HH has a vision and a plan for Zambia: lock Zambia into the West and become its richest local puppet
By Azwell Banda,
I have heard a number of Zambians complain that Hakainde Hichilema has no vision for Zambia.
This sentiment has been expressed by individuals in opposition parties, civil society, intellectual and academic communities and of course from our religious organisations. The charge that Hichilema has no vision is also frequently accompanied by the accusation that the UPND in government has no plans about how to tackle Zambia’s many complex and deadly challenges and crises. These Zambians are all wrong.
Zambians who believe that Hakainde in government has no vision and plans are all wrong. Hakainde has a vision for Zambia and is ruthlessly pursuing this vision. He believes in his vision for Zambia and he has plans which he is currently ruthlessly implementing, to achieve his vision for Zambia. Hakainde Hichilema’s vision and overall plan for Zambia is to permanently lock Zambia into the US and its Western allies’ economic, political and military sphere of influence while he, Hakainde, becomes the richest Zambian puppet of the West.
To win elections, Hichilema played the populist card: he successfully demonised the Patriotic Front in government as being thoroughly incompetent, liars, thieves, and corrupt. Simultaneously, he lied and made false promises to the majority of poor Zambians that if elected he would lower the prices of paraffin, petrol, diesel, transport, electricity, rent, mealie meal, cooking oil, sugar, salt and many other basic goods and services; and the cost of doing business.
To sweeten his lies and false promises, Hakainde promised to radically improve the quality of our democracy, our government, and to fight corruption. Thus “clothed” in populist attire, Hakainde offered himself to the majority of hungry, unemployed and poor Zambians as Mr Fix It – a God sent man to fix all the problems which weighed down and oppressed the majority of Zambians. Consequently, he portrayed himself as a caring, humane and poor people loving possible president of Zambia.
Halfway through Hakainde’s only term of office, all sane Zambians now know who Hichilema truly is: a rich man ruthlessly determined to use government to further enrich himself and his friends, while simultaneously turning Zambia over to the US and the West, permanently. When these most obvious of facts about Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND choir are understood, it becomes child’s play to see Hakainde’s true “vision” and to unravel his real plans to achieve his vision of Zambia.
Hakainde Hichilema believes in primitive capitalism, a version of right-wing capitalism in which “survival of the fittest” is the rule, and not the exception. His chief ideologist, Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane, has persistently, consistently, patiently explained many times, using orthodox neo-liberalism, that the free and unhindered interplay of capitalist market forces and free trade will hence forth determine the prices of everything including mealie meal and therefore, human life in Zambia.
Without first offering Zambians the democratic opportunity to know, debate and adopt the measures Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND choir have agreed upon with the IMF in exchange for its balance of payment loan to Zambia and IMF support for Zambia’s debt restructuring, secretly, Hichilema and his friends in government have negotiated and agreed with the IMF that Zambia would adopt some of the most extreme neo-liberal austerity and national sovereignty eroding measures in return for the IMF USD 1.3 billion loan and IMF debt restructuring support. Central to these draconian austerity measures is removing government subsidies and therefore controls, on prices of most basic goods and services. This way, it is hoped, with deepened and improved tax collection measures, the Zambian government would be able to resume repaying its debt at the negotiated rates.
In opposition, especially before the 12th August 2021 elections, Hichilema and his very close friends in the UPND knew and understood that they were lying and making false promises to the majority of Zambians who are poor, precisely because they began negotiating how the UPND in government would manage Zambia’s debt with the IMF, the US and the West long before they were elected into government. This explains why now in government, Hichilema and his UPND choir cannot apologise to the Zambian poor masses for the lies and false promises they made them: doing so would unravel their political hold on government as it would also require that they own up and apologise that they wilfully and knowingly lied and made false promises to the majority of Zambians.
To succeed in their plans and vision for Zambia, Hichilema and his close friends have consciously decided to punish the majority of Zambians who are poor with the most severe IMF austerity measures and the erosion of our national economic, social and therefore political sovereignty. Only this way can Hichilema and his small band of friends become super rich while servicing Zambia’s debt. It is not surprising that the IMF is praising the UPND government for staying the course and fulfilling all the conditions, of the “debt restructuring”. The IMF even has the audacity, in the midst of Zambia’s cholera epidemic, an epidemic facilitated by the rapid impoverishment of millions of Zambians during the short reign of Hichilema, to paint a positive picture and brighter future, of Zambia’s economy!
