Eradicating poverty

The delay in enacting a new constitution is seriously impeding a policy paradigm shift that would have placed the people before political leaders.

Until now development plans have been the function of political leaders who determine the nature and manner in which the development agenda will be implemented. They decided the quantum of resources applied and the nature of development that the people will receive.

The current constitution, a carryover from independence, was not designed to make Government directly accountable and answerable to the people of Zambia. The result is that successive leaders and Governments have been insular, unconnected and at worst condescending.

Development has been associated with benevolence rather than compulsion by law or indeed by very clearly defined development goals, such as the Millennium Development goals to which the country has subscribed.

This is bound to change drastically in a constitution with justiciable rights meaning that the people will expect delivery and failure will be easily determined against set goals, unlike the current situation where development is at the behest of the leaders, who often decided without consulting the electorate

The constitution we acquired at independence was designed to free the country from the yoke of colonialism. It was not meant to address the various challenges of economic, social and political dynamics that the new country was acquiring.

The disparity between the white settler community and the natives was among the characteristics of society that emerged at independence. Over the 50 years of independence a few Zambians have climbed on the social bean stalk, moving residence from Matero to Kabulonga, but the status of the majority of the people has worsened.

Instead of improving the situation has deteriorated with independence. Whereas the compound represented the lowest accommodation for the natives, the poorest of the poor now live in unplanned settlements that lack even the most basic of amenities.

Successive Governments have failed to prioritize social service delivery. Fortunately Zambians unlike their South African counterparts do not hold Government accountable.

While mansions and modern shopping mall service the needs of the wealthier members of Zambian society the poor get even poor.  Poverty has become more entrenched and the results obvious. The social cash transfer programme is nothing more than a gimmick of totally inconsequential character.

The result is that poverty has deepened. There are now more poor people than there were at independence and chances of the poor scaling the divide remain extremely slim because wealth remains unevenly divided and will remain so for a very long time to come. That is unless we shift the paradigm.

This country has enough resources for all, sadly due to political influence these resources are not evenly divided a malady that could be addressed by shifting the centre of gravity from Lusaka to the community.

At the heart of all development is accountability that is lacking and will continue to lack for as long we use a constitution that is totally insensitive to the needs of the majority of the people.

That is why Zambia needs a post independence constitution that speaks to the needs and concerns of modern society by making leadership a service than a feudal enclave.