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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Vote for Change - An Endorsement of PF (Guest Blog)

As we get closer to the general elections, one of the topical issues we ought to be pondering is our country's current record on good governance. Zambians nationwide expect their national government to apply the elements of good governance in both word and deed, that is: transparency, accountability, rule of law, citizen participation in governmental decision making, and freedom of the press.

Let us briefly examine what each of these elements of good governance entails, as well as determine whether our country can be said to be fostering any of the elements of good governance.

Firstly, “transparency” requires members of the public to have access to information about the state, its decision-making mechanisms, and its current and planned projects and programs -- except for state secrets. The procurement of hearses by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, which President Rupiah Banda has publicly sworn to have had no knowledge of when he has been both Vice President and President, provides a good example of the lack of transparency in government.

And in June 2011, Vice President George Kunda led MMD members of parliament in shooting down a private members' motion that could have compelled the government to release consolidated annual statistics on employment levels in the country, arguing that it was meant to embarrass the government -- a clear example of lack of transparency in the governance of our beloved country.

Secondly, “accountability” entails the availability of a mechanism for ensuring that civil servants and public officials are directly accountable and liable for the outcomes of their decisions and actions, and the appropriation of resources assigned to them. The re-appointment of Dora Siliya to a Cabinet post after she was alleged to have defrauded Petauke District Council of K12.5 million in fake refund claims, mishandled the appointment of RP Capital Partners in respect of its valuation and potential sale of Zamtel, and cancellation of a duly awarded contract for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of a Zambia Air Traffic Management Surveillance Radar System (ZATM-RADAR) at Lusaka and Livingstone international airports provides a good example of the lack of accountability in government.

Thirdly, “rule of law” requires the existence of non-discriminatory laws and law enforcement organs of the government that are efficient, impartial, independent, and legitimate -- an element that is undermined by failure by the police to arrest MMD cadres like William Banda and Chris Chalwe who have continually harassed or threatened MMD leaders who have dissenting views, opposition political leaders, journalists, newspaper vendors, and other innocent citizens.

Also, dismissals of officials who have attempted to pursue corrupt politicians regarded as sacred cows by the Republican president, selective prosecution of suspected perpetrators of corruption, and appointment of individuals found to be wanting for flouting national laws and regulations to key government positions are rife in the country.

Fourthly, “citizen participation” refers to the availability of channels and mechanisms through which the citizenry and non-governmental institutions can have a direct or indirect influence on the actions of public officials, such as the procurement of mobile clinics, which President Banda made through single-source procurement in contravention of rules and regulations limiting such procurements to emergency situations, and without initial consultation with technocrats in government ministries, the Zambia Public Procurement Authority, or primary stakeholders -- the rural dwellers.

And “freedom of the press” calls for the national government to foster the development of a free press to facilitate the exposure of unscrupulous activities in institutional settings, such as the K10 billion historic theft by a civil servant at the Ministry of Health.

The role of a free press in the creation of a system of governance in which accountability, transparency, rule of law, and public participation in governmental decision making cannot perhaps be overemphasized. We should not expect our multi-party democracy to function effectively without such a system of governance.

Moreover, the effective checks and balances we seek to introduce into our system of government are not possible in a political setting where the government is a prominent player in the fourth estate -- that is, the news media. Besides, the fight against the scourge of corruption (which is believed by the President to be non-existent in Zambia) is seriously undermined by public news outlets which are muzzled by the MMD and its leaders.

So, the MMD administration can hardly be said to be fostering any of the foregoing elements of good governance. If this conspicuous failure to improve our beloved country's record on good governance is not enough to deny Comrade Rupiah Banda and the MMD another term of office, what about the unprecedented levels of poverty which have continued to haunt over 68% of our fellow citizens?

Whither my beloved country?

Currently, our country is experiencing unprecedented socio-economic problems. The healthcare system, for example, cannot meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens; tens of thousands of Grade 7 and Grade 9 students have continued to be spilled onto the streets every year; so many Zambians have no access to clean water and electricity; and a critical shortage of decent public housing has compelled so many of our fellow citizens to live in shanty townships nationwide.

