The manifesto of the Socialist Party will be launched on 17th of June, 2020. No doubt, this is the document that many people across the country are eagerly waiting for. It is a crucial document that engenders the transformative process towards a Socialist Zambia. It is the first of its kind. It articulates the value system that at one time Zambians hoped to create for themselves, the values of equity, non-violence, a sense of justice and national unity. Under capitalism, these have become a distant vision. Instead, Zambia has become a shameful example of how neoliberal capitalism is producing and reproducing itself under conditions of extreme injustice, inequity and state sponsored violence. It is our collective duty to remedy this situation. Dr Fred M’membe rightly noted that the choice ahead for mankind is either socialism or barbarism. Let us give socialism our best effort.
After arrogantly failing to listen to the free advice of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and many others, including ourselves, to rationalise its borrowings and infrastructure projects, today this government has turned to Lazard, to lizards to advise on restructuring its $11bn foreign debts that have threatened to become Africa’s first sovereign default during the coronavirus pandemic.
The investment bank was hired on a $5m contract to advise on “liability management” of the country’s debt.
Zambia is facing $1.5bn of debt payments this year, more than its official international reserves as of January. Fitch Ratings cut Zambia’s credit rating to double C in April and said that default was “probable”.
Clearly, this government is in very serious trouble. It has failed to manage its debt. It has borrowed beyond what it can manage.
They are now looking for a scapegoat in Lazard. Tomorrow they will say, ‘We were advised by most competent institution.’
But we all know the right thing to do; we all knew they could not sustain the debt this government was accumulating from the most expensive sources. We are now looking for some institution to tell us what to do – at a fee of $ 5 million – even though they know already what is required.
Going to seek advise from Lazard, from lizards is also an indication that they consider our institutions – our Ministry of Finance, our central bank, our Ministry of National Planning, our legal ministry – not competent enough to provide correct advice. It is a vote of no confidence in those managing these institutions. This is an admission that as a political party, as a government they are not competent enough to manage our country’s economy.
Are they telling us that all our institutions – universities, research institutions, professional firms – are not competent enough to help manage this debt?
But how different is Lazard’s advice going to be from what has already been given locally and internationally? Even the institutions that we already know their purpose is to serve the interests of the powerful nations that dominate them – the IMF and the World Bank – gave them advise, right or wrong, but they overlooked it.
So now that they are in deep trouble they want to look for messiah, a saviour in Lazard! This government is going to pay Lazard $ 5 million to tell them what they already know!
This is what happens when leaders stop listening to advice and only listen to their own inner demons. They used to arrogantly brag that their government will not stop borrowing! Can they say that today?
We are reminded in Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Issued by Fred M’membe on behalf of the Politburo of the Socialist Party
Garden Compound, Lusaka
Today, Zambia faces a huge challenge as there is a glaring shortage of health workers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our country lacks close to 15,000 to 16,000 health workers for a normal work routine. Given these shortages of so many health workers, today’s deepening crisis in the era of Covid demands more work on the few available health workers.
Over 70 to 80 percent of all the health workers in Zambia are in the public sphere. As such, it is the public sector that should be taking a lead in terms of the employment of health workers. Yet, over the years, the country has not recruited enough health workers. Each year, this country is producing close to 4,000 health workers, and recruitment is around 2,000 to 2,500. The attrition rate is around 2000 to 3000 workers.
Our health workers are the soldiers that we are sending into battle to help us fight the virus. Instead, what we have seen is a leadership that has failed to act timeously, and wasted public resources on unnecessary purchases. What we should have instead seen is a leadership that is more committed to addressing the COVID-19 crisis through channeling efforts to staff recruitment through the Ministry of Health. Recent pronouncements for the Ministry of Health reveal promises to increase the recruitment of more health workers. However, the Socialist Party’s findings in most of the districts across the country show that no new health workers have joined the work force.
As a result of this lack of priority and incompetence from our government, we are today faced with a crisis of inadequate health workers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Zambia is yet to reach the peak of the crisis. The growing number that we are seeing today is just the beginning of a far much deeper crisis ahead. Our levels of preparedness to handle a far much larger crisis is very low. With these few numbers of health workers we have today, what should we do? We have armies of trained young people that are not on the payroll. What should we do? Where are we channeling the health resources? We need answers!
On this day, May 25, every year, the continent celebrates Africa Day.
