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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Is PF failing?

Dora Siliya MP recently wrote an interesting article on the "Tragedy of Perception". I am excited to see MPs writing more. Here is the bit that caught my attention :
Let me bring you back to where we are currently, a cross road of perceptions. Are we doing better compared to 5 or 3 or 2 years ago? Do we have the right to freely assemble and associate? Are human rights being respected? Do we get a sense that our Government is fair and reasonable? Is the discourse on tribalism in Government perception or reality? Does the opposition have the political space to provide the much needed checks and balances? Is the Judiciary and Parliament operating without interference? Have the NGOs been coerced? Is the media reflecting society or just passive while sections of it push a narrow private agenda? Is the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation just a perception?...Are we happy with our Zambia today?
These are important questions. But sadly the answers are not as obvious as Ms Siliya thinks. On each of those questions a case can be reasonably be made that life is better today than under MMD. So I think she is using the wrong counterfactual. My view on PF vs MMD is very straightforward. PF is so far not worse than MMD. Indeed, MMD was so bad that it is difficult to imagine anything worse.

The problem is that many people have with PF is that PF can and should be BETTER than it is doing. It is not living up to its promises so far. It is a question of aspiration. To compare PF and MMD's two decades of plunder is a losing argument. It is better to look at our socio-economic position and ask - are we fulfilling our potential as a nation? Is PF performing like we expect it to perform?

The best way to do that is to simply remind PF of its manifesto commitments on fiscal prudence, rule of law, lean government, separation of powers, reducing poverty, etc. But more importantly we can identify the key problems with PF. People can also point to the poor coordination of policies and the need for greater cohesion between governance objectives and economic policies.

The biggest challenge of the current government is that it is not coherent - the many parts of government are not singing together. Mr Sata has excellent ideas but he has no grand strategist. Someone who thinks across his ideas and turns them into a cohesive plan from politics to economics to international relations. He needs  find a competent strategist who can ensure all of Government sings together. A Choir Master. A Grand Master Chef. A Policy Tsar. Whatever name you might use. Until that happens Mr Sata's vision will not be achieved. Economic progress will be made because the fundamentals will hold, but his vision will not be achieved to the limit. 

It is in those areas that Ms Siliya and her colleagues should focus. But I welcome her arrival in the writing sphere. One hopes there's more to come. We need more debate. Iron sharpens iron?

Question: Is PF failing or is it broadly on track?


  1. So how is life better now than it was under the MMD? It can only be better now if you are a Northerner. PF is a tribal regime. How many times between 2001 and 2011 did the MMD haul Sata and HH into police cells on various charges ranging from insulting the President, alarming the nation, addressing illegal meetings to murder? Now, it is the order of the day. The agriculture sector on which the majority of Zambians depend has been mismanaged by the PF. Staple food prices have tripled. We have gone from surplus to shortages. PF is an incompetent and sectional government. The man in State House is no leader. There's no vision.

    1. I think a possibility is left that the issue is up for debate. I believe the statement says: "On each of those questions a case can be reasonably be made that life is better today than under MMD".

      So I suppose it is question of reasonableness.

      The MMD did not start in 2001.

  2. I agree with you that things were not perfect under the MMD. Particularly under Chiluba I believe that Zambia lost an opportunity to develop. However, I felt that under the Banda administration, things were moving in the right direction. A lot of new business were setting up, conditions of our infrastructure were visibly improving, and the agricultural sector was more or less functioning well. Of course there were hundreds of other shortcomings, but let's just start there.

    But now, under the PF, we don't even really get to see the president. He hasn't shown his face for more than week now, and the last time he came out it was to shout and scream at foreign diplomats telling them not to speak to the opposition. Other times he has disappeared for weeks! As I recall, that was Sata's favourite activity as an opposition leader, to go speak with representatives of foreign governments. But today's opposition is not allowed similar freedoms. Meanwhile we have more and more people starving on the copperbelt, while the value of the Kwacha is in the toilet and private companies are being seized like its Zimbabwe circa 2001.

    I agree with you that the election of the PF as a general political event was good for Zambia, to break the monopoly stranglehold on the country by MMD. But their performance in government has little to show, and even worse, it seems that they are preparing measures to make sure that they don't let go of power ever again. Time will tell.

    1. Fr Tom,

      I think the jury is out on the Rupiah Banda regime. If Levy created a stable and progressive government, then we would have to regard the Banda administration as more or less retrogressive and one of squandered opportunities. I think it suffered from incumbency progress.

      The question of PF is an interesting one. The dangers you allude to are real and must be watched closely. However, there are also positive aspects for example the focus on social spending and continued progress on the constitution. The promotion of women in the structures of power also seems positive. We have to also remember that PF is operating from a reduced mandate. It is not a majority government. So much responsibility falls on the Opposition who at present have proved what we always suspected of MMD - only in it for the money. Levy and Rupiah where held to account by Sata. The question is who will hold the current government to account?

    2. Fr. Tom,

      I normally don’t respond to comments on the internet these days. But yours warrants a response. I was actually shocked that – someone who is close to the people like you are, is incapable to assess development or to point out at the development which is in favour of ordinary people – your congregants.