Moreover, public infrastructure and services are still deficient; civil servants are still not adequately compensated for their services; a lot of civil service retirees cannot get their hard-earned benefits; crime and unemployment are still widespread; taxes and interest rates are still very high; and, among many other socio-economic ills, the constitution-making process is still fraught with personal, partisan and short-term interests.

Therefore, the soundness of political players’ contemplated policies in addressing the problems we face as a nation must be the primary consideration when we go to polling stations to cast our votes on September 20, 2011.

Our people's demands and expectations on the government have never been clearer and louder. Unfortunately, we have continued to have a backlog of unfulfilled promises from those who have assumed the reins of power. Currently, there is extreme inertia and resistance to change within the MMD administration. After governing for nearly 20 years, the MMD government has seemingly become lax, arrogant, stubborn, and complacent.

Giving such a government 5 more years is, therefore, a sheer waste of time and public resources, because there is nothing the MMD is likely to do in 5 years which they could not have done in nearly 20 years the party has been in power.

We, therefore, need to try the Patriotic Front (PF) this time around, hoping that it will make a serious effort to address the people's needs and expectations.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger)


  1. well good article,but i still feel we shall still be having a president with so much power to manipulate the system as long as we do not have a constitution that will stand a taste of time.we are for change but the change will only work if we have unselfish and visionary leaders with a common man at heart especially the rural people.

  2. Hello Professor,

    Good to see you maintaining the consistency of your stance on Zambian politics. I cannot in good conscience either second or refute your endorsement as I am not a Zambian citizen, so while my opinion remains my opinion (and I am nothing if not opinionated!), it's not relevant to the selection by Zambians of their own representatives to serve their interests and mirror their values at the national level. I don't like the word disinterested in this context, because I admit that I am intensely interested in Zambian opinion, but it is accurate in the strict sense of I have nothing to gain or lose on the outcome of this election (other than some personal stress).

    That said, I still am struck by the fact that you felt compelled to make an endorsement of another party on the basis of negatives about their principal opponent. Don't get me wrong please, I sincerely believe that you feel driven to this by the nature of corruption under the status quo, and there is certainly ample global evidence that however inexperienced, replacement of established corrupt officials with those of a dedicated opposition party often uncovers a whole nest of otherwise masked corrupt actors and activities.

    When the CPD poll in May showed that when asked directly if corruption was a "serious problem", fully 86% of respondents agreed while only 8% disagreed, as far as I can tell the MMD did not react at all. Apparently they did not believe it because the electoral preference section of the poll showed PF with a slight lead over them. Now that the latest CPD poll shows RB to be in the lead within the margin for error, apparently the methodology and results are beyond reproach. This is smart politics if one can safely assume that the electorate has no memory, (a truism in political consulting is that, "a person is smart, people are deaf, dumb, panicky mobs").

    The bused crowds or media buys are all just tactics not the true measure of party appeal, democratic elections happen in individual voter's heads, that's the point. I am sure that it must stink to feel you must say, "MMD is so bad, so thoroughly reliant on the inertia of decades of rule that they are no longer responsive to the present or future expectation and aspirations of the Zambian citizenry. Therefore, even without further evaluation I must recommend whichever opposition party is leading at present." But the fact that you felt it and then actually said it is pretty profound. People don't usually chose to have such a bad taste left in their mouth, so I think that this is genuine opinion and not just another politician's throwaway gesture.

    My own logic would tell me that given a circumstance of well-entrenched corruption, so deeply embedded into the very processes of government bureaucracy as to become truly nepotistic and multi-generational in scope, which is unfortunately not too uncommon in my experience around the globe, then it is a very safe bet that any relative newcomer and amateur to government will be unable to be nearly as predatory as the experienced bribe taker has already been. Add in the immediate post-election "honeymoon" where long time enemies get to hunt through government files and databases looking for evidence the last folks failed to destroy before leaving. Given a five year election cycle and the supposition that most current "bribers" of government have not simultaneously cultivated corrupt relationships with the opposition parties in anticipation of contestable elections in general (unlikely in the context), it is not unreasonable to accept the underlying proposition in your endorsement, which I read as:

    MMD must go, nobody else could possibly become more effectively corrupt before the voters go to the polls again in five years.

