Musamba condemns Lungu’s ‘Kwacha will fix it all’ approach to citizens concerns

UNIVERSITY of Zambia Development Studies lecturer Dr Charity Musamba says fixing youth disempowerment in Zambia using the kwacha is not the solution.

President Edgar Lungu on Thursday June 25 2020 updated the nation on COVID-19 situation in the country in which he implored the youth to take keen interest in participating and benefiting from the different empowerment programmes instead of protesting in the bush.

President Lungu reiterated his government’s commitment to ensure that youths benefit from industrial yards through skill development and entrepreneurship.

He announced a K30 million package for artists to be launched in Lusaka soon.

However, Dr Musamba said it was common knowledge that the Head of State’s remarks were in view of the recent uproar by some segment of the youth population about their state of living.

She said in this, it was important to keep track of the fact that the overall framework of the youth “uprising” was cemented on two concerns, namely “disempowerment” and “bad governance of the country.”

Dr Musamba said these were very serious and genuinely agonising conditions that were long standing and well known but now perceived to be deepening.

“So what was the immediate response from government to all this? Step one – take the cash to young people, especially the artists and hopefully, this keeps you quiet. Step two, issuance of orders to public institutions that deal with the youth to dish out more and more money for ‘youth empowerment’. This, according to our leaders, is the best way of responding to youth ‘disempowerment’ and to their worry of living in a country which these young people believe is ‘not properly managed.’ Clearly, this approach, although looking good today, is not one of the best ways of addressing the pertinent and justified calls made by the youth. And the following are the reasons why ‘fixing such concerns using the Kwacha’ will not work today or tomorrow,” she said.

“First, the immediate step to correcting disempowerment at any stage of human growth – child, youth or adult – is not merely an issue of ‘dishing out cash’ or making connections to ‘industrial yards’. Instead, it is critical to understand the causes and determinants of the ‘disempowerment.’ And in reference to Zambia, the causes and determinants are of common knowledge to all. Conversely, the ‘empowerment’ aspired by the youth relates to the following – being part and parcel of generating, mobilising and more importantly, benefiting from the various development resources of this country – monetary or non-monetary. For example, the young people are asking for surety in equal access to quality education, health and particularly, employment opportunities, especially in the public sector. These people want see and to enjoy, first and foremost, socio-economic justice before they can ‘eat’ the K30 million! They would not want to be ‘connected using K30 million but prefer to contribute to the progress of this country in a more dignified, long lasting and just manner.”

She said secondly, President Lungu was very right in his imploring the youth to take keen interest in the programmes targeting them for empowerment.

Dr Musamba, however, said it was not a secret that equal and meritocratic-based access to public resources, including public institutions, was now a privilege of the few ‘connected’ youths.

“At this point, it is timely to remind our leader that corruption is and will be the biggest enemy in facilitating his wish to see the young people become excited and motivated to utilise the well-intended youth-related empowerment programmes provided by government. The country needs to address this first before diverting the young people to a dysfunctional and unpromising direction. Let us not ignore that the misgovernance the youth alluded to was around corruption, deprivation ‘amidst plenty’ and the lack of public accountability. So instead of throwing a K30 million in their faces, would it not have been better and respectful to present this group of citizens with a convincing response on how exactly their concerns about mal-governance will be immediately dealt with?” she said.

“Third, the ‘Kwacha will fix it all’ approach sets a bad precedence on how citizens can derive responses and action from government regarding their needs. In this instance, government was clearly reactive and this is a surprise. So does it mean that the K30 million would have not been fetched and delivered if these young people had relented and stopped issuing threats to those in power? Secondly, was government not aware of the bad living conditions highlighted by the youth before these incidences? Because if this were not the case then the K30 million would have been made available outside the uprisings. Does this also mean that different groups of people in Zambia should now begin to use this ‘youth strategy’ in order to solicit support from government?”

Dr Musamba said there was for government systems and institutions to consistently pay serious attention, keep track and monitor and more importantly respond to people’s needs in a timely manner.

“In short, apart from being a ‘listening’ government, be a government ‘for’ and ‘with’ the people. Waiting until threats of all sorts are issued before the machinery is mobilised suggests a problem in the management of national development. More essentially, it is important to remember that the composition, constitution and structure of youth hood in Zambia goes beyond the world of ‘Art.’ How much ‘Kwacha’ will be thrown to the wheelbarrow pushers, street sellers and piece workers struggling in inhuman working conditions throughout the urban centres in Zambia? Of equal concern; is this response really sustainable and affordable for a country that is financially weak?” she asked.

She said youth disempowerment and misgovernance in Zambia were real and should be taken seriously.

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