Socialist Party 2021 presidential candidate Dr Fred M’membe recently spoke to Prime TV about the growing inequalities, failing agricultural policies, family values corruption, endemic poverty, job creation, societal classes and governance systems in Zambia with a global perspective.
Dr. M’membe also projects the future for Zambia with ideological shift to socialism if the many challenges faced by humanity can be dealt with effectively.
Q. What is your comment over Zambia’s TAX regime?
A. Look what matters is not how much taxes people pay or who pays the taxes or what tax regime you have. What matters is what you do with the tax collected. If you are collecting more taxes from people and giving it back to those who need it. There’s no problem with that.
The Scandinavian countries highly tax their citizens. There are high paying tax countries there. But the money is spent on its people. They provide free education, they provide free medical services, and other social services required in an organized society.
If they were collecting more taxes from the Zambian people and spending that on free education of all our people, on free health services of our people, improving the water supply of our people, improving sanitation to our people, and our people I mean the poor people who live in KWA, in the compounds. You can’t have a situation where in the heart of Lusaka today, the capital city of Zambia, people are still drawing water from wells. The people are drawing water from wells in Garden compound, people are drawing water from wells in Chipata compound, in Marapodi, in Chazanga, in Kabanana, and so on and so forth. The capital city of Zambia. After 54 years of independence. And they pay taxes.
And more taxes are actually collected from these compounds where people have no sanitation, have no access to clean water, have no proper shelter, and have no proper roads and everything. So it’s not how much taxes are collected or what tax regime is there, it’s how the taxes are used. Taxes in Zambia are not used for the benefit of those from whom they are collected, especially the poor.
Q. Are TAXES collected in Zambia used prudently?
A. it’s not a regime that is there for the poor. We have a capitalist system in Zambia. The ruling class is not working class. The ruling class is the petty bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie together with the capitalist interest they serve. The taxes that are collected are spent in Kabulonga, they are spent in Sunningdale, in woodlands, in Rhodespark, in Longacres, in Olympia, in Roma, in Kalundu and so forth. Look at the roads that are there. Do they have problems of water in these places? They are drinking clean water. Do they have problems with sanitation in these places? NO. The roads are tarred; almost all the roads in these suburbs are tarred. They are not subjected to the dust that is in the compounds, where no roads are being repaired. They are not drawing water from wells. They are not enduring poverty levels as high as we are seeing in the compounds. They are not overcrowded. They sleep well. And people from ‘KWA’ are the ones who go to ‘KU’ and work for them. They make their beds, they clean their bedrooms, and they look after their children. They cook for them, they wash for them. Do you see people from ‘KU’ going to work in ‘KWA’? And do those things for the people in ‘KWA’? The capitalist system is inherently corrupt. You will not be able to deal fully with the issue of corruption under the current capitalist system, it’s inherently corrupt. Is it today that we have started talking about corruption here in Zambia? The last 27 years we have been talking about corruption in Zambia. Is it reducing or it’s increasing? It’s increasing all the time. Until you change the capitalist system you will not be able to deal with the issue of corruption comrade. It’s not enough to start pointing a figure at this one, a finger at that one. You are just going to be arresting people every day, because the system encourages them to steal. It is the system that is anchored on greed. Capitalism is anchored on greed. It’s anchored on individualism. All what you think about is yourself ,me ,me ,me ,I ,I, I ,you don’t think about the collective. Capitalism doesn’t encourage you to think about collectivism. It encourages you to think about individualism, about yourself. You don’t care about what goes to other people. And it’s not only money they are stealing. They are taking land to themselves. They are de-gazetting government forests and sharing the land. Look at who has land in state lodge there. They are sharing 5000,10000,15000,20000 hectares muntu umodzi. And look at their fellow citizens where they are crowded in the compounds. Have you heard anybody from Garden compound, from Chawama who has gotten a plot in state lodge? Have you ever heard? You will never hear anybody from these compounds getting a plot in state lodge. They don’t want them there. They don’t want to live with them. They don’t want to live with poor people. They don’t want a neighbor with a pit latrine and who’s drawing water from the well. They will bring down the value of their properties. They don’t want them in Ibex hill, they don’t want them in Leopards hill, they don’t want them in Kabulonga and so on. They have confined them to the compounds, to ‘KWA’.
