Sunday, February 28, 2021

The politics of poverty in Zambia (2009)

From the February 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

The sudden collapse of copper prices and the consequent depreciation of the Zambian currency, the kwacha, has meant that the election promises made by the newly-elected MMD President of Zambia, Rupiah Banda, won’t be achieved in the space of three years before the 2011 general election.

The recent increase in meali meal prices from K56,000 to K75,000 per breakfast bag (25kg) led to riots in Kitwe.

  President Banda seems to be a man devoid of pragmatic ideas and that can be instanced when he appointed the discredited veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga as parliamentary chief whip. Indeed, Mwaanga and Banda were early groomed by the first President Kenneth Kaunda. Mwaanga had served in every administration ever since 1964. He was only dismissed by the last President Mwanawasa in 2007. Mwaanga is a wealthy and respected Tougha tribesman.

  Most people in Zambia feel that Banda has brought UNIP back into power—Banda was a staunch UNIP politician (foreign minister in 1972) and was living in retirement ever since the exit of the UNIP government in 1991. he only came into active politics in 2006 when the late Mwanawasu appointed him as vice-president.

  Unexpected was the dismissal of the versatile finance minister Nyanda Magande together with the outspoken female minister of local government, Silver Masebo. Indeed, the reconstituted cabinet is a pale-faced assemblage of yes men.

  The MMD government has lost touch with the vast majority of Zambian workers and it seems that Rupiah Banda’s government will be subjected to unexpected economic crises that will jeopardise his chances of winning the 2011 general election.

  But what many workers and students in Lusaka and the copper belt mining towns do not understand is the fact that the current economic and social problems confronting them cannot be resolved by the opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata. There isn’t any political difference between the ruling MMD and PF. Both Banda and Sata are old and tired wealthy politicians seduced by political and economic privileges. The sudden collapse of copper prices has led to widespread job losses (redundancies) in the mining sector. It is just in such unforeseen economic misfortunes that many irate workers think that the PF leader can create economic wonders. Economic liberalisation entails free market economy in which demand and supply comes to determine commodity prices. The government of the day cannot impose itself upon the market to fix a minimum price. That is why the increase in meali meal prices cannot be restrained by the MMD government.

  In 1991, Western-sponsored economic growth programmes impact negatively upon the ordinary Zambian workers and peasants—economic growth in Zambia is enjoyed by the foreign industrial elites (through tax exemptions).

  Gross inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth mark the political, racial, ethnic and religious frustrations taking place in many countries in Africa today. The only way-out is a classless, stateless and moneyless society—socialism.
Kephas Mulenga

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