Captain Lungu steering Zambia to nowhere
By Jonathan Mulako
The ship is sinking but Captain Edgar Changwa Lungu remains adamant and confident he will get it over the turbulences to safety if given another five years.
Any reasonable citizen of this country has come to realize, and painfully so, that it is practically impossible- even in a land where miracles work – to have expected a new captain to successfully navigate and steer the ship and its passengers to safety using the vision of a departed admiral.
As a gimmick to win votes from the sympathizers of the late President Michael Chilufya Sata, Edgar Chagwa Lungu as candidate of the Patriotic Front (PF) openly declared himself visionless: “I have no vision of my own for this country; I will rely on that of our late president.” Throughout the campaigns ahead of the presidential polls, Edgar masqueraded as a vision carrier of the late President to lure potential voters across the country.
One critic of Edgar, Mambwe Chomba of Chawama, a densely populated compound in Lusaka saw the problem right from the beginning and warned then: “honestly, we have lived with Mr. Lungu in our area. He can never be equated to Sata. It was just a campaign of deceit. Lungu has no capacity to do what Michael could do.”
This is the quagmire Zambians have found themselves in. Edgar Lungu ascended to power in 2015 after the demise of President Sata, popularly known as king cobra on assumption that he could carry the mantle and ride on the vision, skill and experience of his predecessor.
However, it is not speculative and doubtable anymore that ‘the humble president,’ as he treasures to be referred to has failed to live up to the basic expectations of the masses.
The gymnastics and his failures responds to the adage, ‘no one pair of shoes can fit all’, now and in future. The desperation to become his own captain means he had to change course, a turn which surprisingly went unnoticed for a long time even among crew members, loyalists and sympathisers. Not quite strange at all for any honest observer.
Borrowing from words of the wise, “When you are a passenger with blind loyalty to the commander in chief of a navy, you can easily be fooled and fail to notice when your boss tempers with the original itinerary. It may be equally true that some party stalwarts can answer to the description of the foolish wise men in the great story of the emperor.
“This government is on course in implementing various measures to turn the country’s economy around,” an ally of President Lungu also Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo recently commented in reaction to opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s remarks that the country’s economic and governance systems had broken down.
Whether crew loyalists like Kampyongo dozed off or not, it has however, not taken a naughty boy as in the case of the emperor to expose the scam. It is now in public domain that the captain has taken a suicidal route. Many Zambians are now in agreement that Edgar has not only ruined the economic and governance systems, but has also steered away from the pro-poor policies of the Patriotic Front government stipulated in the party manifesto, which the vision of his predecessor had anchored on.
Insiders say the President rarely make reference to the party manifesto – the guiding document when discussing policy formulation and other important national issues with his colleagues in the central committee.
It is far from malice to call Edgar a traitor captain. The promise of more money in your pockets, lower taxes, more jobs and no corruption has been discarded as the PF administration is now running on wheels of more levies and taxes, no money in your pockets, systematic grand corruption, more external loans and no real job creation.
Zambia has been struggling to make its obligatory debt repayments to the international lenders when they fall due. Although the money was borrowed from the open market for infrastructure development, the investment does not march the debt contracted on behalf of the Zambians due to high levels of corruption in awarding of tenders to less competitive contractors.
The obligatory debt repayments have caused distress on the Zambian economy while socials services such as health, education, agriculture and poverty alleviation interventions are receiving paltry budgetary allocations, which are in many instances never fulfilled.
For instance, the health sector has been allocated 8.8 percent while education has been allocated 12.4 percent in the 2020 budget.
Substantial amount allocated to the education sector shall be for the construction of the FTJ University, when the priority should have been towards addressing collapsing public primary education system.
By steering the boat in the opposite direction, Edgar in real sense has completely thrown into a dustbin what his predecessor and followers stood for. His predicament is that the rebranded vision(less), running on wheels with spare parts borrowed from the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), has gone terribly wrong.
In his analysis of President Lungu’s economic management strategies, former local government minister Ackson Sejani commented: “The president has exposed himself as a man in a panic mode who seems to have no crew of what to do”.
There is an overwhelming conviction that it would be hard for PF under Edgar to reverse itself and put Zambia back on a course of economic recovery. Zambians under President Lungu have experienced the worst of all since independence in 1964. Power failures, commodity price hikes, systematic corruption, unprecedented social inequality, political violence and shrinking sphere of debate, to list but a few, are now the common face of once an admired country.
Lungu is seen by many Zambians as a master at promises without political will to close the gap between rhetoric and performance.
In 2017, President Lungu had assured Zambians that his government would create close to 500, 000 jobs and his propagandists escalated this lie without analyzing the country’s circumstances and its ability to create employment. To date, close to five years of Edgar’s stay in power, most of the jobs are still at zero creation. Sensing embarrassment on the issue, PF officials have joined the fray in painting a false picture on job creation.
Deputy Media director for the ruling PF, Antonia Mwanza says: “Employment creation has increased by 37 per cent since the party came into power in 2011.”
But Antonio himself is being challenged over his pronouncement. A Lusaka resident, Charles Mbangu charged: “How on earth can this be possible when Antonio Mwanza himself was jobless until the time he defected from his party, the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) to the ruling PF?”, adding “since he left the University of Zambia (UNZA), he was unemployed until 2018 when PF enticed him to ditch his party for a job.”
Not to be outdone, then Finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe unveiled a new job creation strategy in 2018: “we have secured 1,000 jobs per year in the gulf region for waitresses and waiters, drivers and maids,” Mwanakatwe said, adding “the PF promised jobs for Zambian youths and we are now delivering.”
It still remains a mystery how Antonio came up with such misleading figures, because according to the World Bank report in June 2017, Zambia experienced rapid economic growth between 2000 and 2014. But at the same time, employment grew by only 2.81 percent per year. This is a stark contradiction and does not make sense, considering that the economy is quickly sliding to levels where it can’t support the 37 percent job creation.
Further, although the teacher recruitment exercise is commendable, critical information such as those who have retired or died is kept from the public. This information could help provide objective analysis of how many jobs have been created in real sense.
And united for Peaceful and Prosperous Zambia president Charles Chanda shares his concerns and has given the PF administration zero score in terms of job creation.
“We have a serious problem when it comes to the creation of jobs. For instance, as one would say 2,000 teachers were recruited, are you aware that more than 2,000 teachers died?” he asked. “So, there is no recruitment because when you look at the figures, how many teachers have died since the last recruitment you can even discover that we are in the negative”.
May be it may help the humble President to know that all the breaking news about job creation is no longer taken seriously by citizens- it is regarded as fake news. In fact, the majority of Zambians have simply moved on, they are no longer interested in job creation rhetoric.
By changing course, the ship has equally sailed into unprecedented grand state sponsored corruption never witnessed by the Zambians since attaining independence almost six decades .