Q. What is your comment on poverty levels in Zambia?
A. Look, they are frightening, there are 76.6% poverty levels in the rural areas. Our people who live in rural areas are enduring poverty levels of 76.6%. The poorest province in Zambia today is enduring poverty levels of 82.2%,that’s Western Province. The second poorest province in Zambia today is enduring poverty levels of 81.1%, that’s Luapula Province. The third poorest province, Northern Province has poverty levels of 79.7%. The fourth poorest province, which is Eastern Province is enduring poverty levels of 70%. Muchinga province has poverty levels of 69.3%. North Western province has poverty levels of 66.4%. You can’t have a country run on such levels of poverty. And the issue is why should these provinces endure such poverty levels, such high poverty levels? I have consistently asked why should Eastern Province have poverty levels of 70%? With all the work that is being done in Eastern Province, our people in Eastern Province are not sleeping. They have no Saturday they have no Sunday – they work every day. Why should they endure poverty levels of 70%? What does it mean to have poverty level of 70%? It means out of every 10 people you meet in Eastern Province 7 are living below the poverty line. Why should such high poverty levels exist in Eastern province? The people of Eastern Province are busy farming every day, they are growing cotton, they are growing groundnuts, they are growing sunflower, tobacco, maize, beans, rice, they are keeping cattle in some places, they are keeping goats in some places, they are keeping pigs. Why should they have poverty levels of 70%? Why? To understand that lets just look at one crop, cotton. How it’s grown in Eastern Province. The ginnery companies which are international companies from Lusaka go to Eastern Province with fertilizer, seed and pesticide. They give that to the farmers in Eastern Province, not for free. They give it to them at the highest possible price. They record them in the registers. And they don’t distribute it in their villages, they give it to them at distribution centers. They have to find transport, to take that fertilizer, to take that seed, to take those pesticides to their villages. They have to hire some canters, ox pulled carts, bicycles and so forth. And when they get it there, the land on which they plant that cotton doesn’t belong to the ginnery company, it’s their own land. They plough it with their own hands, they plant the seed with their own hands, they apply the fertilizers with their own hands, they do the weeding and so forth with their own hands. Not with the hands of the trans-national corporations, the ginnery companies. When it’s time to harvest, comrade have you ever harvested cotton? Cotton is not an easy thing to harvest, you have to pick a ball by ball. One ball at a time. You start early in the morning when it’s cold and the cold hits you. Then the winds come, you are carrying a huge bag on your back where you are putting every ball of cotton. You have to start balancing with the wind. After the wind, comes the heat, the sun starts to hit you. By the time you finish harvesting the field you are worn out. But the job does not end there. You have to start removing the seed from the cotton. Then you put it in the bags and transport it to the centers. The ginnery companies don’t pick it from your village. Then when you have pushed that cotton to the centers, then the ginnery companies come from Lusaka and get the cotton. They buy the cotton at a price determined by themselves. No negotiations with the peasant farmer. And usually it’s the lowest possible price. But before they pay you your money, they take out the money for the inputs. The peasant farmer remains with a small margin like that. Can he move out of poverty? NO. Can she move out of poverty? NO. That is what is impoverishing our people in Eastern Province – the private companies that are buying their crops. What we are saying about cotton, you can say the same thing about sunflower, you can say the same thing about groundnuts, you can say the same thing about tobacco. Maize is a big national scandal, we can’t even discuss it here. It’s a subject on it’s own.
And what we are saying about Eastern Province, we can say the same thing about Lusaka Province, Central Province, parts of Southern Province, parts of Northern Province, parts of Muchinga Province, parts of the Copperbelt, parts of North-Western and parts of Western Province where such crops are grown. Why should Western Province endure poverty levels of 82.2%? Why should Western Province endure such poverty levels? What does Western Province produce of value? Western Province produces cattle, beef. In 1964 at independence, Western Province was richer than Botswana. It had more cattle than Botswana. At that time Botswana did not have the minerals it has today. Those started happening in the mid 70s. Botswana was dependent on cattle – on exporting beef. But Western Province had more beef than Botswana. Today Western Province is enduring poverty levels of 82.2%. Why? In the mid 1990s Zambeef went to Mongu and bought an abattoir that was built by the Cold Storage Board of Zambia and completed in 1972 with tax-payers money. That abattoir was the only abattoir in the province, so it had a monopoly. Zambeef used that monopoly to buy cattle from the peasant farmers in Western Province at very low prices. They were buying those cattle at a very fast rate. Those days when you went to Mongu by road you would be meeting Zambeef trucks, refrigerated trucks, big trucks carrying beef coming to Lusaka, others going to Mongu to pick up beef. They were exporting that beef to west Africa and other places. Zambeef became very rich, it’s one of the richest companies in Zambia today. If beef was profitable, Zambeef would not be making money alone. The peasant farmers in Western Province also would have been rich. Zambeef never helped the peasant farmers in Western Province to restock their animals, it never helped them to improve their breeds, it wasn’t even helping them to fight the diseases. Today, there is no cattle worth talking about in Western Province, Zambeef has finished the animals and has become very rich opening other business lines here and there. The wealth that Zambeef has got it from Western Province. And what we are saying about Western Province, you can say the same thing about Southern Province, Central Province, Eastern Province and other provinces where they keep cattle. So, Zambeef has impoverished Western Province. Private capital has impoverished Western Province. So we socialists say peasant agriculture must be no go area for private capital. Because it’s ripping our people and pushing them more and more into poverty.
