HIGH COST OF LIVING IS HURTING, IT’S A TIME BOMB
Today, I want to share my deepest thoughts and feelings about the sad reality of the hunger, poverty and despair that is prevailing in our homeland, among our people currently.
I want to candidly and fairly convey my true feelings and experiences about the situation we are faced with, not as a politician but as a leader and parent, who is also raising a family in the midst of the high cost of living we are experiencing as a nation.
Certainly, the rising cost of living is hurting and there don’t seem to be quick political fixes our people were promised. No one today is saying “Bally will fix it” – not even Bally himself. This is worrying.
With the rising cost of living, our people are feeling the pressure financially, psychologically and otherwise. Words fail me to best describe the level of grief, sadness, anger and hunger I have come into contact with during my visits to several and different households and communities across the country – both in urban centers like Lusaka and the Copperbelt, and rural areas like Chinsali, where I am a traditional leader.
In my trips to these communities, the sadness, brokenness and desperation, which the rise in cost of living has brought to our people is heartbreaking and painful. We have witnessed unprecedented levels of hunger, poverty and despair amongst citizens, which is difficult to comprehend and later on articulate in a way that best reflects what is currently happening in our nation.
It is a fact that the rising cost of living is more than an economic squeeze: it is a public health emergency, potentially on a par with the pandemic. Not being able to afford the essentials, such as food, rent, electricity or transport, has wide-ranging negative impacts on mental and physical health and well-being.
Families are in distress. Basic daily feeding has become a very big challenge. Our mothers, our wives, our aunties, our sisters are failing to sleep. Blood pressures are rising exponentially with the rise in the cost of living. Far too many people in the country today can barely afford a meal or two in a day. We have seen how some households have devised a system to ensure that at least everybody eats something to keep them going. And this system involves members of the household to alternate between meals; where one group eats lunch and leaves dinner for the other group that skipped lunch to eat as well.
This may sound weird and baffling but that is the reality. It’s happening in many households. Families are stressed and are breaking as providers battle to deal with the mental trauma of losing a livelihood and the inability to cope with the situation and fend for their families. Definitely, there is a silent but tragic story unfolding in our country today and politicians should urgently protect the most vulnerable, those in distress.
These problems cannot be left to our pastors, reverends, priests and other religious leaders when even the Sunday church offerings are declining because congregants have nothing or have very little to put in the basket. This is the first experience of such sharp and sustained cost of living increases since the 1980s. But unions were stronger and pay agreements were very different then.
While prices are increasing everyday our earning power has been stuck in a rut. The cost of living has increased steadily and relentlessly over the past two years. But our political system means politicians’ promises to tackle it have been largely futile.
It will get worse. This gnaws away at a person’s dignity.
An experience typically reserved for the poor is now afflicting middle classes and they aren’t happy. It is spilling over to our politics and there’s panic in the political leadership of our country. They are scared about how the people will react to all this. They don’t want anyone to talk about it – hence the attempt to silence key opposition leaders and critics. They are scared that talking about these issues may spark protests, hence the attempt to silence, intimidate the opposition with charges of treason, espionage and so on and so forth.
But this will not work. They can silence a few timid politicians, hire some spineless, hungry and greed opposition politicians to speak for them, but it won’t help them much. They can’t silence the hungry masses of our people because if there’s no one to speak for them – because their authentic representatives have been silenced – they will eventually start to directly speak for themselves. And their language will be very clear to be ignored!
This uncontrolled daily increase in the cost of living is a time bomb! Therefore, arresting us on trumped up treason or espionage charges won’t do – it will be an exercise in futility which is bound to backfire. And without us the explosion of this time bomb may be uncontrollable.
We socialists are patriots. With or without us we would like to see Mr Hakainde Hichilema and his league succeed in addressing these very distressing challenges facing our people and our homeland. We don’t want to defeat them on the back of national failure. There will be enough reasons to seek their removal on August 13, 2026. Baleya!
President of the Socialist Party