[By Janny Nyendwa]
Africa accounts for a 25 per cent annual death rate of all road traffic-related injuries – the highest figure globally than any other continent, according to the African Development Bank (Afdb, 2013).
According to the report’s strategic recommendation to alleviate road traffic accidents, they cited the following: improved road infrastructure, speed limits, compulsory seatbelts and child restraints, drink-driving laws, bans on the use of cellphones while driving, legal requirement for motorcyclists to wear helmets. Enforcement of road safety measures is generally weak across the continent.
Why am I bringing these figures? It’s the way we Africans respond to disasters and problems. We adopted a laisse-fairre attitude to problems that sit between life and death. Our problem identification, solving skills are so weak that we are very comfortable living with life-threatening socio-economic problems without even attempting to review successes and failures yearly. Every year more and more money is lost from government coffers in misappropriation, misapplication, pilferage, kickbacks, undelivered items worth millions of kwacha, unaccounted for funds, etc. Yet nothing is being done every day to close these loops or punish offenders.
Despite the information given above, the previous government under the Patriotic Front party imposed a night travel ban for all public service transport after a series of road traffic accidents along the Great North Road. What’s even crazier is that there’s no correlation or link between the causation elements identified by AfDB and the Zambian government at the time. This mediocrity is evident at all levels of most African societies. The main reason Africa lags behind even today is the lack of critical thinking, a course/subject that is compulsory in many developed countries and is nowhere in our public discourse though crucial in African countries. To cite another example for lack of critical thinking, the late Mobutu Sese Seko stands a higher chance of being elected president in Zambia compared to a gay US democratic politician Pete Buttigieg even though the latter demonstrates the ability to serve and grow our economy diligently while the former is a tyrannical corrupt dictator that looted over US $6bn when Congolese civil servants could barely afford two meals in a day. We are unable to separate critical national issues and petty personal issues. On many grounds, President Hakainde Hichilema was a credible politician and leader compared to Mr Edgar Lungu, but Zambians voted for the former because the latter was accused of being a blood-sucking Satanist, a freemason. I have come across sentiments from educated people like “I rather we have a corrupt leader who steals, kills and repents to God than a leader that promotes homosexual acts.” I am not saying I agree with homosexuality, but I question the rationale behind pledging support to a corrupt leader that steals and kills people he should be protecting, a leader that does not care about people’s sexual preferences. It’s this kind of thinking that has dragged us for nearly 60 years without having addressed high poverty and hunger levels that is killing our people. Basic problems like access to clean and safe water are still a mammoth challenge, if we think it is okay for people to amass K70 million without a proper trace of their source, while thousands of families in the council go unpaid; the Drug Enforcement Commission failed to convict a single top official case in money laundering activities in the last 10 years and there has been no legal and political reform and desire to close these loopholes. Pronouncements like the introduction of political party cadres in public places even though the sole purpose isn’t well defined or backed by law is the reason we are still a third world country while Singapore a country we outpaced in 1964-1970 has fourteen times the size of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to ours. Germany owed Europe US $270bn in debt after World War II and they were worse off than we were at the time of our independence and today, we are still begging from them. Even though we claim we are an upright morally country, we are far from it looking at how we all reluctantly watched how the previous government looted, stole, misappropriated State funds meant for hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Further, we still wanted the same government to continue as exhibited by the alebwelapo clan and the 1.8m Zambians that stood hours to make sure the criminality on Zambians continues.
Going forward, I urge the Zambian government to implement critical thinking at all levels of our society from Grade One to tertiary education. I further ask that we offer critical thinking skills development to all our public service workers from ministers to a secretary in the public service. Robert Frost said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” I can safely say we do not have leaders whose views can get challenged and questioned without feeling offended. Until such a time when we will be able to separate individuals from problems, we will not solve problems that are associated with the 21st century. Actually, in the next 100 years, I will not be shocked to have a Chinese councilor, mayor or president at the rate we are moving.
The author is a process engineer and founder of CN Think Tank.