Q. What should be done to improve people’s lives?
A. The people should govern – the working class should take over the governance of their country because there is no class that governs in the interest of another class. The capitalist class, and the petty bourgeois, and comprador bourgeois elements that are running our country today they are ruling in their own interest. The working class has to take over power through its own institutions or organizations. There is no class that rules in the interest of another class. And each class has it’s own ideology. Slave owners had slavery as their ideology. And they had their own political organizations to pursue. And they did not govern in the interest of the slaves, they governed in the interest of the slave owners. The feudal society also had feudalism as its ideology. Feudalism was not for the benefit of the working class or the peasants. It was for the benefit of the feudal lords. And they enriched themselves at the expense of the peasants. And they had their own political organizations to pursue that. Capitalists also have capitalism as their ideology. The capitalist ideology is not for the benefit of the working class, it’s for the benefit of the capitalists and the petty bourgeoisie and the comprador bourgeoisie that are at their service. The working class also has its own ideology, socialism. And the working class has to create its own organizations and pursue power for itself, by itself for its own benefit. Without that the working class will continue to wallow in poverty. Those ruling the country today, the petty bourgeoisie and the comprador bourgeoisie who are working on behalf of the capitalist are not there to serve the interest of the working class. And actually these political parties of the petty bourgeoisie have not failed, they have delivered on their agenda, for their class members. Look at the lives of their class members. Do they have problems with water? Do they have problems with food? Do they have problems with education for their children? Do they have problems with health services? Do they have problems with shelter? Not even roads in the suburbs where they live. They have got everything they need. Do they have problems with jobs? NO, they have no problems with jobs comrade, they have got jobs where they are. The ones who have failed, it’s the working class because they thought these parties are theirs, they are not theirs. And they are not pursuing their agenda; they are pursuing the agenda of their own class. When the working class takes over, and pursues its own agenda, its living conditions will improve.
Q. Are the current crop of leaders working for the people as it should be?
A. They have created conditions for their own benefit. And sometimes they think their benefits are the benefits of everybody, no. they are living well; they have created conditions to enrich themselves. And all of them are living well. They don’t have the problems I was talking about. They have money in their pockets. They have succeeded in putting money in their pockets. But not in the pockets of the working class. The working class has no money in his pocket. The working class will not have the jobs that they are cheating them. The capitalist system is unable to create the jobs that they are talking about globally, its not just in Zambia. Capitalism is not creating jobs anywhere. Look, the current state of capitalism which we are in, digital capitalism, its main purpose was to create technologies that reduce the cost of labor. How do you reduce the cost of labor? You reduce the cost of labor by employing fewer people, reducing the rate of pay, or both. And they have succeeded in creating these technologies. You go to the supermarkets today, the shops; they are employing fewer and fewer people. Today we are having even in the world shops that have got no people working there, no tills to pay to. The trolley you are using is digitalized you just go and swipe, the shop is empty no employees, where are you going to create employment? In mercantile capitalism? We have seen how many jobs are there in Shoprite. How many jobs are there in Game stores? How many jobs are there in Pick n Pay? Very few. You go to industrial capitalism; look at the mines, look at construction industry, look at commercial agriculture. One excavator has wiped out the jobs of 4000 – 5000 workers. No matter how many foreign investors you bring in the mining sector today you will not have the large armies of mine workers you used to have. They will be no jobs, meaningful jobs being created. Commercial agriculture, those days when you have a big farm near your area, all the people will be working there. There would be a huge compound for workers for the farm. Today one big farm has 5,10 , 15 workers kwamana. You go to the banks today, you just get at the door, those days you would find a security guard opening the door for you, creating jobs for security guards. Today the door is digitalized, there is a camera looking at you. Those jobs at the doors of banks, you will never see them again, they have gone away forever and ever. You get into the banking hall. Those days there would be a chain of tellers, wall to wall there is a till and there is a teller, today there is nothing. You go into the banking hall, there is nobody, the banking hall empty. You go outside you find an ATM