusambo had personally seen to it that his government provided a good business environment to marketeers – where cadres are removed or stopped from collecting illegal levies – he would not need to head to the markets during campaign time to dish out K50 donations to our mothers and grandmothers selling tomatoes there because they would be sustaining themselves.

If government was prioritizing economic growth; if our government was committed towards lowering the cost of living; if inflation was kept low; if national debt obligations were being met; if corruption was eliminated from the government procurement system; if PF created employment for the youths and lowered the taxes as they had promised, Zambians would not need cash handouts. But today, our parents and jobless youths are queueing up to receive K50 notes from politicians because someone whom we gave a mandate to move our country forward did not do his job, because he did not have a vision.

This admission from Mr Lusambo is most embarrassing, it is a sign that his boss is not the only guy without a vision in this government. The pride with which he questions Musukwa’s decision to ban these donations clearly demonstrates the Lusaka Province Minister’s end of thinking capacity. If a Minister thinks that the only way to empower people is through cash handouts, then citizens should not bother wasting their valuable vote on such an empty can. Surely, there must be someone next door with a better idea of empowerment. Otherwise, how many times will PF officials give these cash handouts?

Dishing out money is a campaign strategy for dunderheads. PF has had five years to empower the citizens, they have had five years to lower the taxes, improve the living conditions of marketeers, farmers, public servants and everyone else who pays taxes. The time has come now for them to point at what they have done. It’s not time to dish out money, it’s time to dish out their performance appraisal. Have they created the jobs they promised to create? Have they employed the teachers and nurses who have been offloaded from colleges? Have they lowered the taxes? Have they reduced the cost of living? Has the price of mealie meal gone down? Have they strengthened the kwacha against major convertible currencies? Have they ended the load-shedding?

We want PF officials to tell us that over the past five years fuel prices have dropped to K5 per litre as promised by the President during his 2016 campaign. They should tell us that they have built our national strategic reserves by reducing debt contraction and eliminating corruption. If these leaders cannot stand before us to give us these facts, then they have failed and they must go!