We in Zambia are bracing for presidential, parliamentary and local elections on Tuesday, September 20th. Just from talking to my Zambian friends, it seems the attitude towards elections are mixed. Some have expressed apathy concerning any possible change resulting from elections. Especially in Lusaka, it seems many of my Zambian friends are resigned to a kind of bleak fate: “We already know who will win; what’s the point?”
As I’m writing this post, two days before elections, a group of boisterous men have gathered outside the Internet cafe to watch and cheer on a soccer match. I initially thought they were standing around to talk about the upcoming elections and gave myself mild chiding for not suspecting that it was soccer! Of course!
On the contrary, my host family in Chongwe, a village one hour away from the capital city, demonstrated enthusiasm, meticulously planning out their day to include voting and other activities. One family member was selected to man the polls and was particularly passionate about enforcing all the stipulations set forth by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. My Chinese friends, on the other hand, exhibited fear and slight curiosity as they discussed recent and potential outbreaks of violence caused by political party cadres. Gently admonishing me, my Chinese friends encouraged me to stay home on election day. “Be careful,” they said. “Don’t go into town!”
Their attitudes stand in sharp contrast to researchers who have come in the last two weeks to witness various facets of the election process. Like me, researchers have a hunger for the experience — it’s really a privilege to witness such a momentous occasion. Although researchers arrive with a focused question about one facet of the election process, overall, we’re curious about the whole experience. I want to know, how does the election process work, who will vote, what will Zambians talk about before and after voting, and will University of Zambian students stay up all night, as I am told, and what happens in the aftermath of the elections? I will be at the polls, bright and early on Tuesday with my notebook, recording details as the ever-vigilant anthropologist.
I have been following televised parliamentary debates and posted two of the transcripts here and here. The presidential debates held on September 12th and 13th were also lively and engaging. I have transcribed, summarized and posted the highlights below. There are ten candidates running for president. A majority of the candidates, but not all, were present for the televised debates.
**Disclaimer: Mistakes or inaccuracies made in the transcripts are mine. Also, the picture of the liberation statue in front of the government building was taken from the Wikipedia page on Zambia, which constitutes public domain.
Forum for Democracy and Development (Edith Zewelani Nawakwi):
Believes as a political party that Zambia is in a deep social crisis, the most vexing problem being the deep poverty people in Zambia are faced with
Believes that poverty arises due to two factors: 1) the over-centralization of government, which enables the government to make decisions on behalf of he people and 2) the exclusion of nationals in the mainstream of our economy.
“If you discuss those two issues you’ll find that if you’re talking about corruption, poor governance, a constitution that is not respected, you will discover it’s all centered around over-centralization of government. To eradicate poverty is to decentralize political and economic power. The first task at hand is to have constitution agreed to, the system must be agreed to and that the country as rich as this before us, cannot be called a middle income without a middle class.”
Alliance for Development Democracy (Charles Milupi):
Believes that poverty and increasing suffering of Zambian people and “chronic underdevelopment” especially in high density township and rural areas must be fought and eradicated
Founded on seven pillars, accountability, wiser management of our resources in order to create wealth and also in order to create employment for the Zambian people, among other pillars.
Also focused on quality education and health nation as well as the section that includes retirees.
“We’re looking at creating adequate and adequately-funded social security system, including adequate pensions and above all, we also believe we need sustainable agricultural sector and make sure this will be put in place. We believe that Zambia is very rich. All statistics show this. Therefore, it is anomalous that in such a well-resourced country, we have this suffering, this poverty.
Zambians for Empowerment and Development (Dr. Fredrick Mutesa)
- Academic turned politician
Believes that decentralization of government is key. This involves devolving power to the districts.
Believes job creation is key to role of government and the main target is the emerging youth, which constitute almost 70 percent of the population. Focus needs to be on young people.
Believes in aiming to improve public service delivery, which involves a two-pronged strategy outlined in the manifesto.
Has a website: www.godfreymiyanda.ws.
Was the former vice president of the Republic of Zambia, a cabinet minister and later a minister of education
Believes that the most serious issue that requires attention is the problem of poverty.
“I think that all the parties are talking about this poverty. In our case, we have identified that this problem arises from disparity from urban and rural centers. That’s why we focus on the village. We refer to this as a village concept. At the beginning of our time in government, we want to introduce a very unique concept, a village trust development fund. This is because we do not accept suggested decentralization, which decentralizes current systems to rural areas. We think that will decentralize corruption which we are against. Zambians should be treated as shareholders and it’s about time they should directly benefit and get dividends.”
