Author: Cosmas Musumali

The 2019 National budget is a futile and deceitful exercise

The 2019 National budget is a futile and deceitful exercise

The 2019 national budgeting exercise would have been comical – had it not been that futile and deceitful. It is essentially an exercise that has produced words without context and meaning; it is detached from the miserable conditions of the financial and real economy; it hardly addresses the plight of the working masses; and does very little to alley the fears of the already frightened international financial markets. An apparent mixture of panic, arrogance and sheer incompetence ends up producing a shameful budget. Once more, Zambia’s petty bourgeois leadership has out-marched its own record in all ways of destroying our tiny impoverished economy and the hopes of the 99% of the country’s population affected by policy failure.

Let us step back to last year (Friday, the 29th September, 2017). The then Minister of Finance Felix Mutati, delivered to the National Assembly a budget under the theme “Accelerating fiscal fitness for sustained inclusive growth, without leaving anyone behind”. The theme was carefully chosen to blindfold the international financial markets that wanted to see more fiscal discipline in the management of the Zambian economy as well as of the country’s citizens who were apprehensive of the consequences of an austerity programme that would accompany the awaited IMF cash injection. However, before the end of 2017, line Ministries were frantically working on and requesting for supplementary budgets. The IMF and the international financial markets were also signalling displeasure; they did not trust the implementation capacity of the government and more seriously, even the promises, the 2018 budget had made. In other words, the 2018 national budget had become obsolete even before the beginning of the budget year! Therein lies the major factor contributing to the accelerated economic misery we see today. Even by standards of other tiny, land-locked and extractive-based African economies affected by the global crisis of capitalism, Zambia is amongst the worst performers. Meantime, the leadership of the country continues merry making, contracting domestic and international debt, making arrogant speeches that “all is under control” as well as enriching itself in a kleptomaniac way from the spoils of an ill economy.

Coming back to the 2019 Budget; the Minister of Finance, Margaret Mwanakatwe, addressed the National Assembly on the 28th September 2018 under the theme “Delivering Fiscal Consolidation for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth”. This is a replica of last year’s theme. As it would be expected, the introductory remarks were targeted at pacifying the masses and appealing to the nation’s disturbed psycho-social mood: Adherence to the covenant with God is blasphemously brought up and the sovereignty of the country is underlined amid the widespread fears that the petty bourgeois leadership has auctioned off the command heights of the economy. At this point, the reader is severely challenged to marshal enough patience to complete reading the rest of the budget speech.

The critical sector policies and interventions, in line with the pillars of the Seventh National Development Plan, are a mixture excellent sequencing, i.e. the format, indecisive policy positions, misinformed regulatory frameworks and in some cases well-meant as well as properly thought through specific projects. Overall, it is a missed opportunity. It is also apparent that the technocrats drafting this budget speech did not have it easy. It is the equivalent of a salesperson trying to cover up product deficiencies with some reassuring words. It is a futile exercise.

Pillar 1 (Economic diversification and job creation) fares better under energy, regional and international trade as well as on the sub-topic of transport. However, even these areas are not free from the misalignment of policy, regulation and developmental projects. The sectors including industry, agriculture, mining and tourism show high levels of confusion and incompetency.

This is further reflected under Pillar 2 (Reducing poverty and vulnerability) and Pillar 3 (Reducing developmental inequality). Pillars 2 and 3 also suffer from heavy dependency on external technical and financial assistance, the fragmented (silo) approach in programming and pervasive corruption. This enhances systemic risk and compromises the possibilities of people-level impact.

There was a good chance to salvage some budget credibility under Pillar 4 (Enhancing human development). This includes education, heath, water supply and sanitation. The expectation here was that the 2019 budget would go beyond ring-fencing of funding under an austerity context and utilise the opportunity to undertake long-pending sectoral reforms that would improve both access and quality of services for the majority poor. Instead, the budget has adopted a “business as usual” and a “more of the same” approach.

