Neo Simutanyi recently said that Zambia is less democratic today than it has ever been over the last two decades : “We thought we were heading somewhere as a nation and boom! The PF arrived and took away everything we had built as a democratic state. The democratic space is shrinking by the day”. Simutanyi is urging opposition political parties, the civil society, the media and the church to join hands and defend the country’s democracy. Except Simuntanyi does not deal with the most important analytical question : Is Zambia less democratic under Sata today than it was was under Chiluba, Mwanawasa or Banda? Or is it the case that our democratic expectations are higher than before? I suspect its our expectations!
The Hight Court recently jailed former finance minister Katele Kalumba for 5 years on corruption offences. Kalumba has gone in alongside former permanent secretary Stella Chibanda, directors of the defunct access financial services Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe. The High Court upheld the five year jail term slapped on the four by the Lusaka magistrate court. There was much jubilation and shouts of justice is finally done. Only for Mr Katele and his friends to go on bail again pending appeal. The chances are that they will never spend more than a month in jail by the time the entire is done. The saying goes that jail in Zambia is only for the poor and the foolish.
Chinga Miyutu (Youth Deputy Minister) recently suggested that Zambia faces the risk of an Egypt style scenario if youth unemployment is not sorted out : “This is a country with a rapidly growing young population that if not well managed will end up with rampant unemployment and large pools of dissatisfied youths who are more susceptible to recruitment in crime and prostitution....This may lead to what we witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa where the Youth Bulge erupted in 2010 and 2011". That's quite a worrying diagnosis for a government minister. It is not the sort of thing one expects a minister to utter publicly. It sounds like these ministers need agreed "speaking lines".
One of the big beasts of MMD lost her seat recently. The Supreme Court nullified the election of Dora Siliya as Petauke Central Member of Parliament. This followed the appeal by loosing PF candidate in the 2011 polls Leonard Banda who petitioned the election of the former outspoken Education Minister citing irregularities and electoral malpractice. Siliya's loss of the seat means another by-election is on the horizon. She follows Maxwell Mwale among a growing list of ex-MMD parliamentarians. I had wrongly thought Dora had survived the High Court stage and the case had concluded. But clearly it hadn't. Presumably Siliya can't stand again based on the Electoral Act. One has to see the judgement.
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Chola Mukanga | Economist | Writer
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