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2019 was bad, 2020 will be worse for Zambia

Filed under: Business,Special Comments |
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Comrades, forgive me for being the bearer of bad news on a day when some of you are still merrily finishing off your leftover Christmas and New Year alcohol and food, and others nursing some serious hangovers. Considering time, space and the material conditions of our people and the country as a whole, we cannot wait for the mayhem of year-end to die down, it has to be done.

It is no rocket science that Zambia is a crisis ridden state, with a society defined and characterized by three dominant contradictions: extreme poverty, joblessness and inequality.

Things got progressively worse in 2019, the year showed us the strong momentum of our country’s downward spiral. Zambia is drifting to the cliff edge of an economic and social crash, zooming towards the tragic Zimbabwean situation of total social, political and economic collapse.

The past 12 months have been horrendous for the country. Zambia’s fiscus is in a terrible state. Poverty and hunger is off the roof, majority of our people are barely surviving. The economy is falteringly bigly, all international rating agencies have raised alarm, downgrading us to junk status. Our GDP growth rate is poor and shrinking. The Kwacha is weak and unstable. Government bonds performed badly. Policy uncertainty is the order of the day. Business and investor confidence is at its all-time low. The country is left adrift, gone dark via unprecedented load shedding. Unemployment is getting dangerously worse. Our state-owned enterprises continues to be sites of corruption, patronage and mismanagement. Councils throughout the country have basically collapsed, struggling in service delivery and meeting statutory obligations like salaries, and have been captured and surrendered in the hands of ill-bred political thugs and lumpens, wrongly referred to as cadres. Crime is getting worse than it has ever been. State spending remained huge, milking taxpayers to basically fund bad habits of President lungu and his PF Government, like By Elections and ‘Lawfare’ – using law enforcement agencies and courts to fight political opponents.

2019 also showed us that empty promises and cheap political propaganda neither develop a nation nor fill empty stomachs. Inflation is above two digits and still raising. Living in Zambia is now a tale of great hardship for the majority of our people, save for President Lungu and his cronies who probably don’t even notice that a 25kg bag of Mealie Meal sets you back by K150. The cost of living is at its all-time high, with biggest price increases having taken place on the most basic foods the poor majority of our people spend a higher percentage of their little income on than their wealthy counterparts: Mealie Meal – 101.2%, Cooking Oil, 88.8%, Vegetables, 56.7% Meat Products 38.2%. What this means in real terms is that all those on fixed incomes have been made substantially poorer than they were a year ago. By extended definition, more than 10 million Zambians are living below the poverty datum line. So much for a government that claims to be pro poor.

The contrast between the haves [President Lungu and his cronies] and the have-nots [ordinary majority Zambians] is getting starker by the day. The inequality is deepening, the stench of poverty and neglect didn’t even take long to attract the attention of international agencies such as the Global Hunger Index and the IMF. Zambia is now the 5th hungriest nation on earth and one of the most unequal society on earth, sitting on 4th position. Zambia’s international credentials and reputation is at its all-time low and being used as a classical example of a country suffering from leadership poverty.

Perhaps, Charles Dickens captures Zambia’s prevailing material conditions very well when he wrote about France’s prevailing conditions leading up to the French Revolution. He wrote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

He may as well have been referring to Zambia in the last 12 months, very alarming politically and economically, causing many to despair for the country, when there’s very little room for optimism, when the majority of our people are getting restless, impatient, hungry and angry. When action and strong, decisive political leadership is desperately needed from the very top, it is abundantly clear that President Lungu and his Patriotic Front Government are a write-off, way out of their depth when it comes to running a modern economy.

We are losing our way. We need to take heed of the warning lights that are flashing. President Lungu and his PF government are taking us over the cliff. Our beautiful country is under siege: the powerful and politically connected are not only mismanaging the country, they are also looting the coffers of the state while consolidating their over stay in power. The heroes and heroines of 1964 did not fight and defeat colonialism for this. Our forefathers and mothers did not fight and defeat colonialism so that President Lungu and his cronies can feed and live in opulence while millions of Zambians go to bed hungry and cold, hopelessly watching their President and his cronies fly around in a very expensive luxurious jet, eating and making wasteful expenditures on vanities while asking for more from the poor in taxes, rates, tollgate fees and other charges.

Brace yourselves, Zambians, for another 12 months of a bad government, your country is on track to getting worse, much worse. It is unlikely that our country will be more prosperous and stable in 2020 than it was in 2019. What is most likely to happen is that 2020 will be worse than the past year. And if we stay quiet, if we don’t point out the sharp decline and rot we are witnessing, both in the quality of leadership of society and in the quality of leadership in government, the price will be incalculable for us and our future generations.

Comrades, I wish you a revolutionary 2020!

By Yona Musukwa

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