  3. I agree with the notion that there is a greater need for transparency. But can Sata really bring about this change? Thats wishful thinking.

    1. Sata is extremely autocratic
    2. Sata's own party has no real transparency

    Autocracies are by definition not transparent, Sata rules the PF with an iron rod, and would likely do the same if given the chance to rule Zambia. Who's to say he would not try and pursue an indefinite tenure as President? He's been trying to be President for the last ten years after all.

    Sata has also built a cult of personality which is essentially the heart and soul of PF. These sorts of movements usually allow leaders to get away with a lot of non-sense so there is no reason to believe Sata wouldn't be corrupt.

    All in all here are my conclusions:

    Your heart is in the right place but your conclusions are wrong because you have no evidence to support them. Why not UPND or perhaps NAREP? Why should we risk our vote on a demagogue?

    In addition, MMD has actually done a great job with the economy in the last 3 years. You'd have to have your head in the sand not to see that, or be incredibly biased against them. The economy has grown from US$14 billion in 2009 to approx US$19.9 billion this year according to the recently published BMI report on Zambia's economy. Every one including the foreign press are impressed with Zambia's economic achievements. Yes this is primarily supported by the favourable copper business cycle, however production has also increased dramatically and a lot of investment is continually being made to further the growth of Zambia's production capacity. In addition agriculture is doing really well too. So its not as gloomy as you make it out to be.

    PF supporters usually paint a wholly dark picture of Zambia and then paint Sata as the only savior for it, the one person who can change it for the better. Where does this come from? The reality is that it won't take one person but a successive line of leaders who continue to build on each others work and make continual improvements to the country. Sata isn't a visionary and more than anything Zambia will be needing that sort of leader. If you ask me people should vote RB back in office at least we know the economy will be taken care of. In 2016 we can vote in a new face to reform Zambia's governance structures. We'll need a transformational leader, but now isn't the time to risk all the gains we've made economically on a potential dictator like Sata.

    I love Zambia too much to be that ideological, lets be pragmatic about Zambia's situation. Lets also be realistic, we're not so far gone that we should put our hope on Sata. For all its problems Zambia has progressed much over the years.

  4. Mwiyam,

    In addition, MMD has actually done a great job with the economy in the last 3 years.

    Thanks for the cadreist contributions. It isn't the MMD that has kept the Zambian economy afloat, it international copper prices and good rains.

    And as you know, UPND and NAREP can't win.

  5. Professor Kyambalesa is to the best of my knowledge the president of a duly registered Zambian political party in his own right. I don't think that his endorsement should be viewed as if it were a simple matter of a party member endorsing the party nominee. I can state with a high degree of confidence that if he had no reservations about Michael Sata as chief executive of the nation, then he would not have repeatedly run against him and the rest of the field for the office. I don't know the professor in his professional or personal life, however in his contributions to this blog in the past he has always presented internally consistent, well thought out arguments for his positions.

    That said, I think that given that there is a great deal alleged in the course of the endorsement about the track record of the MMD as ruling party, and very little said about the qualifications of the PF to take power, Mwiyam is not out of line to make the spirited attempt at a defense. Mwiyam, I would like to encourage you to stay engaged at this point, and perhaps give us some evidence for your assertions on economic issues.

    I take issue with the fact that failing to call 5-7% sustained GDP growth coupled with 8.0-8.5% inflation "a great job" then automatically means that I am either willfully ignorant or incredibly biased. Um, this is Zambian Economist? Its kinda understood by many how the GDP number is arrived at. It is just one metric, adopted under pressure from a US administration eager to disguise the size of its trade deficit with Japan decades ago, replacing GNI as the international standard measure of economic output and throwing decades of data gathering into a corner where it could be ignored because it wasn't "GDP".

    For those who don't already know, the main difference is that one could theoretically add to GDP by opening a wholly foreign owned and financed firm on Zambian soil, that hires no Zambian workers, pays no rents to Zambian landlords, uses no Zambian utility providers, and pays no taxes to the Zambian government at any level. Conversely a Zambian national with significant overseas holdings and income would not necessarily show in the GDP number unless/until some or all of the income was actually spent within Zambia. GNI would assign that income to whichever nation's citizens were actually making it, not just where it was being made.