But like many other such days, the point and history of the Africa Day celebration seems lost on many. Its origins can be traced back to April 15, 1958 – when the first Conference of Independent African States brought the fathers of Africa’s liberation movements together. At the time, there were few independent African states, but the few leaders in attendance – from Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Liberia and others – were there as a collective platform to reject colonialism.
That meeting sowed the seeds of what would become the Organization of African Unity (OAU), later in 2001 renamed the African Union (AU), launched on May 25, 1963 by 32 free nations. Every year since, Africa Day has been celebrated on May 25.
As we celebrate Africa Day we should get back to the original message behind this day and figure out what it means today.
African unity is still a relevant and honourable goal, but making it practical means struggling against the things that divide us, weaken us.
If we truly cherish Africa’s freedom and unity, it’s impossible to accept a world order which is the full embodiment of the principles and objectives of a system that for centuries colonised, enslaved, looted our peoples and divided them.
As we celebrate Africa Day, let’s not forget that the AU, our people’s organisation that has put up the strongest fight, provided most support and resolutely defended the interests, the just causes and the struggles for national liberation in Africa has not yet seen the last of itself; it will never do.
If Africa’s freedom has to be meaningful, the United Nations must be reformed and democratised. The Security Council’s dictatorship must cease. The General Assembly’s rights should be acknowledged as it represents every state in the world. The Council should be expanded according to the UN present membership.
Likewise, the International Monetary Fund must be transformed and democratised. It should no longer be a worldwide political destabilising factor and a financial policeman for the interests of the powerful. No one should have the right to veto its decisions. Such principle should also be applied to the World Bank.
The World Trade Organization, should not through division and deceit, be an instrument of the cruel neo-liberal globalisation imposed on the world.
The acclaimed free movement of capital and commodities must also apply to that which must stand above all else: the human being. The persecution of immigrants must cease. Xenophobia must end, not solidarity.
Neo-liberal globalisation is rapidly destroying nature, poisoning the air and the waters, killing the forests, causing soil desertification and erosion, depleting and wasting the natural resources, changing the climate.
Development assistance is constantly reduced. It never reached the projected 0.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and, as an average, it has decreased to 0.25 per cent; 0.2 per cent in the richest country. They want to turn us into an immense free zone with cheap labour force and not even taxes to pay.
No hopes for the children, the elders and the sick. And if the population of Africa perishes of AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, coronavirus and tens of old and new diseases that is of no concern to the trans-national corporations and the blind market laws; what counts is the extraction of oil, gold, diamonds, platinum, copper, chrome, uranium and other valuable resources.
The economic blockades against the countries must cease. Depriving millions of people, including women, children and elders of food, medicine and the means to make a living is an extremely cruel act of terrorism, a real genocide.
And on this day, we cannot forget our Palestinian brothers and sisters and their struggles. The abuses and displacement of the downtrodden Palestinian people must cease. Peace should be given a chance.
The double standard and the double moral in international affairs must cease.
Hunger and poverty must be completely eradicated. The lack of teachers and schools, doctors and hospitals must cease.
The endless plundering caused by the foreign debt, which grows more with every payment thus preventing our development, should also cease.
Unequal exchange, as practiced by the conquerors with the natives purchasing gold with mirrors, marbles and European trinkets, must cease.
The debt accumulated by those who exploited us for so many centuries must be paid back.
The policy of luring our peoples to pursue the unsustainable life style of the consumer societies must cease.
The destruction of our national identities and our cultures must cease.
Many things must cease to exist but first disunity amongst ourselves must end as well as the ethnic conflicts between our peoples which should rather struggle for their development and their right to survive and to take the place they deserve in tomorrow’s world.
As Kwame Nkrumah wished and struggled for, one day we will not be separated by our ethnic origins, nor by national chauvinism or borders, rivers or and distances. We shall be, above all else, peoples that will unavoidably live in a globalised world, but a truly just, fraternal and peaceful world. That day will not come on its own, we must earn it by struggling.
Issued by Fred M’membe on behalf of the Politburo of the Socialist Party
Garden Compound, Lusaka
Things are changing ceaselessly. As we witness the daily rise in the coronavirus cases recorded in the country, we must begin to acknowledge that the pandemic has and will magnify the structural dilemma our country is faced with.
But we must be reminded, that even though the pandemic may worsen these problems – it did not create or cause them.
The current government of our country has had no strategic plan to combat the pandemic. Their response to the pandemic has been poorly coordinated.
