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Zambia’s development prospects bleak due to mixed and negative culture of results by citizens

If Zambia was a purple (or even copper) box which was properly decorated, closed, sealed and further handed over to someone as a birthday gift, I am sure the receiver will gladly welcome the glittering gift and seriously dance. But alas! Upon opening the box, the newly born would have energy to throw the box (Zambia) far away in total dismay—why? When we create institutions, the aim is to improve the delivery of goods and services to the people. The institutions are built to perform some services in a more organised and predictable manner. Equally, we elect and appoint leaders to head and manage these institutions in line with set mandates and purposes. Therefore, every institution and leader holds general and specific mandates to discharge their duties eminently. In Zambia, these expectations have been turned upside down—to a very large extent.

I have observed in the past few years and consistently so in the last months and indeed days, we seem to have lost it as a country. What I am I saying? Zambia has become a singularly politicised nation. The men, the women and the youths have become more concerned (on average) with politicking at the expense of national building, growth and development. Even when this focus and effort was not paying anyone well, it has become the order of our society. It is unfortunately clear that many Zambians are just throwing themselves into the political space without sound reason to make Zambia better. The hate speeches, the emphasis on ‘superiority’ versus ‘inferiority’, the ‘our bedroom’ versus ‘our strongholds’, the ‘no go areas’ and so forth have punctuated and entrenched Zambia’s news spaces. But the silent voice of defining and clearly designing our common and shared national vision as a people seem to be getting fainter and fainter—dimmer and dimmer—hazier and hazier—smokier and smokier!

As expected from our way of doing things as Zambians (though beating logic), we celebrate ourselves for engaging in unthinkables! Politicizing everything and anything. Even where we needed to be focused and demanded for development results and improved lives for all, we politic without recourse. Controversial $42m fire tenders, $11.5m worth of ambulances, mukula tree deals and re-deals, 48 ownerless flamboyant houses, Bill 10 debate, gassing, Seer 1, pensioners camped at Justice ministry without attention, cholera outbreaks, COVID-19, higher learning institutions and other grant aided institutions staff unpaid for long country-wide, UNZALARU feared extinct by force, ministers not paying back money, volunteer salary cuts to save sinking economy, lots of new taxes and fines, bye-election violence and fierce fights, very high and unknown national debt, politically aligned legal suits, treason charge for Hakainde and fires in markets, the Edgar Lungu eligibility, etc. Yet, collaboration and healthy debates on all these issues are never encouraged. Those who are supposed to lead us into this discourse have also fallen apart, getting more divided than united, hating ourselves to the bone.

Very weak culture and practice of results is what I have concluded to be the biggest challenge Zambia has today. Our three arms of government; the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature each was created to serve a specific role to make Zambia a better dwelling country. Without exception, all these treasured arms of government have in the last years contributed to a deteriorated Zambia. The trend of issues deliberated under each leave much to be admired. The Zambian population has a problem too. To me, the problem we have is failure to define for ourselves what we want exactly out of this life. At national leadership level (all spheres of leadership), we have lamentably failed to define and design a clearly shared people-driven vision. We may have personal and institutional visions (I don’t care much), but a commonly shared national vision and sense of direction seems to be farfetched in Zambia today. The proverbial Vision 2030 seem to have been orphaned. When you pick and read our daily newspapers (government-led and private) on any day of your choice, you get it clear that this country begs for a nationally shared vision and focus. The same can be gotten from radio, television, social media and societal conversations around the country. What exactly do we want in Zambia done by our Executive, Judiciary and Legislature? What kind of leaders and servants do we want to discharge functions in these privileged institutions? Simply, we are lost in our own country because of bad results culture and practice.

To justify my observations above, a series of common indicators for Zambia clearly demonstrate a sense of no good for our country. We are all called to urgent order as a citizenry to save our country from hopelessness and despair. Both mind-set and practical shifts are imperative to create a Zambia that is conducive for all. In my view, Zambians needed to spend our time, expertise, experience and spirituality in demanding for better performance in key facets. We need to ask why our standards of living have become unaffordable: GDP (2.3%), exchange rate (1US$ = K17), national poverty (60%), rural poverty (83%), 25kg bag of mealie meal (K220), 2kg sugar (K30), 5litres of cooking oil (K130), 10litres washing powder (K110), 50kg charcoal bag (K150) and electricity supply (15 hours or more of load shedding). Others include Primary school fees (K10,800/yr), Secondary school fees (K15,000/yr), University fees (K33,000/yr) while health services are all about expensive prescriptions. Similarly, taxes and fines remain uncountable and farming inputs are out of reach for many citizens in terms of cost and availability. Worse still, inflation for the month of February 2020 was at 12.5 per cent high.

A unified voice, action and fight for a better Zambia is needed from every Zambian regardless of our religious, political and ethnic affiliations, level of education and gender. As late gallant leader of Mozambique Comrade Samora Machel would put it “Aluta Continua”! (the struggle continues). Yes, the good struggle for a thriving Zambia where everyone shall enjoy respect and equal opportunity to achieve personal and country success. Where every Zambian child will work in any field or sector of their choice with pride and happiness to serve the country better. That time, we shall know what we want—in both quality and quantity. Anything else, we shall reject with evidence. Aluta Continua in reforming our mind-sets and practices for a results-based mother Zambia!

Dr. Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies. For comments and views, email: vkanyamuna@unza.zm

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