United Party for National Development (Hakainde Hichilema):
“Why in a rich country are so many people poor? Answer this question, why are people suffering. Over 70 percent of our people are poor. There’s no debate about that. The missing link is the quality of leadership. Run government affairs and party in efficient manner that will advance agriculture, mining, health, education, tourism and others and work in these sectors to exploit the resources to benefit the lives of people in Zambia with specific policies under each of these sectors.”
National Restoration Party (Elias Chipimo Junior)
Elias Chipimo – 46 years old, a lawyer by profession.
The deaths of his mother and father while traveling to the village where they were registered led Mr. Chipimo to run for president.
“It was the tragic accident of my mother and father that helped me see that the suffering of the people especially through health sector. It was not enough to complain. I needed to do something. I made a decision to run for president of the country. As party, we believe one thing is critical. Put in leadership that will stand on platform of values we have a bold and radical vision. Three outcomes – to make Zambia an energy superpower and continental breadbasket.
National Movement for Progress (Ng’andu Magande)
Established by ordinary men and women scattered throughout Zambia
Believes that this country has gone into a slumber.
Achieved growth in early 2000, in 1998, Zambian’s growth rate was minus 2 percent. The growth has been at 6 percent in spite of abundant natural resource and technological growth.
Believes that using advancement of technology in the world and natural resources can help move this country much quicker and get to as much as 10 percent growth. National unity and identity must be present for this to occur.
On High Unemployment Levels and Poverty
ZED (Dr. Mutesa): In 2011, the number of people inf ormal employment is 490,000 out of 13 million ctiizens. And to remind audience, in 1964, when we achieved independence, we had 300,000 people in formal employment. In terms of question about taxes, if you look at the 2011 budget, there are few workers who are carrying the heaviest burden….What we need to do is reform the tax law. We need marriage allowance, children allowance…
FDD (Madame Nawakwi)): We believe fiscal policy must be distributed and the burden must be on rich. Working poor are becoming more poor because of…We must use fiscal policy to redistribute income and taxation as far as mining is concerned and support the local people. Here if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re treated as criminal as far as taxation is concerned. We must focus on creating a middle class. Zambians must begin to be given an opportunity to enjoy wealth at the household level.
ADD (Mr. Milupi): We believe that one way to create jobs is to decentralize government because the moment the power is devolved to districts, you’re automatically creating number of jobs in different categories – administrative, technical, service, and basically, the money going to outlying areas will create demands for new goods and services and market will broaden. In addition to that, the workers need tax breaks in this country. The workers should not be taxed on allowances and they should negotiate the tax increments so they take home something on payday.
UPND (HH): On the issue of diversification, why it is not working, it’s very simple. It’s an issue of leadership and vision in this county. We have not utilized revenue form mining sector, especially when there’s a windfall, 4 trillion kwachas and use it to allocate to other sectors. The money from the mono-economy must be used to grow other sectors. What will we do next? We cannot talk about income redistribution before you make income. Economic growth is too low. Politicians must bring understanding, not just hearsay. We are going to create jobs, because it’s directly related to poverty. If people are employed, they’ll be less poor. We are going to focus on job creation. this is probably where we should spend more time….
We will also focus on value addition. If you sell your resources in the raw form, value is less. If you process, you add value. Make sure you can process your raw materials. If it’s copper, you must be manufacturing wire. In doing that, you will invest in manufacturing process which will create more jobs as opposed to selling raw cooper which is what is happening now. You see trucks carrying our copper going to south Africa. Why would you do that you’re damaging your own capability to add value addition if you are producing groundnuts, substantial groundnuts, why are you selling them rather than processing them? Every time you fly, we’re eating groundnut from other countries. Then we go on South African Airways, we’re eating our nuts that’s roasted in our country. Its’ a question of having leadership that does not understand the basic responsibility of leading the country. we need breed of different people, this is right timing to make that decision and choice. We’re very clear about that. We also talk about education .you need education. Someone said education is expensive. Try ignorance if you think education is expensive.
NAREP (Mr. Chipimo Junior): We have written a paper called NAREP economic summary plan which defines how we want to diversify the economy. First, let me talk about why we’re a mono-economy. The problem has been we have been focused on line of rail thinking, where if we look at our economy, it was built on the mining sector, specifically along the TanZam railway. There’s been no development in other areas, except in these areas. Now Zambia has large arable land. We don’t have a infrastructure access.
