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Democracy a farce when gulf between rich and poor is wide – M’membe

SOCIALIST Party leader Fred M’membe says increasing the country’s wealth alone is not enough.

He argues that democracy is a farce when there is a wide gulf between the rich and the poor. “Political equality is a myth without economic equality. The rich are corrupted by vice and the poor demoralised by lack of economic strength,” he said.

Yesterday, The Mast published a story where political researcher Cephas Mukuka said whoever gets elected Republican president next year must work tirelessly to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

Dr Mukuka said the gap was too wide.

“Let resources be distributed equitably without fear or favour. Let for once our people feel that sense of belonging to a nation like Zambia which is blessed with abundant resources,” said Dr Mukuka. “… The unfortunate part is that the majority of voters in Africa are those who struggle to meet their basic needs. The rich are not interested – they are connected to those with the instruments of power. Very few rich fellows vote or follow politics as it were.”

In agreement with Dr Mukuka, Dr M’membe said that was the reason the Socialist Party was formed to deal with such inequalities.

“Dr Cephas Mukuka, you say ‘whoever is elected president next year must work tirelessly to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. We agree with you! Like you dear brother, this issue pains us a lot and is top in our thoughts and actions.

I am referring to you as a dear brother because if you tremble with indignation at every inequality, injustice and the degradation of any human being then you are a dear brother of mine,” he wrote from Mwika Royal Village. “My dear brother, it is not enough for a country to attempt to increase its wealth. It is also necessary to ensure that it is evenly distributed. But inequality is an important feature of capitalist economies. My dear brother, the Socialist Party is in total agreement with you on this score. Its entire programme is devoted to fighting this inequality, injustice, degradation, abuse, exploitation and humiliation of fellow human beings and citizens, of the poor.’’

Dr M’membe explained that in most capitalist countries inequalities were a common and unfortunately accepted feature.

“Dear brother, you say ‘the gap is too wide’. Yes, it is – extremely and dangerously wide. Dear brother, we are here and that’s what we are here for. That is what this party – the Socialist Party – is here for,” he said. “In the capitalist countries it is generally recognised and accepted that inequality will remain and that cannot be helped. Some economists make even virtue of this necessity and they see lot of good in these inequalities from the point of view of capital formation.”

He explained the dangerous effects of inequalities in any given society.

Dr M’membe said, “we know and we have seen that inequality leads to some very serious economic and social consequences”.

“It creates two sections in society – the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-not’s – which are ever on a war path. This has resulted in ever mounting social tensions and political discontent. The rich dominate the political machinery, and they use it to promote their own exclusive interests,” he said. “This results in corruption, graft and social injustice. The rich exploit the poor. The consciousness of this exploitation leads to political awakening and then agitation and even political revolution. Thus, inequality is an important cause of social and political instability.”

Dr M’membe said inequalities also promoted monopolies which result in the big players crushing budding ones.

“These powerful monopolies and industrial combines charge unfair prices from the consumer. And crush the small producers. The bigger fish swallow the small fry. It is said that ‘slow rises merit by poverty depressed’. It is not easy for a poor man to make his way in life, however brilliant he may be,” he said. “It is a great social loss that brainy people without money are unable to make their due contribution to social welfare. Democracy is a farce when there is a wide gulf between the rich and the poor. Political equality is a myth without economic equality.

The rich are corrupted by vice and the poor demoralised by lack of economic strength.”

Dr M’membe said where there is inequality, corruption also prevails and the poor find it difficult to survive.

“Thus, inequalities spoil the rich and degrade the poor. Vice and corruption rule such a society. The poor man finds it almost impossible to regain the virtues of honesty and integrity. Human dignity is lost altogether,” he said. “In the present era of social and political awakening, it has become a major plank of political policy that inequality should be reduced, if not eliminated.”

And Dr M’membe explained what the Socialist Party would do once in power.

Quoting extensively from the party’s manifesto, Dr M’membe said “in a compassionate society, there should be no differences in outcomes based on factors for which people cannot be held responsible”.

“Zambia has one of the worst situations globally. There is a glaring gap between the rich and poor. Between 2010 and 2015, the Gini coefficient increased from 0.65 to 0.69. This is a very high rate of income inequality. It is volatile and dangerous for national development,” said Dr M’membe. “Dear brother, doesn’t it behoove you that we can work together to try and remake the world and remove inequality, injustice, exploitation, degradation and humiliation of fellow human beings and citizens, especially those who are poor?”

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