Apr 15, 2010

Hapless Opposition

It has become increasingly tedious to read the daily news from Zambia with the build up to the general elections next year. On an almost daily basis the so-called front runner in the “main opposition” party is quoted hurling insults at the President, his ministers and anyone else that is not part of his coalition pact. I fail to see how such actions are supposed to foster dialogue among politicians and among the citizenry.

Isn’t it about time we moved from petty name calling to real issues? Mr Sata, you’re a career politician, and have had a presence in the Zambian political scene forever and a day. If the opposition wants to differentiate itself from the ruling party we need real solutions to the everyday problems facing our country. What are you going to do different if elected as President?

1.  What are your plans in the farming sector? How do we encourage subsistence farmers to go into larger scale farming so that Zambia becomes a major producer of food in the region and not a net importer of food?

2.  What are your plans to stimulate and sustain economic growth? Are we going to keep relying on multilateral aid or will there be systems put in place for more Zambians to enter the formal markets?

3.  What about the antiquated educational system that forces thousands of young children out of schools when they are unable to pass the grade 7 or grade 9 exams? Or the grade 12 graduates who are unable to get into university due to the lack of space at two main public universities?

4.  Labour reform –
a.  The mining industry has become almost synonymous with hazardous and substandard working conditions for its workers, how do you propose making changes to this? Or are we to continue taking what few concessions the foreign investors offer and look the other way?
b.  How much longer will we see productive workers being forced into retirement at 55? This is an antiquated system and I fail to see when it ever made sense.

5.  And what about manufacturing? Our market places and shops are flooded with cheap imports that could easily made in our country while providing jobs to thousands and aiding economic growth. How do you plan to encourage Zambians to go into such ventures? Would this be through easier and more affordable credit? Tax breaks? What?

The list could really go on, but I’ll leave at that. I do not believe these are unreasonable things to ask of anyone vying to be Zambian president, especially those who would have us believe they hold to the keys to succes. It’s time to move from being a loud mouthpiece to a real agent of change who can and will improve things in Zambia.

Do not think that all Zambians are foolish, and will be shouting adulations at you because they are offered free bags of mealie meal, and another lot of empty promises. If you are deserving of the top job, tell us what YOU ARE going to do different! If you cannot, please step aside and stop wasting airtime. There is too much at stake to let this business of usual go on.


The incentives for the opposition to spell these things out appear weak. A point I made recently on the blog - A hopeless generation?". So in effect it all becomes quite circular.

Chola, I really enjoyed your post. I see the logic in your rationale about the lack of ideological differentiation being an attempt at keeping costs low. I agree that more competition would probably drive the need for differentiation, and this is much needed. It's really disheartening to see an absence of real discussion when there's a myriad of issues facing our country.

I think one of the key things worth supporting is the spread of information or platforms for information. Local radio is rising and I have written about this. It is now shaping dialogue in a way that was not possible 3 or 4 years ago. Through that and the mobile phone we are likely to see greater activism in 2011 and perhaps better focus on issues.

In short whilst I remain bleak about the lack of institutional incentives for competition, I am encouraged that technology can be a great leveller! Its a question of when not if. Forever an optimistic!

Local radio is indeed a useful tool and can be leveraged for community organising and for promoting dialogue (eg live call-in shows). Another advantage of local radio is it's reach in both urban and rural communities that cannot be matched by print media and television at this time. It's heartening to see news delivered to local populations in their indegenious languages, and thus keeping them informed.

I'll be interested to see the impact mobile phones will have in the campaign and subsequent election season. I know Ghana used this technology in their last election to aid in election monitoring. Elections monitors sent their text messages to a command centre where the information was processed. This helped with the release of accurate and timely information, and gave a reliable account of the election.

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