Pillar 5 (Creating a conducive governance environment for a diversified and inclusive economy) focuses on macro-economic stability and creating space for private sector growth, labour law reforms and the rebasing of the GDP in 2019. Ironically, the very government whose actions have brought about macro-economic instability promises to wake up and stabilise the economy! The government that has implicitly and explicitly been anti labour should now be trusted to arbitrate and navigate the neoliberal economic laws that have stifled Zambian workers for more than two decades!

In summary, the 2019 budget and its goals are highly problematic:

1. A 4% GDP growth rate is possible. This will not be broad-based. The upsurge in the base metal prices will increase the contribution of mining and other allied sectors to this growth. Agriculture, with the largest potential for growth, value addition, job creation and poverty alleviation will continue to stagnate. Poverty will therefore continue to entrench itself amongst the Zambian masses.
2. Inflation will be difficult to subdue to 6-8% in 2019. Food inflation will shoot to over 10% driven by high fuel, transport and other input costs.
3. Further easing of monetary policy is unlikely. Lending rates will not fall below 20% and it is hard to imagine how our domestic private capital can thrive under such conditions.
4. Non-performing loans may go beyond 13% on the loan portfolios of the banks. There is less the Bank of Zambia regulation can achieve if the macro-economic fundamentals are highly skewed.
5. The current account deficit will continue to widen. Imports, interest payments and dividend payments to non-resident shareholders will continue to increase the demand for foreign currency and put pressure on the Kwacha. More external borrowing will be needed to merely stop the downward spiral of the Kwacha. The “carrot and stick” offered by the IMF will be hard to resist.
6. Gross international reserves will be difficult to push up to 3 months of import cover, let alone to 4 months.
7. Under this situation, fiscal deficit will prove difficult to reduce to 6.5% of GDP.
8. The biggest expenditure item is external debt payment. The biggest source of financing are the Zambian masses through personal income tax, value added tax, exercise duty that targets the consumers plus more external borrowing. In essence, the poor Zambians are paying back the external debt contracted by a reckless petty bourgeois ruling elite – apart from paying for the luxurious life styles.

With the economy poised in such a negative trajectory, political stability cannot be guaranteed. The knee-jerk reaction of the ruling elite will be to respond with more repression and state sponsored violence. Hard times lie ahead for Zambia. Neo-liberal capitalism has openly failed the masses. The time for a just, fair and equitable socialist society has arrived.

US Military invasion of Venezuela highly possible

US Military invasion of Venezuela highly possible

A US military intervention of Venezuela is highly possible. The dynamics in American domestic politics are creating an environment in which the anti-Venezuelan forces are gaining an upper hand. This is a coalition involving US based Venezuelan dissidents, right-wing Latin American cartels and conservative Christian groupings. It is the type of groups President Trump is targeting in the bid to sustain domestic support for his administration and perform well in the forthcoming midterm elections. The heightened aggressiveness and impunity of the Columbian ruling elite, which currently serves as Washington’s blue-eyed boys in Latin America, has also helped to unite the Anti-Venezuelan forces and reawakened the possibilities of a full-scale military invasion.

In August 2017, President Trump had asked his foreign policy advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela – a country whose economy was already crippled by sanctions and its leadership demonised as corrupt, narcotic peddlers and left-wing dictators. The suggestion to invade Venezuela had surprised even his advisors, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser HR McMaster, both of whom have since left his administration. Similarly, even the Latin American leaders whose accomplice he sort were not ready for an invasion. However, the current team of advisors and Latin American right wing leaders are not as careful and cautious. There is growing excitement to finally destroy the Bolivarian revolution.

The disdain and hate for the socialist oriented Bolivarian revolution is understandable. When oil prices were high, Venezuela extended financial support to its poor Latin American and Caribbean neighbours. Even poor communities in the USA received energy subsidies from Citgo,a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. Venezuela was becoming an example of a society where poor people could come out of poverty through a committed and egalitarian government policy. This is the opposite of the greed and individualism of neo-liberal capitalism. Venezuela was is not the example that is required in Latin America – just at the backyard of the USA! American imperialism fears the power of an enlightened and socialist inspired people more than anything else.

In his desire to invade Venezuela, President Trump is known to have alluded to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region. The invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s were such examples. This is outright reckless. Panama and Grenada have hardly recovered from these invasions. The economic and social costs have been huge.