  6. @Mr K,

    I apologise if my comments were taken to be caderist. They aren't I see myself as a pragmatic voter. I see the economic progress we've made over the last decade, and especially over the last 3 years and yes I know the favourable metals prices have contributed to this situation in many ways. But our government has also made it a goal to court as many foreign investors and have them build our production capacity, without that copper prices would have been high but we would have still been stuck with low production and that wouldn't have helped us at all. The reality is that some credit must be given here. I'm not one of those people who will ignore the government's many problems, I acknowledge them; governance, transparency, judicial independence etc. But I also acknowledge that even in a favourable economic climate an inept person can still manage to ruin an economy....that hasn't been the case.

    The heart of my argument was simply that there is no evidence that PF would do a better job in power than the MMD, if anything there is greater evidence that we would end up in a dictatorship with even less transparency. If a candidate can not even bother making his party democratic and transparent how on earth can he be trusted to do that with the country?

    Yes NAREP, UPND etc are too small, hence my belief that the pragmatic choice here is to vote for MMD again and wait until 2016 when we have a real chance at creating change. MMD will have to nominate a new leader and PF would also probably have to do the same, and parties like NAREP could have grown in influence by then. In any case the change for reform will be stronger then, and our choice of candidates will be better too.

    Just because we need change doesn't mean we should put our hopes on anyone with a big enough party to create the change for us. Germany needed change and they elected Hitler into power and look how that turned out?! The reality is that what the author of the article is arguing for is good and right. I just don't agree with his/her conclusions.

  7. Is there an argument perhaps though that PF would strive more to reduce the gap between rich and poor in Zambia ? The latest figures report that rural poverty seems more entrenched than ever. One of the first things i noticed about the PF manifesto was the attack on the blind adherence to maize. This kind of common sense approach that seeks to avoid a blind following the status quo might be what Zambia needs. Along with a less subservient attitude to foreign corporations, PF may be able to help the majority of Zambians, rather than just enriching the upper class of citizens. On the other hand, I understand the fear that comes from rocking the boat and changing. BUt most Zambians have less little else but change to hope for.

  8. @Yakima,

    Compare the charts below

    You will note that around 2003 the copper prices begun to increase very quickly, its exactly at that time that Zambia's GNI also begun to increase dramatically also. In fact its the classic J curve.

    However you will note that in 2009 there is a drop in the copper prices, and a slow down in Zambian GNI growth. However the drop in copper prices is larger than the drop in GNI growth for Zambia showing that Agriculture and other sectors probably acted as dampeners. After 2009 the copper prices rise quickly again as does Zambian GNI.

    So from this we can conclude that Zambia's economic growth is very correlated to copper price volatility. This is an obvious conclusion when we consider than the copper industry is the largest contributor to GNI.

    So yes we're at the crest of a business cycle and that definitely helps the economy a lot, but so does the governments approach towards FDI and even trying to encourage local business creation via CEEC etc. For that effort some commendation can be given, it doesn't help any one to be overly critical! And that is what I was getting at, the author of the article describes Zambia as though we were in an utterly dismal situation, when in fact for the first time in a very long time we actually have a lot going for us as a country. Thats not to say challenges do not exist economically, of course they do. Corruption raises the cost of doing business for every one.

    In the area of accountability and governance there is much that can be done. Ultimately though what is needed is a transformational leader who can change the country's culture. Checks and balances exist on paper, the country has laws against corruption. The problem is that our culture systemically allows and enables corruption to continue, making those laws redundant.

    Zambia will be needing a nation builder that can transform our national culture and also heal many of our tribal differences. I know RB isn't that person, but neither is Sata. In fact we don't have this sort of leader yet.

    So my view is that this year people should vote pragmatically and wait for 2016 when we'll have a fresh crop of potential leaders to choose from. Then we'll have a realistic chance at reform.

  9. Mark,

    Without trying to sound elitist, its normal for there to be income inequality....there will be a time when this needs to be tackled but its way to early for that. Its an unrealistic goal.

    One only needs to look at Brazil, China and other emerging economies to see that its a problem any growing economy faces.

    Its part of the growing process. Eventually people in the rural areas either migrate to the cities or development comes to them. There is nothing any party can do about this, its part of the nature of a capitalist system.

