Poor Zambians are on their own: we have no government for poor Zambians!
By Azwell Banda,
There is something chillingly sadistic and particularly cruel about the president of any extremely hungry and poor country, in debt default, and now cholera infested among other disease epidemics, who takes a two-week festive holiday. The narcissistic sociopath malaise becomes even worse when such a president actually chooses to use his private holiday to parade before cameras his dubiously acquired wealth, to his hungry and extremely impoverished citizens. Pathologically, this president portrayed himself as a saviour to his hungry and impoverished citizens, in order to win elections. In government, he insults their hunger and poverty, and mocks them with his wealth. This is Hakainde Hichilema.
By October last year, it was very clear Zambia was headed for a torrid time with a possible massive cholera epidemic, when the rains would fall. By mid-December 2023, the cholera epidemic was full blown. And yet the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, went to his rural origins for his two-week festive holiday, to gloat over his farms, leaving the country to fend for itself, as cholera and several other disease epidemics exploded. There can be no greater proof that Hakainde Hichilema is not the President of the millions of poor Zambians, who are the majority in Zambia, who voted him into office than that he chooses to go on holiday, in Zambia, when poor Zambians are confronting a deadly cholera epidemic.
It is now very clear that the government of Hakainde Hichilema has deliberately minimised the actual size of the cholera epidemic to allow their President to enjoy his holidays on his farms, undisturbed. This fact is also confirmed by the absence of any urgent, emergency oriented, coherent, systematic government wide response to the ongoing deadly cholera epidemic. Apart from removing infected poor Zambians from their communities and dumping them in Heroes Stadium, weak announcements about government health workers being recalled from leave, and a raft of other equally incoherent and disjointed responses, the government of Hakainde Hichilema would rather have poor Zambians leave urban slums and run back to their villages, to avoid cholera.
Hakainde Hichilema lied to poor Zambians and promised them jobs, access to economic opportunities including in the mining sector, easy and cheap finance to start businesses, clean and safe water, cheap paraffin, petrol, diesel, transport, rent, decent houses, cheap mealie meal and many other similar things essential and necessary to eliminate our national poverty and therefore end cholera epidemics. Halfway through his only term in office, Hichilema goes on holidays on his rich farms, leaving dying poor Zambians to fend for themselves as cholera, the ultimate disease of poverty, kills them.
Clean and safe water, modern sanitation, affordable and decent housing, highest standards of private and public hygiene, available and affordable high quality and nutritious food, quality social amenities, modern transportation, accessible and affordable quality modern health services, highest quality education fit for the 4th Industrial Revolution powered by AI are all by-products of a nation fully employed and at work to develop and grow its economy and society. They are the foundations of a nation free from poverty diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, armyworms, anthrax, syphilis, gonorrhoea, chancroids, stomach ulcers, adult and child malnutrition and child stunting.
There is something tragically comical about UPND government Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo: halfway through the only term of office of the UPND government none of the fundamental crises in our public health sector have been resolved, let alone a foundation laid to resolve them. Chronic drugs and medical health supplies persist, throughout the country. Corruption and pilfering of drugs and medical supplies are endemic. Dilapidation and decay of public health infrastructure, especially in our poorer provinces and rural areas persist. Supply of substandard drugs persists. Significantly, by her own admission, chronic understaffing still haunts our public health system.
Confronted with a cholera pandemic which was long in the making, the most our drama queen Sylvia Masebo could do is throw her hands in the air and invite poor urban dwellers at risk of contracting cholera to return to their villages, completely oblivious of the fact that 60 years of independence may have produced thoroughly urbanised Zambians who do not identify with any village, especially in Lusaka. Masebo further undermines government statistics which record that 8 out of every 10 rural dwellers in Zambia are poor, cholera being a disease of poverty, anyone in any of our urban areas running to a village simply jumps from the proverbial pot into the fire!