machine. That ATM machine has wiped out the jobs inside the banking hall. And human beings can’t compete with the ATM. The ATM doesn’t need maternity leave, sibbaala. The ATM doesn’t go to church on Sunday, it doesn’t worship any God. The ATM doesn’t go on study leave; it has no qualifications to improve. The ATM doesn’t attend funerals; it has no relatives or friends who die and so on and so forth. But the story does not end there. The ATM has not only taken the jobs inside the bank but it is also making you work for mahala. When you go and stand at the ATM and say ATM give me K200, izachoka K200 mu machine? No. You have to start acting as the machine operator for mahala, the bank has not employed you, there is no contract between you and the bank, the bank does not pay you. But you are working for this bank for mahala. On top of that the bank charges you for working for it for mahala. When you look at all this and you ask yourself where are the jobs going to come from? We are still producing children, we still have young people who are finishing Grade 12, we have young people who are coming out of college, coming out of university, where are they going to work? Where are the jobs going to come from? The problem is not the technology comrades. We need this technology, we need the excavator, we need the ATM and all that other technology, the problem is the capitalist system that is incapable of passing the benefits of technology to the working class. And that ends up in retrenchments. And making those who remain in jobs working longer than 8 hours per day. That can be avoided. When technology improves and the production time is less, you don’t need to retrench workers. You reduce the number of hours the workers work. If with technology you just need 3 hours to produce certain goods, certain volume of goods which you needed to produce in 8 hours, reduce the working hours to 3 hours. And the worker can go home and have 5 hours to spend with his children or her children, go to study, improve their education, go to church and worship, sing in the choir, go and do sporting activities to keep fit or if they are young they can go to the Olympics and compete. Or use that time to visit your relatives. We have no time to visit our relatives, we don’t even know our relatives now, our children are not knowing our relatives because we don’t have time. The workers are working all the time. And it’s not good not to know your relatives comrades. You end up producing children with your relatives. Your second cousins, third cousins, fourth cousins, fifth cousins and genetic make up does not agree with that. When you produce children with people you are connected to genetically, those children have got problems, they have got deformities, they have got all sorts of deficiencies. So even for biological factors know your children, know your relatives. Capitalism will not create jobs. You see these days on television, 1000 jobs are created by the USA economy, Mr Donald Trump is tweeting the whole day celebrating. That’s the biggest economy in the world with a GDP of 20 trillion dollars , your GDP in Zambia is 25 billion dollars. And you think you can create 1 million jobs. You are joking. It’s either those who are saying they can create 1 million jobs they are ignorant, they are stupid or both. It’s not possible.
Q. What system of Governance should be used in improving people’s lives?
A. We have no sensible alternative to socialism, we don’t have a sensible alternative. Capitalism has failed to solve humanities problems. Capitalism is facing challenges now, it cannot deal with the issues of unemployment. It cannot deal with the issues of growing inequality in the world. Every year in winter they go to DAVOS for the World Economic Forum. To discuss what? To discuss growing inequality in the world and within the capitalist nations themselves. To discuss growing unemployment in the world and within the capitalist nations themselves. Is it because they don’t have good economists to find solutions? No, they have. The problem is they are trying to square the circle. These problems cannot be solved with capitalism being left intact. To address these problems capitalism has to go. Are they ready to have capitalism go? No! They are not ready to destroy the capitalist system, and as a result of that these problems will continue to persist because they are inherent in the capitalist production system. Production for profit, and not production for the satisfaction of human needs. It’s like trying to find a cure for HIV. It’s very easy comrades for scientists to find a drug that can kill the HIV virus, but the problem is to find a drug that does not kill the body as well. That only kills the virus but doesn’t kill the body. Most of the drugs will kill the virus and also kill the body. Do you administer such a drug, no. This is the problem capitalism has. The solution that it’s economics are coming up with to solve the problems of the growing inequality in the world and growing unemployment in the world cannot cure those problems without killing capitalism. And because they cannot cure those problems without killing capitalism they are not implementing them. They are coming with all sorts of mitigations but without solving the problem. The same way that we have some drugs for HIV that are not killing the virus but they are just mitigating.