The people of Zambia went to the polls on September 28, 2006. The seating president (Mr Levy Mwanawasa) was re-elected with a less than 50% majority. One commentator put it this way, “The present set up favours a seating president. There is no way a seating president can lose an election.” Attempts to hold elections under the new constitution were tossed out of the window as being costly. If implemented, the winner of the presidency under the new constitution has to have 50 plus 1% to be declared a winner. In spite the flaws in the rules, the elections were hailed as ‘free and fair’ by domestic and international election observers and the major opposition parties conceded defeat gracefully. Congratulations to them. Mr Mwanawasa has now formed a government. Most keen observers including the ZamPost newspaper commented that the seriousness of the new leader in delivering on election promises would be seen in the calibre of leaders he would choose to head the government. I offer my thoughts on some of the names that have been announced.
1. Mr Rupia Banda. Has been named as V/President or the 2IC (Second In Command). This man held cabinet positions in the KK government. My Banda comes from an aging crop of leaders (I have no idea if Levy made a nomination or whether the man contested elections). As per practice of most African leaders, Mr Mwanawasa has chosen someone who may not have aspirations beyond VP. It is true that presidents in Africa Africa do not like to surround themselves with youthful leaders for fear that they may get ideas of moving one notch up. Mr Mwanawa parried a question on grooming a successor by suggesting that his party machinery through its convention will provide direction. I strongly believe that Mr Mwanawas has robbed himself an opportunity to train a 'young person 'who might carry on his vision. There is nothing wrong with Mr Banda as a person but we may not see much of him by next election. The seating V/P lost his parliamentary seat. He will be sent to the graveyard, i.e. diplomatic srvice.
2. Agriculture- The ‘old man’ Sikatana has been moved to Foreign Affairs. His training as a lawyer were initially as mismatch for agriculture but boy, didn’t he deliver? Right now there is more produce in Zambia than the Food Reserve Agency can find capacity for storage for. My thoughts are that people who deliver should be in charge of program delivery ministries like education, local government, energy and industry. I strongly feel that Levy has ‘robbed’ Zambians of a true servant who delivered food. Foreign Affairs is important but the best place for Sikatana is one of the mainline ministries suggested above. Ben Kapita, the new agriculture minister previously headed the Farmers Union. He has the know how to pick up from Sikatana left and people will be watching him carefully. At least, people know that with sound leadership, they can grow enough food to feed themselves.
3.Education – Lungwangwa George is now in charge. He comes from the University of Zambia where he was in top leadership. On paper he looks ok but will he deliver? Currently there is lip service to developing education in Zambia yet it is probably the most effective vehicle of liberating people from widespread poverty. It is a known fact that a lot of people with 7 years of primary education regress into illiteracy. Zambia has produced a lot of educators who can assist George come up with a programme to provide decent education to the people of Zambia. Education should be a right of every school going age child.Education should not only be for certification. We need education that liberates the mind, empowers one to dream big and prepares one to be an effective member of society.
4. Finance – Magande has returned his portifolio. A lot of favourable things have happened and many of them not at the instigation of the previous government. The copper ore is fetching a higher price than before and the money lenders of this world have been magnanimous in forgiving the colossal loans. People have been told that macroeconomic indicators are favourable for Zambia. This is welcome news but people need to see how these favourable conditions translate into better housing, clean water, good health and everything social. Magande will need more than just good booking. The resource base of Zambia is more than mining. The time to exploit the rich resource base of Zambia is now. Trade and Industry as well as Commerce need to be critically examined. Local people should be empowered to engage themselves in productive ventures. The tuntembas will not take Zambia out of the misery. Finance and the related government departments (mentioned above) should work together and empower Zambians to run productive businesses that will be sustained over many years to come. There is no reason why Zambians should not own hotels, banks, add value to their produce by owning food processing plants etc.
5. Energy and Water – Many political commentators suggest that 21st century wars are going to be fought over energy and water. It is happening in the middle east. America is everywhere today not in the name of exporting democracy but to get an assured access to energy and water. For all the key industries to succeed (agriculture, trade, manufacturing, transport etc), an assured energy source is needed. Currently, Zambia has one aging oil refinery at Ndola (probably the only industry alive in this once upon a time manufacturing city). The challenges for the minister are many and this ministry should have been given to someone with a vision. Zambia has so much sun yet very few people use solar energy to heat their domestic water. They have to rely on expensive hydro generated or coal fired power plants!
6. Tourism – Again times are good. Many international visitors are including Zambia in their travel plans. There are countries that depend on tourism for the majority of their GDP. We can learn from them in terms of how they did it. The new minister should equally encourage Zambians to see Zambia. There should be deliberate efforts to showcase Zambia o Zambians and non Zambians without lacing it with Hollywood crap.
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