    Regarding reliance on maize I definitely agree there.

  10. Mwiyam,

    I didn't want to sound crabby or anything, but we have tried neoliberal economics for 20 years this year, and you can look at the human development indexes for the real economic growth and development that has taken place.

    But our government has also made it a goal to court as many foreign investors and have them build our production capacity, without that copper prices would have been high but we would have still been stuck with low production and that wouldn't have helped us at all.

    Actually Zambia would have been MUCH better off if production levels were low, but all production was Zambian (especially State) owned.

    The World Bank's insistence that the mines were sold (for next to nothing too), has cost the Zambian economy between $10 billion and $20 billion, from the year 2004 onward.

    Also, the idea that production levels were low, because the state and not foreign mining houses owned the mines, is incorrect. Production would have gone up just by copper prices going up, and making earnings from copper available for re-investment.

    Copper prices were around $2000/tonne when the government was forced to sell them by the World Bank. Today they are around $10,000. Many mining houses claim that hey cannot break even below $5000. An absurdity, but an indication that even they could not have expanded production at $2000/tonne.

    So again, it is not the do-nothing neoliberal MMD government that has caused this. Under PF, or even UNIP, Zambia would have benefited for many billions of dollars more than they are receiving now.

  11. MrK 'So again, it is not the do-nothing neoliberal MMD government that has caused this. Under PF, or even UNIP, Zambia would have benefited for many billions of dollars more than they are receiving now.'

    I thought the people who sold the mines are all now in the PF? RB was still in UNIP when Sata (No 3 in Govt)and colleagues sold the mines, airline, Mwaiseni, ZCBC and 200 other companies.

    So to be consistent in your Neoliberal argument, MrK, you should be rooting for RB and not Sata! PF is more neoliberal!

  12. @Mr K,

    Can't get into the ideological debate at the moment, but I think you may find this article interesting. A lot of what you're saying comes with the benefit of hind-sight. Note that the people who made the decisions that were made did so with information they had at the time. No one could have predicted that copper prices would have risen 4 years later.

    May I ask, Mr K...what is your profession?

  13. Mwiyam,

    No one could have predicted that copper prices would have risen 4 years later.

    I disagree. However, what Edith Nawakwi was told according to her, is that copper prices would not rise within her lifetime. I quote from The Post:

    “We were told by advisers, who included the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, that not in my life time would the price of copper change. They put production models on the table and told us that there (was) no copper in Nchanga Mine, Mufulira was supposed to have five years life left and all the production models that could be employed were showing that for the next 20 years, Zambian copper would not make a profit,” the report quoted Nawakwi as having told its author in an interview on July 26, 2007.

    If no one could have predicted that copper prices would have risen, neither could they have assured her that they would not rise either.

    There is no proof whatsoever, that the public sector is categorically more effient than the public sector, or less corrupt, or anything else that would justify giving away the mines.


  15. Sata is not an 'uninitiated bribe taker', he is positively corrupt. The author assumes that jumping off an aeroplane, with no parachute, is better hope than relying on a pilot he suspects to be incompetent. That is just not sane.

    How has the 'prof' ignored a whole archive of misdemeanors pf's Sata has strewn for himself to the extent of trusting him. This is extremely absurd. Advocating for change without meaning is simply 'caderistic'.

  16. The last anonymous poster makes a good point (in addition to some admirably concise imagery), which, if I may take the liberty of rephrasing somewhat, is that "defensive" voting to prevent this or that unacceptable candidate from taking or maintaining office is a desperate option of last resort. Once the voter finds themselves making their choices on national leadership based on wholly negative criteria, one might as well give up on the whole concept of representative democracy to begin with.

    This phenomenon has sometimes been called "Thumper's Mother's Wisdom" (as derived from the Disney movie "Bambi", to quote, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."), with regard to campaign philosophy and voter reaction to negative campaigning, and is a well established paradigm for reducing a career politician's long-term personal negative impressions with the broad electorate as a whole as well as short-term opinion poll results.

