NDC Copperbelt chairman George Sichula says having lost faith in the PF government since the 2016 elections when Edgar Lungu was controversially re-elected, Zambians are running out of patience.
In a statement, Sichula noted that President Lungu is trying to buy time in order to eventually change the constitution and run for a third term but Zambians’ desire for change is seemingly confronted by the ruling elite’s determination to ensure the status quo.
Sichula, the former Chingola district commissioner, said the resistance by the PF government to allow the opposition to hold intra party elections was one of the clear signs.
“It is a trend throughout Zambia where heads of states have gone to great lengths, including the use of violence, to stay in office despite constitutional and institutional barriers. Maintaining their prestige is one of the many reasons why some public officials are hanging onto power. But the issue is much deeper than that. One cannot fully comprehend their obsession with staying in power without first analyzing the nature of politics in Zambia,” Sichula said.
He noted with regret that under President Lungu, the Zambia’s economy is characterised by a bloated civil service, an inefficient private sector and a large informal sector.
Further, Sichula noted that in many parts of Zambia, citizens have been dealing with an increased cost of living since PF came into power.
“They (PF) are not only incapable of fighting corruption effectively, their leaders seem to lack the political will to create conditions for the emergence of a vibrant private sector, an essential tool for job and wealth creation,” he said.
He added that since public service jobs are inadequate and private employment and investment opportunities are extremely limited, many educated people in Zambia are turning to hardball politics in order to make ends meet.
Sichula said the professionalisation of politics is even more apparent in Zambia.
He further said given economic and structural conditions, President Lungu’s brand of winner-takes-all politics had become a viable alternative for desperate politicians.
“Many political parties are hardly parties at all, but instead one-man organisations with no real popular base. When they are not created with the help of established parties, they are usually launched by calculating men whose main ambition is their own financial prosperity. These aspiring politicians have learned how to exploit the political landscape, especially through the media. They frequently appear on talk shows where they make statements in favor of or against the government, whichever position boosts their standing,” he said. “The idea is to make just enough noise to get noticed in the hope of securing a position in government, or at least enough financial support to get elected at the local or national level. As a result, these politicians are more likely to then resist political change because of their financial interests. So they work hard to preserve the status quo, since it is almost impossible for them to make a living outside politics,” he said.
Sichula said the unrestrained access to public funds had encouraged corrupt public officials to pursue unsustainable and extravagant lifestyles.
He lamented that in Zambia today, lavish properties and abroad were a telltale sign of the rich and powerful, who spend their money ostentatiously.
Sichula, however, said since their ill-gotten goods were not productive, they quickly find themselves cash-strapped once they are out of office.
“It is therefore in their interest to hang onto their profitable political positions by any means necessary,” he said.
Sichula said in the absence of effective oversight and mechanisms of accountability, many senior public officials were led to believe that as long as they remain in power, they will not be prosecuted.
He said the aforesaid was especially true for countries with an entrenched clientelistic system, like Zambia, where appointments to senior positions, including the judiciary and election authorities, are more often based on services rendered than on expertise.
Sichula added that at the helm of this system is the president, who feels indebted to those who helped him seize power.
“Under these conditions, it is incredibly difficult to remove or prosecute corrupt and incompetent government officials. So it is not unusual for senior public officials to commit serious crimes during their tenure, despite being fully aware that they are likely to be prosecuted once they leave their posts. However, even if they end up earning some degree of immunity while in office, they remain a target of vigilant justice from ordinary citizens, whom they had long persecuted,” said Sichula.