Many Zambians now know and understand that Hichilema and his friends in government are promoting neo-colonialism and imperialist total take-over of our country and its economy. It is well established, and the UPND were warned, that IMF conditionalities perpetuate neo-colonial relationships between developed and developing nations. Once again, we Zambians are experiencing how the conditions imposed by the IMF serve the interests of powerful capitalist countries and multinational corporations at the expense of the economic sovereignty of poorer nations, while simultaneously indecently enriching a tiny national minority.
We have all seen how the IMF policies the UPND has adopted favour the interests of global capital and the UPND ruling elites, while all the time exacerbating existing social and economic inequalities and poverty. Today, once again, just as it was in the 1990s, the burden of the IMF austerity measures, privatisation, and all other conditionalities disproportionately fall on the working class and the poor, especially our rural poor. The ever-rising cost of living and doing business in Zambia since the UPND formed government are hurting the poor, as Hichilema and his friends become richer.
The IMF conditionalities for our debt restructuring are all further pushing Zambia deeper into economic dependency on the global capitalist system. Zambia is once more being forced to implement severe structural reforms, to liberalise and integrate into the global capitalist market. Locked and firmly imbedded in the US and its Western allies’ global capitalist system, Zambia cannot avoid nor escape external economic shocks and fluctuations in the global capitalist system. This accounts for why since the UPND took office, fuels and the Zambian kwacha are permanently wedded to global movements in the prices of commodities and global currencies.
We have since seen how the UPND neo-liberal and IMF policies are inevitably leading to the reduction of public spending in real terms on social services such as education, healthcare, and social welfare programmes. Among some of the net effects of all this is the ballooning to 2 million the number of acutely hungry Zambians and the growth of informal settlements in all our urban areas. This is what is fuelling the current nationwide cholera epidemic.
The IMF conditionalities encourage and promote policies that exploit labour by advocating for deregulation and flexibility in labour markets. This, combined with the deteriorating economic conditions in Zambia, is resulting in the further erosion of workers’ rights and job security. The UPND government has already announced it will facilitate the setting up of economic zones in which companies will enjoy flexible labour policy regimes, including lower wages for similar work outside these zones. With the heavy burden workers who have jobs carry of looking after their unemployed relatives, this simply increases the numbers of Zambia’s working poor people.
The rush to increase copper and other minerals production so that the UPND government can collect more taxes and thus service our debt is leading to a frenetic, chaotic and corrupt parcelling out of mining licences and government cheaply handing over mines to the “private sector”. It is impossible for Zambia to escape the inevitable environmental degradation as the UPND government pursues the conditions set by the IMF by prioritising “economic growth” over environmental sustainability and the general wellbeing of Zambians.
Currently we are experiencing the strange phenomenon where lower inflation is actually existing side by side with forever rising prices of commodes, a collapsing kwacha and very unstable prices of fuels. Hidden in everything Situmbeko Musokotwane says, the over financialisaton of the Zambian economy promotes speculative activities above real investments in factories and mines leading to the current volatile, unstable economic climate in Zambia – conditions which themselves then become obstacles to investments in the real economy, thus perpetuating our economic underdevelopment and instability.
Zambia today, because of the volatility in the value of the kwacha and the exchange rate, has severe vulnerabilities in its financial system capable of easily translating into social and political chaos, especially as the prices of basic goods and services become too expensive for the majority of Zambians. We have become a very unstable country since the UPND formed government.
And yet these IMF conditions favour Hichilema and his friends who are able to exploit the vulnerabilities and opportunities for themselves in our economy to reap millions in profits, as the majority of Zambians who are poor are left reeling from the ever-rising prices of essential goods and services. All these things are happening according to plans which the IMF keeps falsely claiming that they are “home grown”. The vision remains at the end for Hichilema to become the richest Zambian and therefore a well-paid puppet of the US and the West.
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