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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Whose to blame for our abject poverty?

This excerpt taken from Fred Mmembe's last editorial before imprisonment answers perfectly :

We have a great country. The good Lord has blessed it with abundant resources and a people who are good at heart. Our people deserve better than they get. Our governance system is skewed against the interests of the majority of our people who live in abject poverty and in many cases total deprivation. There is a silent majority of our people who know that things should not be this way and hope for a better tomorrow. This tomorrow will not come if we all choose comfort over the need to struggle to improve our nation, to improve the lives of our people. Each one of us who is sincere is able to make a contribution. It does not need to be a huge contribution or even a heroic contribution, but just a contribution to the welfare of those around us is all we need.
There's a huge misconception among our people that government is to blame for everything. Infact I would say the big difference between western and African countries is that the former realise all fingers point at them, while the latter have no sense of personal responsibility for their poverty (its a mindset problem). But what does the constitution preamble say? "We the people". What did we say when Mwanawasa died ? "The people's president". We all have governments we deserve.  Mmembe is absolutely right, the finger of blame for the abject condition of our people points squarely at YOU. Not Rupiah or MMD for these are merely rational actors maximising their own welfare, caring only for the wider community where your interests and theirs intersect. There's nothing strange about that. The question is, given this reality, what are YOU doing to maximise your welfare and that "those around us"? What are YOU doing to hold government to account on these things?


  1. Yes personal responsibility is critical to fighting poverty, however governments have a role to enact the policy framework that supports individual enterprise. The Zambian government in it's current form is not providing the ideal framework. Mr Mmembe/Post experiences are examples of infringement on private enterprise. The Post has been shut down and it's employees imprisoned without reasonable cause.
    uplifting Zambians from generational poverty will take a long time and right now the governments holds the most important cards - the constitution is still been fixed, the education system needs government involvement to function, agriculture is heavily dependent on government policy and on and on...
    The average Zambian can only do so much before they hit the brick wall of GRZ bureaucracy whether one needs land for development, a permit for business or even personal identity card the failure to create a conducive framework for enterprise confronts YOU.

    Jordan Zimba
    Lusaka, Zambia

  2. Chola, I agree with you that the responsibility lies with us – Zambians. It starts with moving away from the mentality that the government is the answer to everything. This is something that has been fostered for too long in our institutions, and our communities. One thing many of us are guilty of is the lack of initiative. Those of us with the means to do something don’t, and timidly stand in the shadows while university students from Gonzaga University put time and money into honey bee operations in North-Western Province spurring production and economic autonomy for the people in that community. I’ll be the first to admit this fault.

    It’s easy to say that Zambia is not conducive to start up operations with the amount of red tape that exists and just leave it at that. It’s never easy to get something started but how many actually try?

    While many of us are already doing something through remittances sent to our parents, siblings, etc we need to take the next step to larger scale enterprises that benefit more than just one family at a time. And that’s where the rubber hits the road.


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