By Tobias Phiri and Melony Chisanga
WE’RE sitting on a time bomb, warns Socialist Party president Fred M’membe.
He is concerned with what would happen to the housing, water and sanitation situation in the already crowded compounds in 15 years’ time when Zambia’s population would reach 32 million.
Dr M’membe says leaders lead, but in the end the people govern.
Addressing a rally at Muchinga Grounds in Zingalume, Matero in Lusaka yesterday, Dr M’membe said, “our politics should be about social and economic progress, about helping our people to give themselves a better and peaceful life”.
“We cannot build a more just, more fair and more humane society without humility. If you think you are more important than others because you live in a big house in ‘Ku’; because you drive a big car; because you have a lot of money in your bank accounts and a chain of degrees to your name, you can’t be of value in building a more just, more fair, more humane society. Without humility there can’t be socialism,” he said.
Dr M’membe told the gathering that a more just, more fair and more humane society cannot be built without solidarity.
“And solidarity is the ability to feel the pain, the suffering of another human being inside your own ribs. It is the ability to tremble with indignation at the suffering, humiliation of another human being – to feel the hunger of another human being inside your own stomach even if you have just finished eating. If you feel this way, you will be moved to do something about the suffering of others,” he said. “And this solidarity is international, it extends to all human beings on this planet. It’s not confined to our small locality.”
Dr M’membe said all human beings on the planet came from one source.
“Biblically we would say we are all children of the same mother and father. If this is so, why shouldn’t we care for each other as siblings in a family do?” he asked. “The Zambia we live in today is not anchored on the socialist as well as Christian values of honesty, equity, humility and solidarity. It is anchored on the capitalist values of individualism, of greed, of competition and of unbridled consumerism. From the day you leave your mother’s womb, you are inculcated with the values of individualism, you are taught that you are an individual. Collectivism is not taught to you. You are told ziba zako, ulipalobe! (you are on your own).”
Dr M’membe said when there’s a problem of water in a neighbourhood and a meeting is called to address it, individualism does not encourage one to attend that meeting.
“It encourages you to look for money and sink a borehole at your house. And you will go around boasting about how you are the only one in the area with water. Something that should make you sad becomes the source of your happiness, your pride! Our current society, the capitalist society we today live in is anchored on greed. Everything of value must belong to you. You don’t care about others. We are sitting on a time bomb,” he noted.
“Within the next 15 years the population of Zambia will double. Today we are 18 million; in 15 years we will not be less than 32 million. If today, we are crowded in Kwa [compounds] what will be the situation in 15 years’ time? In the meantime, government forests are being degazetted and plots are being shared by our leaders and their friends – 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 hectares muntu umozi (per person) while those in Kwa, fellow citizens are crowded, squeezed in small plots! No one in Kwa is ever allocated a plot there. They don’t want to live with you, poor people as their neighbours. They would rather go to the national parks and collect wild animals to live with as neighbours! How will life be like in Kwa in 15 years when the population doubles? How will the housing situation be like? What about water and sanitation?”
Dr M’membe noted that capitalists insist that competition in everything is what brings progress.
“Yes, competition may lift a few people up – above others – and enable them to live better. But what lifts more people up is not competition but kugwirizana, ukwikatana, kwashamukwenu! [working together],” he said. “We live in a society that encourages you to buy, buy and buy every day. You are made to buy even things you don’t need. You have to buy and buy every day because if you stop buying they won’t make money. If you haven’t been to a shop for two or three days unvela monga wadwala (you feel sick). Nyumba ya zula navovala (the house is full of clothes) – 200, 300, 400 pairs ya nsapato (of shoes)! Uzazivalila kuti? There are only 365 days in a year! They are ready to even poison you so that you buy what they are selling… they sell you drinks with caffeine. A drug! They don’t care if that poison they are selling you kills you because they will still make money even from funerals. You have seen how expensive these funerals are becoming! The dressing! Nice and expensive black shoes, trousers, skirts or dresses and white shirts or tops, navisote so (with hats)….”
Dr M’membe said, “these are the values of the society we live in.”
“Can we build a society full of justice, equity and peace with such values? The answer is a categorical no! New values are needed. But they won’t come on their own, they have to be nurtured,” he said. “Beginning today we must start building a new awareness. To deal with the complex problems we are facing today will require a lot of awareness; it will require more principles than ever before. Where are these principles, values going to come from? They will come from adding together the best of our political teachings, religious teachings and ethical and humane ideas. Who will bring about these principles, values, ideas? Who will sow them, cultivate them and make them grow? You will – you yourselves, we ourselves because it is objectively inevitable and there’s no alternative to it if we have to harbour any hope of a better life, a more just, more fair and more humane Zambia.”
Dr M’membe said it’s impossible to build a better Zambia without strong principles, values and new progressive ideas.
He said an individual does best in a strong and decent community of people with principles and standards and common aims and values.
Dr M’membe said it was time to break out of the past three decades of neoliberal capitalist degeneration and break through with a clear and radical socialist vision, programme for Zambia.
“Our politics should be about social and economic progress, about helping our people to give themselves a better and peaceful life. But we cannot buy our way into such a society. We have to collectively work for it; we must plan for it together. It can only be achieved if we work together. Leaders lead, but in the end the people govern,” said Dr M’membe. “And this has to be our starting point! And what can be a better place than Matero to start this struggle that will get you into power in 2021? Matero is the place where struggles begin, where struggles are born. And Matero is the place where struggles are won!”