A broad and mass-based struggle for Justice, Equity and Peace in Zambia is urgently needed!
Zambia stands on the edge of a calamity of alarming proportions. Eighteen years from now, we will have a population of 28 million; i.e. 11 million more people compared to today. Some 33 years from now, we will have 24 million more people to take care of. The greatest majority (over 60%) of this fast-growing population will be below 24 years old. A growing and youthful population will therefore continue to come of age in a time with no, or minimal job and housing prospects; an absence of social services like health, let alone recreation and limited opportunity to better educate itself and gain new skills.
Worse, this young populace’s heritage is being literally pulled out from under its feet as land, and other resources are being closed off to it by a political class that serves as a middle broker to capital interests, rather than as a custodian of the country’s wealth. Not able to deliver to an increasingly unhappy population, this political group now seeks to co-opt the country’s youth into unproductive factional fights that do nothing to better their lives. Rather, this greedy, corrupt and predatory petty bourgeois leadership of the past 26 years has driven the country, and its youth, along a dangerous path.
The value systems that at one-time Zambians hoped to create for their country, those of equity, non-violence, a sense of justice and national unity are becoming a distant vision. Instead, today Zambia has become a shameful example of how unbridled periphery capitalism is creating and reproducing itself under conditions of extreme injustice, inequity and state sponsored violence. If nothing is done to address this, a total collapse of the social, political, cultural and economic life of Zambia as we know it, or might have hoped it to be, is imminent.
What might this collapse look like? Very much like the conditions that many now live under, but magnified. A socially fragmented, politically disenfranchised, extremely poor populace that would have been dispossessed from its land, resources and heritage – and at war with each other!
It is our responsibility to stop this decay. Not just to stop it, but to rebuild a vision of what this country hoped to be. Zambia, is meant to be a peaceful nation. It is meant to be a country where respect for dignity and quality of life is paramount. A country where all have a responsibility in ensuring that dignity is achieved. A politics of greed will not achieve this. A politics of unaccountability will not bring justice for those who have been denied their dignity.
What this means, is that there is a need to stop making excuses for a selfish elite. To stop waiting for an inept and disconnected political elite to deliver. Calamity will not affect the corrupt elite that have led Zambia to this precipice. The recent history of many African countries shows that when trouble coming knocking, the elite quietly disappear to the overseas safe-havens where the stolen loot from the taxpayers as been stashed. The ensuing mayhem and tragedies are left to the poor and marginalised masses to face. Zambia’s elites are not exempt from this – they make their own escape plans.
As such, the solution can no longer lie in the rhetoric and power struggles of the political elite. It lies in the court ofthe Zambia’s masses – its workers, the unemployed, peasants, women, youth, students and all other marginalised groups. They hold the key for a better and humane Zambian society. It is this group that will prevent the calamity from happening.
A broad and mass-based struggle for Justice, Equity and Peace (JEP) in Zambia is urgent! It is necessary if the little of what remains of mother Zambia has to be saved. It is on this impetus that we can begin to rebuild our country. The key to stopping the greed, corruption, and cruelty of the ruling class lies in the organised collective actions, and self-reliance of the masses. JEP in Zambia is a solidarity movement for change, and building the scaffolding for the Zambia we want.
Zambia’s rule of law has completely broken down. Today, the Zambian masses do not have inalienable rights and liberties worth talking about. The ruling elite continues to impinge upon and violate the rights of freedom of association, property rights – in particular those of the rural and urban poor, the right to free expression, equality before the law, due process, and protection for all against discrimination. Irrationality and unfairness in the decision-making processes have become the norm. A regime of arbitrariness has taken root, with acts or omissions dependent on the impulses of the sitting President and his ruling political party.
To top it, Zambia’s judiciary has been compromised. It is neither independent, nor competent. There is also absence of control devices, procedural guarantees and equality of treatment before the law, nor the existence of legal barriers against political interference. A chaotic situation exists that is purposely designed to suit the interests of a parasitic, capitalist ruling elite.
The lack of the rule of law is destroying the social and moral fabric of Zambian society. Subjected to gross human rights violations and impunity, the Zambian masses are increasingly questing the credibility and legitimacy of state authority. In the absence of state moral credibility, Zambians are creating their own moral frameworks, which inevitably compete. Such a development cannot establish and secure peace.
The continued and perpetual of discrimination against women and other marginalised groups; and the lack of adequate access to the criminal justice system for the large youthful population, coupled with the general dissatisfaction of the masses with the governance of the country are all adding up to the dangerous and ever-present possibility of public unrest. To ensure peace, there is need for a fair and robust justice system. This is what builds societal trust, and in turn a nation.
