By: Mbita Chitala PhD
Other than the few misguided colleagues in the MMD led by a UNIP clique that have taken over the party and a few nuisance one- man NGOs created by the MMD to fern trouble and led by such obnoxious characters as Edwin Lifwekelo, Gregory Cifire, Moses Kalonde, Chanda Chimba, Mulenga and whose despicable mouthings are the in trade of the MMD government controlled Times of Zambia, Zambia Daily Mail and the ZNBC television and Radio networks, all peace loving Zambians organized in all church organizations, women’s movement, workers organizations, young people and student organizations, professional organizations and all those underemployed village farmers and unemployed citizens in the informal sector – are agreed that change in our country is an inevitable historical necessity, that the bad governance of President R B Banda must come to an end as the country goes to the polls. Our country has a historical duty to re dedicate itself to ideals that advance our nation to peace, prosperity and happiness for all.
The demands of the people of Zambia are simple and uncomplicated. In addition to several democratic demands anchored on the Bill of Rights, the next elections will be contested on three broadly defined people’s demands.
1. To provide for Zambia, a multi-party constitution consensually arrived at by the majority of Zambians. The MMD regime in twenty years in power has failed in spite of wasting more than K500 billion of tax payer’s money in its last attempt to give Zambia a compromised constitution in which President Banda must take the sole responsibility and be held accountable to the disaster. Zambians know that the continued reign of President Banda means that there will never be in our country a peoples constitution. This one reason alone is sufficient to indict the MMD as a blatant failure which must be removed from public office quickly. Senior Statesmen like Willa Mung’omba, Simon Zukas and others have observed that the failure of the MMD to enact the constitution symbolized a Vote of no Confidence on the MMD regime and called for their resignation. The MMD government has unashamedly refused to resign or even apologise to the people for this man made disaster. The people have a chance to send them to the dust bin of history in the coming elections and ensure that they account for their bad governance.
It is immensely gratifying that the people have a choice. While the people do not yet know the programs of other political parties, one good choice is to support the Patriotic Front and President Michael Sata whose manifesto has been published and has undertaken to establish a committee of experts to review the recommendations of all previous Constitutional Review Commissions and draft a constitution that will be submitted to a referendum and if accepted by the people, to be enacted as our fundamental law within 90 days of taking office. This is a patriotic undertaking and that is why all former pact sympathisers such as Col. Panji Kaunda , consultants such as Bob Sichinga , MMD members such as Hon George Mpombo have endorsed Mr. Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front. This is the best chance to have a progressive party that has committed itself to providing us with a multi-party constitution that will address such issues as devolution of power which is the main grievance of the Barotse question and the need to do away with the one party state infrastructure that has prevented our democracy from blooming and blossoming into a real democracy.
2. To reduce the more than 73 percent poverty incidence in our country. Granted, our country has benefited from the cancellation of our external debt which allowed us to put money in infrastructure as part of the MDGs initiative and allowed us to have over 7% GDP statiscal growth in the last few years, poverty, however, still remains widespread and continues to stunt the growth of our people. In many areas such as Shangombo, Lukulu, Petauke, Chilubi, Chavuma, Luangwa, Samfya, Gwembe, and many other districts, 90% of households live in poverty. Others overcrowd our towns in despicable shanties. On the formal economy, out of a possible six million employable labour force, only about 500,000 are in employment leaving the rest to hover between suicide and madness, to swell the mountains of angry unemployed and underemployed – the majority of whom are young people and women. Housing continues to be a nightmare with more than two million houses that need to be constructed to fill the housing deficit, a distant dream ,as the MMD have no plans to house our people.