That’s why we decided we need to focus on building a new economy by creating energy superpower out of what we have. If you speak to directors of energy, the ministers will explain, but they have not been adopted by the current administration. You have 2 and 5 percent of petrol that are consumed in vehicle which have to be made out of bio diesel, made out of crops grown locally. You create demand in rural communities. If you had right policy in place, you can expand, you can do bio fuels with just about anything. That can create economic justification for putting in infrastructure which will access the arable land…Our goal is to develop Zambia as an energy independent nation in the next 20 years so we can achieve full rural development. There’s a tree called longwe tree, after 5 years will achieve forestation, has flower to enable us to have beekeeping, produces seed which when you squeezed produces diesel which you can put straight into your vehicle. These initiatives which can alter Zambia into an energy superpower, can also bring meaningful development to rural areas.
What we’re saying is 1 million new jobs in 5 years and 10,000 business owners in each province. You have to have the right policy in place to support local manufacturing. But you need to invest in people. Our manifesto is focused on investing in people secondly, you need to import the right technology to revamp the sector and product things in smarter and efficient way.
HPP (Brigadier General Miyanda): In my day, manganese and groundnuts and coffee was processed in kateshe. Pineapples in a project which I was involved in, was processed at the pineapple plant in _. it’s not because old timers did not know what they wanted. Economists have jargon, and they said liberalize, let everyone liberalize, let them do anything. This was from socialism. When we liberalize, what was dismantled was when we used to process meat in the southern province for export.
NMP (Mr. Magande): Why has Zambia been mono-economy? Because it was designed to be that way. I think that the colonial system – and I don’t mean it in bad faith, they identified what they wanted to do. They used Zambia to do what they want to do as good solder. I take my hat off. They built the infrastructure that still exists to take things out and build in other areas. We don’t need to speak so many issues about this mono economy. Just to identify. When we are talking about building Zambia,we’re building it on the economic wings of colonialism. Retrace the steps.
On Retirement and Pension Plans
UPND (HH): We must accept that the current system has failed the people of Zambia. The first issue is to clear all outstanding payments the first year. It’s doable. Number one, clear all outstanding pension payments and here I include retrenchments, retirement benefits, I’m talking generically. Obligation number two is to keep them current. Those that may be retiring in a particular year they’ve notified in time and when that time comes to retire, they’re given the package. We want to enhance the value of the pension to address issue of challenges faced in collecting it. Finally, we want to decentralize payment of pension. If you live in _, you will receive your pension there. You don’t have to get on the bus and risk accidents to get your pension.
NAREP (Mr. Chipimo Junior): This is a major campaign issue. We’ve indicated that we want to make sure that parliamentarians do not get paid their gratuity before the pensioners are paid to them. The timing of the payment. If its’ paid late, you’ll find that person who was entitled to the pension has died. It’s important the these pensions keep pace with inflation we have to be smarter about how we manage the rate of inflation. The third is the logistics of payment. There are payment schemes that can be set up to prevent people from having to travel long distances. The fourth thing is we want to improve the quality of management of the payment of pensions themselves. The quality and oversight of these schemes must be addressed.
HPP (Brigadier General Miyanda): The policy already exists though it can be improved. When people work for the state or any company and they’re contributing to a pension scheme it’s expected that as soon as they retire they will get their benefits. There’s nothing to debate about. It’s inhuman to subject any retiree to wait indefinitely to be given what is due to them. This is their money, they’re contributing to it. From our point of view, what it requires is to be paid and to improve package itself.
NMP (Mr. Magande): We intend to collect information, all public workers who have not been paid their terminal benefits, these are in different categories, in our office, we have a group of pensioners who were retrenchees when we had the structural adjustment programs. There were 170000, now 11,000. in our manifesto, we will pay all who have to be paid. We will resolve the cases within the fist budget of the NMP government. Their former secretaries, their former technicians, engineers getting as little as 100,000 kwachas. We want to limit pension payments to inflation rates and also current salary scales.
On Gender Equity
UPND (HH): Equity is important. Our society has disadvantaged women. We need to lend support to the fundamental belief individuals must have that women and men are equal. We need proportional representation in parliament. Women who are disadvantaged in employment must be given equal footing. Start on girl-child education to make sure she’s not forced to stay at home. It starts from here. We also negate love for the women in our families, so this has to start at home.
NAREP (Mr. Chipimo Junior): We must give presidential tax rate for women to have people prefer to hire them and support them in rural community to help them.
NMP (Mr. Maganda): Allocate adequate funds to empower women and youth vulnerable and disadvantaged and rural areas. Those will be targets for empowerment programs.
HPP (Brigadier General Miyanda): We need a period where we dialogue together, provide leadership, domesticating laws, provide guidance for exchange. Debate first. Encourage dialogue first in the house.