      Are you sure that the cumulative development by MMD in the last 20 years can be better than the one year of PF in government? You can’t be serious. Anyway, why don’t you give people 5 years to judge PF government and make up their mind? I stayed home half a year just before 2011 elections. I saw the behavior and the way MMD was ruling. Two things were starkly clear: 1) Banda’s MMD controlled ALL the state media and coerced the private media except The Post. Every single news item was singing praises on RB and sarcastically condemning or demonizing Michael Sata. Basically PF was shut out. Remember Hon Shikapwasha and Mumbi?

      2) Corruption was the order of the day. Government money was being distributed left and right – all with RB’s government approval. Kwaliba! People could submit several invoices for one government job even if it had not been done or order fulfilled. I remember one of my nephews asking me to prepare a fake K30 million consultancy job which we hadn’t done or competed for. But I refused on moral grounds. How can you run a government like that? Shame on you!

      I am not at home now, but I am told that PF has cleaned up and put a stop to that nonsense. Is that a bad thing? If true, this alone is enough to carry PF for another day. Look, during RB’s rule – he officially endorsed corruption. Also it is alleged that he expropriated billions of dollars towards himself or members of his family. Apparently he didn’t pay a damn whether public funds were looked after or not. His son Henry, we understand was the head of this scheme. Of course this would have to be proved in court. Unfortunately in Zambia no Head of State has been jailed on corruption or overthrown – so they keep on regarding Zambians as fools.

      Fr. Tom I don’t know how old you are. But I was a UNIP youth before and at independence when we were only 3.5 million people. Then, we cared for each other. We were all comrades facing White British exploiters. Today, Zambia has over 14 million people. Of those, only less than 3 million are living well. The rest are living under deplorable conditions in Shanties or rural areas. Is this what we envisaged or fought for? Absolutely not! It seems our own sons and daughters are the ones exploiting poor people.

      Kaela…… (cont.)

    3. ……(cont. from bove)
      So when PF is trying to bring us to some level of equality or normalcy – and you are screaming!! You are not a man of God. At least not one who speaks for the ordinary Mwanainchis. In short – let PF put a cramp down on corruption and let PF send a message that – all Zambians are born equal. No Zambian should be entitled to special privileges or to pocket billions of dollars when others can’t even afford a loaf of bread. Chakana!

      I believe in private property rights but not in excessive ownership. People say that Sata is jailing opposition leaders. These leaders could not be bothered with if: a) they accepted that PF is now government; b) if they obeyed laws of the land. You cannot with impunity break laws as a form to challenge a government. No where can this be tolerated. RB was even worse because not only could he not use instruments of power and law, but to intimidate Sata, he even resorted to sending thugs like William Banda to fix him (Sata). Is that a credible government?

      RB dispatched William Banda with thugs or party cadres to go and maime or even kill innocent opposition members. Basically permitting breaking of law. Yes, under PF government anyone who openly vows to break law be it HH or Nerves Mumba should be arrested. While in opposition, Sata did not send cadres to go and cause havoc, break law, or disobey Police.

      So you guys unless you think that ordinary Zambians will continue to be perpetually stupid – no matter how much you manipulate or restate your case, Sata or no Sata, corrupt MMD’s time is up. Whichever prism you use to denounce PF, in particular Sata – it will boomerang on you. The results of by-elections are the early symptoms to suggest that PF is not rejected by people. The confused N. Mumba doesn’t know what to do. Even HH has lost political balance. If he is smart he should listen to Chief Nalubamba of Namwala – whom I regard as a good presidential material.

      There, Fr. Tom and your pals – what do you say? Thx! Kaela (

  3. The answers are certainly obvious unless you are not in Zambia. The PF is an authoritarian and incompetent government whose only preoccupation is to strengthen its hold on power. RB's government had its shortcomings but they were a capable team.

    The incompetence of the PF is borne out by the various knee jerk decisions that have lead to policy inconsistency and uncertainty and the international business media are picking it up.

    In a nutshell we are certainly worse off with a clueless vigilante president in state house.

  4. Well Mr Mukanga whenever the opposition try to keep Sata in check they are arrested on flimsy charges...HH's was arrested for defamation for pointing out that the president was shielding Kabimba after the ACC spectacle; Nevers Mumba was arrested for visiting a chief on the copperbelt and the list goes on...Our dear leader on the other hand was permitted to freely traverse the country and mislead the masses with his simplistic and imaginary solutions when he was in opposition....the writing is on the wall, we are going in the wrong direction and opposing views are being to answer the question...yes PF is failing

  5. MMD certainly didn't start in 2001 and before 2001 Sata was a senior member of the party who did not leave on principle but because he was passed up for the top job...and he's record under MMD is not admirable either...he was not known for being a visionary or transformational figure other than being a hatchet man (thirs term, chawama etc)

  6. Zambia Economist whats your take on the latest jobs figures to come out of State House since PF came into power:
    Central Government 9,716;
    Local Government 5,257;
    private sector 24,098;
    5,510 jobs were actualised through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) 2011/2012 pledged investment
    5,858 new jobs have been approved for recruitment in the newly created districts.
    Parastatals 29,305
    ARTS - 116,000

    Are these figures credible/ verifiable without a breakdown of of where they were actually created i.e what projects?

    1. It is impossible to verify job creation figures until the Central Statistics Office produce the figures. These are just political statements. Only the statisticians can tell us how many new jobs have been created.


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