    The trouble is that while voter's may not like you for saying it, if that "it" contains information that resonates with their political fundamentals of socio-economic, religious, ideological, and other demographics that collectively help define a person as an individual within the democratic system as well as recognition of common ties between voters, evidence from democracies with lots of public polling indicate that then chances are high that they will swallow whatever bile they may feel about the tactics used to give them that information and vote accordingly.

    Which is why people should not be too hard on Henry, because of all people he knew that the consequences of such a statement could only be negative for him personally as a politician who does not have a reputation as a "polarising figure". A "caderistic" sort of statement indeed, and yet demonstrably not from a cadre. I would like to assume that endorsements of other candidates by other smaller parties not fielding presidential contenders in this cycle will also be taken as such and not as portions of the endorsed party's internal campaign.

    Be hard on his position though, I am sure that he would welcome your dissenting viewpoint or he would not have published in this forum. According to the limited poll data available, voters in general want to be presented with alternative candidate choices from the various parties, all of whom are persons with recognisable leadership qualities. While perceptions of corruption are high, unemployment and poverty are more salient issues in voter's minds.

    As an outside observer I would say that while Prof. Kyambalesa's essay may encourage those already convinced that the MMD is irretrievably corrupt to turn out at the ballot box to make their feelings known by voting PF instead of "other", it is unlikely in itself to sway many undecided or dedicated UPND voters to embrace Mr. Sata or the rest of the PF slate as appropriate representatives for them personally.

  17. @Mwiyam,

    The charts are a useful reference, thanks for linking them. I don't think that anyone is disputing that copper is a major resource to Zambia's economy or that market price fluctuations don't have an impact on that. However if you check the archives of this blog from 2007 onwards, you will see Cho, MrK, myself, and others (not without dissenters also of course!), who were questioning the negative outlook on copper futures being embraced by those arguing in favour of removal of the windfall profits tax at the time. We did not all arrive at the same conclusion by the same means, so I will not try to speak for others of the same "soundbite" opinion.

    In my view industrial mineral prices will remain far more stable than the major consumer economies will in general due to the 21st century information age phenomenon of market discovery by 2/3rds of the global population. Telephones and airplanes made the world "feel small" and gave birth to multiculturalism among other applications (like telemarketers and carpet bombing). Modern computers with databases and neural net search engines have doubled the number of people able to access external information to use when making economic decisions (and who knows what next).

    Money is fundamentally a measure of what you can get someone with no other incentive to do willingly. Too many people in too many places are too "bullish" about the future to let something as valuable as basic industrial minerals get too cheap before they jump on it. Copper is something you use to get things done, it is not some "credit default swap derivative option" or "pet rock". It is an element, a basic building block of chemistry, and therefore irreplaceable in many applications, and very recyclable even from alloys. While copper is important, the period of dramatic growth also coincides with a period of dramatic debt reduction and corresponding credit upgrades. The fact that GDP fell sharply in 2009 while GNI grew may be interpreted as the relative unimportance of the export economy to what Zambians actually take home at the end of the day (though there are alternate explanations, these are big measures encompassing many factors).

    Billions of people want the products of the information age, and those require electricity, and that almost always means somebody could use some copper. The USA has one of the largest in-ground copper reserves in the world, larger than Zambia, but it is estimated that they have equally as much copper already refined sitting in their landfills waiting for prices high enough to get it back out. That puts a pretty solid incentive into the market to keep copper prices within a certain range, too low and aspiring manufacturers see a chance, too high and the vast reserves of recyclable copper become viable for private industry.

    I am surprised that you would say that we are at the peak of a business cycle globally, however China is booming, and its demand for copper for infrastructure development is sustaining a boost in Zambian trade balance. However, were we at the peak of a cycle then I can assure you we would not be seeing oil prices nearly as low as they are (though they would be lower if China weren't adding autos at a high rate). In the 20th century, when global economies went into recession, commodity prices deflated even more dramatically, due largely to the often marginal economics of the communities and individuals who extract them and the needs of governments to replace lost tax revenue with asset sales. That the current global fiscal crises have not resulted in prolonged commodity price collapse in spite of widespread unemployment and sluggish recovery in the establish consumer economies, and in fact the opposite, is precisely the sort of result predicted by a "crowded world" model.

  18. THE ECONOMY GETING BETER ? how ? the kwacha is depreciating at supersonic speed. I dont think so.


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