In a year’s time Zambia will be celebrating its golden jubilee, the 50th independence anniversary and Government has chosen a mouthful of a theme for the occasion “commemorating God’s favor of Zambia’s 50 years of independence for continued peace, unity, democracy, patriotism and prosperity.”
Few Zambians will have reason to celebrate because their lot has never seen any major improvement. The majority citizens are still engaged in back breaking menial tasks that barely enable them eke a living.
The transition from independence into the first republic heralded major political change which for a while promised to create an environment of enlightened liberal politics, but this was quickly stifled by the introduction of a command economic system superintended over by an equally authoritarian one party system.
The collateral effect of this policy direction continues to send ripple effects into the social, economic and demographic structures of our country.
Millions of Zambians outside the formal economy have remained locked out from the tremendous social, economic and political progress made by those whose proximity to urban areas gave them an unfair advantage over access to resources.
In the second republic an attempt was made to leapfrog a sizeable proportion of the Zambian population into the property owning middle class.
This single gesture saw many Zambians take a stake in the economic and political future of the country. This was accompanied by a new self reliance psyche that informed a new approach towards property ownership and responsible citizenship.
Very little has happened since then to change the status quo dramatically. If anything fortunes have reversed as fewer jobs have been created in the formal sector and as more graduates leave from tertiary and vocational training institutions.
While sizeable macroeconomic growth has been registered, this has not impacted on the majority of citizens especially those living in rural areas where subsistence existence continues to be the norm than exception. Without extension and financial services per capita production has actually declined as the cost of inputs have continued to escalate beyond their means.
After 50 years of independence nothing has changed for most Zambians. They cannot even look forward to anything brighter as the future is equally bleak with no major political and economic initiatives that will propel the country into a future that is prosperous, modern, and affluent and indeed a future in which the full use of national resources will be made for the benefit of all.
While the Asian economic tigers that were no match for Zambia in the 50s have rolled past us, the gaps between us keep widening. If anything with each day our legacy for all the minerals extracted are the huge open pit mines and deep cavities from which resources have been extracted to the benefit of those beyond the shores of this continent.
For their resilience the peasant farmers must watch as huge farm blocks are opened to produce food for exports they must watch as new universities are opened, as more health centers are constructed and as brand new roads are constructed.
For them hard back breaking peasants work must continue, because there is no plan to bring them into the 21st century of higher productivity and therefore better returns from which they could make a more meaningful livelihood.
For them October 24 2014 will be just another day. For them the high sounding terms of peace, unity, democracy, patriotism and prosperity mean little. They would rather their lives were touched materially by a targeted and focused programme that helps increase their productivity while removing drudgery.