Coldly, cynically and loving the public display of government authority, Hichilema’s Minister of Local Government Gary Nkombo has announced that government will halt activities likely to spread cholera, including by police arresting both vendors and people buying from streets in the Central Business District especially during evening hours. This nut-head of a minister acts as if he is not aware that more than 97 per cent of Zambia’s economy is informal, and stopping the spread of cholera must not kill people with hunger, especially those who survive on street vending. Not a whisper about any relief for lost livelihoods as government bans street vending, from Garry Nkombo. Hunger weakens immune systems, fast-tracking both the spread of, and deaths, from cholera.
Not to be outdone, Situmbeko Musokotwane, Hichilema’s Minister of Finance has announced that Zambians in rural areas are better off than those in town because they are not that affected by removal of subsidies from fuels, and, because they largely eat foods they themselves prepare, they are not so affected by the general escalating cost of living! Rural dwellers in Zambia now have no worries about school fees, their major financial burden, as far as Musokotwane is concerned. Like Masebo, Musokotwane is cynically “normalising” the 80 per cent rural poverty rate in Zambia! Situmbeko Musokotwane best epitomises the cold, calculating and extremely selfish neoliberal finance minister of a hungry and impoverished country. He even suggests that as the majority of Zambians actually live-in rural areas, things in Zambia are not that bad, as these Zambians in rural areas are not so affected by the price movements in the country.
Mutale Nalumango, Vice-President of the UPND government, a person who is responsible for disaster management in Zambia, is torn between accepting the most obvious fact: we have a developing and growing massive cholera epidemic cooked up by the UPND government because all its economic policies have worsened hunger, unemployment and poverty in Zambia – we now have two million Zambians suffering acute hunger every day – and deflecting attention to those who have died from cholera, and young men.
Coldly, moronically, Mutale Nalumango says most cholera deaths are BIDs (Brought In Dead) – people who are dead elsewhere and not in a healthy facility. Others die because they arrive at clinics and hospitals too late, when they are very ill. And, most tellingly, Mutale Nalumango is accusing young males of carelessly contracting cholera: “It has been established that it is more of the younger men that are being affected and I am disappointed with the young men. What is happening? You have heard there is cholera, how can you continuously contract it,” News Diggers has faithfully quoted Nalumango as saying.
Nalumango is pretending she does not know our male patriarchal system, our massive youth unemployment, and the poverty which reduces young male Zambians to be high-risk takers, such as those who perished in the Senseli Mine disaster. Would she also argue that young males are careless for working in dangerous mine dumps? A vice-president of a hungry impoverished country with massive youth unemployment would be very circumspect, before attacking any cohort of youths, for being too exposed to a deadly disease of poverty.
It is of course Hakainde Hichilema who tops this band of cabinet ministers who are government misfits in a country in which the majority who elected them are hungry, unemployed, poor and suffer extreme inequalities. Hichilema tops the insane behaviour: he goes on Christmas and New Year holidays during a cholera epidemic, knowing full well the epidemic would explode exponentially as the increase in rains soak up the faeces saturated soils and uncollected waste, and drain into shallow water wells. He then parades his farm wealth publicly, in the midst of historic massive hunger caused by his reckless policy of opening untaxed maize exports and inept, corrupt and chaotic handling of the government farmer support programme. He “cuts short” his holidays so that this could be the “news”, rather than the historic explosive deadly cholera epidemic he has fermented.
All selfish capitalist governments of the rich hate the working class and the rural poor. They look down upon them as costs, parasites, lazy, unthinking, dependent, and without initiative and fit only to be exploited and abused, by the rich. But at least most such governments mask this hatred through nice sounding and politically correct phrases and behaviour. Hichilema and his UPND government openly attack the Zambian working class and the rural poor for being poor: they freely and frequently ridicule them, and mock them, at every possible turn. And yet it was these poor Zambian masses who elected the UPND and Hichilema into government as they lied to them and falsely promised they would wipe out mass poverty, the source of all our diseases of poverty including cholera.
Today, the UPND are busy consolidating their foreign master’s economic dominance in Zambia as they themselves become richer. They used the poor masses of Zambia to win elections. They are running a government for the rich only. Hichilema and the UPND are mocking and laughing at the poor masses of Zambia, every day. Poor Zambians are on their own; they elected a government which never had any interest in tackling their problems: we have a government in Zambia for the rich. The poor must take back their government, from the UPND, or continue to perish from poverty!
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