The MMD government under President Banda have refused to tax the mining companies equitably and fairly because of a possible collusion that has continued to disadvantage Zambia. This gross abuse of power has meant the country losing on an opportunity to earn billions of dollars that could have facilitated government to create employment opportunities for our people, ensure that taxes are lowered to enable people have sufficient disposable income and hence fight poverty more meaningfully. Unless the MMD and President Banda are defeated in the next elections, poverty of our people will worsen as they have no plan for poverty eradication at all. No quality jobs will be created as has been admitted by the IMF Representative Dr. Kapur and confirmed by Minister of Commerce Felix Mutati. Poverty will increase despite statiscal GDP growth rates that benefits foreigners at the expense of Zambians. As all Zambians know, retrenching workers as happened during the privatization fiasco and lately at ZAMTEL is the trade mark of the MMD. Even in the next five years, they have promised in their manifesto to create only 50,000 employment opportunities.
Of the political party manifestos that have been published, only the Patriotic Front manifesto addresses the issue of poverty eradication meaningfully. President Sata and the PF have undertaken to invest massively in the social sector as well as in public works, agriculture, housing development, mineral development, industry and so on. The manifesto promises to review the mining policy so that Zambians benefit from their God-given wasting asset of copper, cobalt and gemstones. It is clear our country must revert to the Mwanawasa mining tax regime that provided for fair windfall taxes, a public works program to create jobs for our young people, active small business promotion and empowerment of Zambians to create a middle class, selective subsidies to agriculture and industry and massive investment in education and health.
The manifesto promises the lowering of taxes- PAYE and zero rating for VAT purposes of essential commodities such as transport, food, medicines, education, agricultural inputs, the increasing of salaries to public servants, the prompt payment of all pensioners, the construction of more than two million houses, the development of one major project per province to create more than one million employment opportunities in the first three years, abolish nuisance taxes such as user fees in hospitals and levies in schools, commit itself to affirmative action, institute media reforms to be in line with democratic needs and so on. The annual GDP growth rates are expected to exceed 10% and our country’ GDP will more than treble. These yearnings are attainable and they will be achieved by the PF supported by the people’s coalition.
3. To conduct a program of zero-tolerance against corruption and abuse of office. Mwanawasa’s legacy has been betrayed by President RB Banda and the new MMD regime. Grand corruption has become the norm. The repeal of the mining tax code and policy was an exercise in grand executive mischief which will need to be investigated. The privatization of both Zambtel and ZANACO,both opposed by the majority of people in Zambia, lacked transparency. The award of contracts to supply government with fertiliser, military equipment, build schools and clinics, construct roads, and other properties as occurred at NAPSA had executive collusion imbedded under so called “single sourcing” which is an acronym for grand corruption and fraud, has made some people hitherto poor into dollar millionaires. All this will need to be investigated and the culprits who have been cheating the people shall be brought to book. It is gratifying that the PF has promised to implement this zero tolerance against corruption and has promised to re-enact the abuse of office clause in the Anti Corruption Act that President Banda and the MMD removed to hide public abuse and thefts in the public service.
4. We founders of the MMD together with many patriotic and progressive citizens, the ideals that the PF manifesto have undertaken to accomplish, are the same ideals and vision we have always stood for until President RB Banda and a clique of his UNIP zealots conducted a coup against the true blue MMD members and crowned it with the farce at Mulungushi where intimidation, violence, bribery, provincialism and dictatorship were introduced as the new MMD party policy. We hold President Banda responsible for reversing all the democratic gains of the MMD. It is therefore necessary to implore all the people, the people in Mbala, Mpulungu, Senga Hill, Isoka, Nakonde , to the people of Western province and other provinces that clamour for devolution and desire to settle the Barotse question, to the progressives in the MMD, UPND, ADD, NAREP, FDD and all other political parties that want change from this corrupt disaster, to students that want free education and guaranteed job opportunities, to the sick people that desire not to be denied assistance for lack of money, to the pensioners that want to be paid their pensions promptly, to all workers and peasants that want to improve their conditions, to the intellectuals that desire excellence instead of patronage and nepotism, to all citizens that want a united and peaceful Zambia, the Hour for Change has come again. Examining political work already accomplished, together with the vision as reflected in a manifesto, the PF and President Michael Sata have provided us with a sure way of our country starting afresh and getting rid for good this manmade disaster.