Zambia belongs to all its citizens. The fair treatment of each citizen is a MUST if distributive justice is to be actualised into national consciousness. As things stand today, the Zambian masses are denied a dignified life. Headcount poverty is as high as 82.2% in Western Province, 81.1% in Luapula, 79.7% in Northern, 70% in Eastern, 69.3% in Muchinga and 66.4% in North Western. Overall, 76.6% of our people in the rural areas live miserable poverty-stricken lives. This is 53 years after attainment of political independence!
Equal life chances: In any compassionate society, there should be no differences in outcomes based on factors for which people cannot be held responsible. Zambia has one of the worst situations globally. The gap between the rich and poor is a wide glaring gap. Alone between 2010 and 2015, the Gini Coefficient increased from 0.65 to 0.69. This is a very high incidence of income inequality. It is volatile and dangerous for national development.
Equal concern for people’s needs: Goods and services such as health, education, housing, transportation and physical security are necessities. Most, such as health, education and physical security should be public goods, and others at least should be distributed according to the level of need – in order to ensure access for all. Zambian society is far-distanced from this requirement. The rich have ‘first world standard’goods and services whereas the poor masses access poor quality services or none at all – there should be no such gap.
Meritocracy: Appointments to roles and positions in society, as well as rewards no longer reflect effort, abilityor fair competition. Patronage, corruption and power politics are the determining factors.
Similarly, interaction with key public institutions favours the elite. This leads to the social exclusion of the majority of the Zambian masses. Overtime, inequality reinforces itself through intergenerational transmission. This manifests in wider gaps of inequality between groups and geographical regions, with chronic poverty passed on from generation to generation.
At the core of Zambia’s inequities is lack of political will. Tackling inequities would require working against the interests of national elites; challenging vested interests or dominant ideologies, andspeaking for people who are excluded and systematically ignored by those making policy. As a result, the biggest challenge to promoting equity in Zambia is the need to change the present structure and form of the country’s political economy. This requires strengthening political movements and coalitions; challenging the prevailing beliefs and misconceptions around equityand encouraging representative public debate on the practical issues of distributive justice. This is a task the marginalised people of Zambia must undertake themselves.
In recent times, Zambia has experienced a heightening in the frequency and intensity of political violence. Much of this violence has been perpetrated against those
expressing views contrary to those held by the Patriotic Front party government. Those perceived to be opponents of the ruling party are attacked, assaulted and their meetings disrupted while a compromised police force looks on – implicitly sanctioning the violence.
Perpetrators of violence openly carry weapons in the presence of the police. Their intent to harm their opponents, openly expressed. The government’s reaction when not blaming the victims for the violence that befalls them, has been to disclaim any responsibility for the actions being perpetrated by its vigilantes. What the country is witnessing, is a tacit militarisation of political activity.
Tyranny in effect has been allowed to take root, depriving people the capacity to resist bad governance because of the pervasive atmosphere of fear and insecurity. Zambians with dissenting views are now terrorised by repeated arrests, police harassment and unwarranted prosecutions. Beyond the intimidation, this atmosphere is inducing a repressive atmosphere where Zambians are failing to stand up and are self-censoring their critical views for fear of risking their lives, their liberty and livelihoods. The mood created amongst the masses is one supportive of cautiousness so as not to risk their lives or liberty. This is, in turn, resulting in an attitude of resignation, submissiveness and timidity.
Failure to call out and act against violence just accumulates the growing frustrations within the society, and risks tipping the country towards uncontainable upheaval. Getting together and confronting the issues facing the society, and taking a critical stance will not only improve the quality of the democracy the country sought, it will also prevent the hijacking of this discontent by less benevolent forces. Organising for liberty, and protesting against repression are necessary to guarantee a peaceful Zambia.
A Call to Action
Zambians have prided themselves for being peaceful; valuing egalitarianism and promoting justice – these values have been severely eroded. Soon there will be nothing to be proud of, unless the Zambian masses save themselves from calamity and total ruin.
The time to act is now. A mass movement anchored in a broad coalition fighting for Justice, Equity and Peace (JEP) in Zambia is needed.
This is a call to action to all patriots, students, youth, women, peasants, workers and all those who love Zambia. Zambia needs your intervention. The era of the greedy political elite must be brought to an end. It is the time for the Zambian masses to save their country and in turn live within, and leave a heritage they can be proud of.
Our Demands and Rallying Points
1. A stable macro-economic environment that does not impose huge costs on the livelihoods of workers, peasants, students and the poor.
2. A land and agrarian reform programme that increases peasant farmer productivity and stops the disposition of the poor masses by the rich elite and foreign multinational corporations.
3. Access to public funded early childhood education, basic, secondary and tertiary education to all Zambians.
4. Universal access to quality health care, decent housing, clean water and appropriate sanitation for all Zambian.
5. An end to all forms of abuse and discrimination against women and other marginalized groups.
6. Guaranteeing the right to free expression, equality before the law, due process and protection for all Zambians.
7. Zero tolerance against corruption.
8. An end to state sponsored and all forms of violence in our homeland.