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Rural votes won’t save Lungu and his sinking boat next year

The Patriotic Front (PF) party, commonly known as the boat, has been leaking; water has slowly been entering the boat.

President Edgar Lungu, the captain of the boat and his passengers, will sink in 2021. The PF will have a tough time to retain the support of Zambians, especially the urbanites who have endured five years of gross mismanagement of the economy and bad governance. People of Lusaka, Copperbelt towns and other urban areas had given the PF massive support in the 2011, 2015 and 2016 polls, but they have been repaid with hardships and poverty. The urbanites have endured untold misery at the hands of President Lungu and his PF party.

In Lusaka, Copperbelt, and other urban centres, load shedding has been heightened. Electricity goes off every day for not less than eight hours. The PF government has failed to end this senseless load shedding. Further, prices of goods and services in urban areas have been skyrocketing. Many families are struggling to feed because the PF government has mismanaged the economy and it has no clue on how to solve the economic puzzle.

The youths also in urban centers cannot find employment because the PF has killed the economy due to its corruption, debt and sheer incompetence. Those who work in organisations such as councils, museums, public universities and other statutory bodies do not receive their salaries. They have gone months without getting paid because the PF has depleted the treasury as it struggles to pay for consumptive loans it contracted.

Realising that the urban vote is not tenable in 2021, the PF has turned to rural areas. The PF is looking to consolidate its dominance in rural provinces such as Muchinga, Northern, Luapula and Eastern. Further, it wishes to gain some grounds in other rural provinces such as Western and North Western. In rural areas, the PF is busy commissioning road projects against the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to scale down road projects. This is because people in the PF think that more roads will translate into more votes next year.

Further, President Lungu is busy campaigning in the name of inspecting projects while his Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyngo, is preventing other political party leaders from campaigning. The PF has also intensified tribal talk against the major opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema (HH) in Northern Zambia. Unfortunately, even chiefs have been recruited to spread tribal messages against HH.

Media reports also indicate that the PF government is secretly issuing national registration cards (NRCs) in Northern Zambia where it claims to be popular. It is also distributing food through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and cash handouts under the mismanaged Social Cash Transfer project. All these efforts by PF to court rural voters will not help the boat reaching the shore safely. It will sink because the vote from rural provinces will not surpass that of urban centres and provinces. For example, Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces, like in 2016, will have more voters than rural provinces. In 2016, Lusaka province had 1,121,846 registered voters compared to Muchinga Province, which had 349,411 voters.

Further, people in rural provinces have also been affected by PF’s poor management of the economy; they are also buying expensive goods and services. There are no cheap shops for the rural colleagues or PF supporters. Furthermore, rural people depend largely on remittances from urbanites who are now in destitution. They do not get paid; therefore, they do not send money to their rural relatives.

PF and its partners have also been stealing Mukula (rosewood timber) from rural areas. Our people in rural areas watch while the PF politicians, chiefs and their Chinese colleagues plunder natural resources. Does the PF think that the rural people have not seen that? Under the PF government, schools in rural areas are neglected; they have no desks and teachers. The quality of education being provided in rural areas is appalling. It is also clear that the PF has killed the rural farmer by proposing to buy one 50kg bag of Maize at K150 when the cost of producing the same is higher than K150. This condemns the farmer to perpetual poverty.

It is ridiculous to think that the rural people will vote for PF in 2021, given the magnitude of mismanagement of the economy and looting of national resources by PF. Our people in rural areas are wise; they understand PF’s destruction. They know that PF does not mean well to Zambia. In this regard, many people in rural areas may not vote for PF in 2021; they may give the opposition parties some good votes. PF’s hoodwink activities in rural areas may amount to nothing.

As I conclude, I just want to urge the PF government to fix what they have broken in urban centres. Let them create the jobs they promised the youths. The PF should also end the senseless load shedding and ensure that workers in councils, public universities, museums and other statutory bodies are paid on time. Failure to do so, President Lungu and his passengers will sink with the boat in 2021.

The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, department of Library and Information Science. Send comment to: tuesdaybwalya1@gmail.com

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