Necessary measures like closing borders, the provision of PPE for our health workers, confining citizens and reaching out to countries that have dealt with the pandemic better such as China and Cuba have not been prioritized.
Instead, the pandemic has not been taken seriously – gyms, casinos, restaurants, golf clubs have been reopened whilst our daily number of recorded cases is on the increase.
But at the center of this, our health workers are doing a tremendous job in the most difficult of circumstances.
They are being placed in the front line of this battlefield to provide a service to the community, yet they are not well protected, yet they are not well remunerated and yet they are not even well appreciated. They are risking their own lives and the lives and wellbeing of their own children to save us. We must protect them, remunerate them well and appreciate them.
And we must tackle this pandemic with the seriousness, tenacity it deserves. Our peoples lives are at stake.
It is also clear that the reality that this pandemic will leave our already limping economy in shambles has already dawned on our people – from street vendors to people who run their own small businesses to employees of big companies – they are all already feeling the pinch of it.
And this has been confirmed by projections that the Zambian economy for the first time in over 20 years, will experience negative growth this year, as it will shrink by at least 2.6 per cent.
We are already beginning to see many lose their jobs. This will increase with the prolonged pandemic, but again, we must not believe that this is a result of the pandemic alone. A stronger economic performance, prior to the pandemic, would have minimized job losses and forced pay cuts.
We have time and time again warned this government about the careless contraction of unsustainable debt – but we have not seen things change. Last year, our debt to GDP ratio increased from 35 per cent in 2014 to about 80 per cent in 2019. It was clear prior to the pandemic that servicing this debt will prove difficult for this country. But today, the government will blame the projected defaulting on loan obligations on this pandemic.
We must also remember that the failure to improve the standard of living of our people prior to this pandemic has endangered many lives. With over 60 per cent of our population living below the poverty line, over 350,000 people not having access to regular food supply, and an astonishingly high proportion of our fellow citizens in Kwa and villages not having access to clean running water.
Our people need a leadership that acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic, has revealed to us, that poor leadership and continued reliance on the “each one for himself” way of life propagated cannot bring solutions for our people.
We must face the reality that pandemics will increase in the years to come, due to over population in many parts of the world, reduced animal habitat increasing the spread of animal diseases in humans, the increase in mega cities and the increased global and local movement of people.
We therefore, cannot continue not to prioritize our economic, health, social and environmental preparedness for these occurrences.
And based on the global and local response to this and past pandemics, it is evident that only socialist oriented solutions can be applied. All the countries are, to varying degrees, applying socialist solutions to try and deal with this virus.
We must therefore ask ourselves: why is it that when there is a crisis socialism comes in? Why not have socialism permanently? Why not all the time or permanently guarantee and provide all our people with free quality health care, decent housing and sanitation, free quality education, food and all the basic necessities for one to live a dignified life?
What has been exposed through the response of all the political representatives of capitalism is that workers and the poor cannot defend their conditions, their rights and now their very lives, through these organisations and under capitalism.
The coronavirus pandemic has expanded the spectrum of imaginable futures and political possibilities. And some of those possibilities have been a sight for sore socialists’ eyes. The virus has validated the core socialist tenet that we are all dependent on each other. When one nation lacks the public-health infrastructure necessary to contain an infectious disease, the public health of all nations is undermined. If thousands or millions of Zambians cannot afford to stay home from work or access health care when they are ill, the well-being of all Zambians is jeopardized.
The experience of the past months has presented the real face of capitalism – a system that constitutes the greatest threat to mankind. Workers, the poor, young people and professionals must fight for a socialist perspective, the only means by which we can make progress.
Without a huge scientific advance soon, the reality of us spending five or more years with high death rates and anemic economies is almost certain.
The coronavirus is indeed a likely major hinge point, but it is only an accidental vehicle to reveal more sharply all the internal contradictions of capitalism and the underlying character of its failed democracy.
It fully reveals its ineptitude, blind allegiance to survival of the fittest herd immunity ideology, hatred for the poor and old, gleeful thoughts of having created a new way to achieve permanent daily death and destruction benefits of traditional war that capitalism is so addicted to. The dangers are real. We now have the chance to choose: barbarism or socialism.
This requires the building of a new socialist awareness and leadership among all our people.
I urge you to join our party, the Socialist Party today.
Statement of the Politburo of the Socialist Party issued by Fred M’membe