Venezuela may not be a military power, even by Latin American standards. However, the majority of the poor masses are supporters of the revolution. These are the key pillars in the defence of the country against foreign invasion. They have shaped the country’s defence doctrine to stress asymmetrical warfare: using insurgency to wear down the invading enemy forces over time. Venezuela will be more than Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Millions will perish and American lives will recklessly be sacrificed. Hopefully sanity will prevail and humanity is spared such a macabre invasion.

President Lungu’s foreign policy is corrupt and without principles

President Lungu’s foreign policy is corrupt and without principles

The shameful saga surrounding Tendai Biti’s deportation out of Zambia is not surprising. Ever since President Lungu came into power, Zambia is no longer the safe haven that it once was for those running away from political repression and persecution. Tendai Biti and those accompanying him should have known better. The Zambia situation is just as bad as, if not worse than, in Zimbabwe.The Zambia that once accepted all politically persecuted is today lawless and without compassion. President Lungu, his advisors and associates are de facto the law, They are the unrestricted alpha and omega over peoples lives. Local and international laws are of no consequence.

This reactionary development is also widely reflected in President Lungu’s foreign policy. Take the example of Zambia’s long-standing support for the Polisario Front. On February 19, 2016, the president still assured Salam El-Mami, Western Sahara’s ambassador to Zambia, of “our relentless collective calls for the independence of the people of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.” However, in February 2017, after the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, suddenly visited Zambia and signed 19 partnership agreements, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Harry Kalaba said Zambia does not recognise Western Sahara. In clear terms, President Lungu had sold off the bond between our homeland and the struggling Sahrawi masses for some “pieces of silver”. It was a clear indication that the Zambian foreign policy was no longer about humanity and the common good of the Zambian masses. It was up for grabs to the highest bidder. The shame and disgrace this move brought on Zambia is immense.

Let us also not forget how this country has abandoned the Palestinian cause. President Chiluba initiated the process in 1977, but President Lungu completed it. The PF governmentre-opened the country’s embassy in Israel in 2015. This came 42 years after Zambia had joined progressive African countries to severe diplomatic ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War.In addition, during the liberation struggle, Israel openly stood firm on the side of the colonial forces and Apartheid South Africa. Israeli weapons and know-how facilitated the slaughter of thousands of African civilians. The liberation struggle and the cause of the Palestinian people logically became inseparable. Southern Africa eventually got its nominal political independence, but the plight of the
Palestinians continues. A foreign policy that ignores this historical link and human obligation is immoral and bankrupt.

The process surrounding Tendai Biti deportation is however highly revealing and points to President Lungu as a calculating and cold-blooded executioner. The security immigration and police officers at the border acted professionally and defended Biti against the overzealous Zimbabwean officers who were determined to arrest him from the Zambian side of the border. Once in Lusaka, the Zambian courts also acted rationally. Despite the positive court ruling in favour of Biti’s continued stay in our homeland, he was forcibly thrown out of the country – back into the hands of the Zimbabwean authorities. All figures are directly pointing at President Lungu. He is ultimately responsible. The entire global community is appalled and shocked. There are even threats from the United States government to withhold development aid. However, this will not move President Lungu and his PF government. Withholding American support in health, education and governance will hurt the poor beneficiaries. What would bother President Lungu and his 50 close associates plus family members would be a global freeze of all their over-seas assets, businesses, transactions and travel for the next 20 years. This is the only language this clique understands.

Capitalist political parties dragging Zambia into a state of war

Capitalist political parties dragging Zambia into a state of war

Even before the Chilanga elections were held, it was apparent that innocent people were going to be attacked, harassed, abused and their civil liberties infringed upon. The expected violence truly materialised. Journalists were brutally attacked and threatened with death. Ordinary citizens were brutalised.


In this aftermath, Zambians are traumatised by the senseless violence emanating especially from the PF. The other petty bourgeois political parties do not want to be left behind. Rhetoric and counter-accusations aside, they are all violent. It is the same people, applying similar methods and the lives of ordinary Zambians have become mere collateral damage.

The escalation of political violence is an entry point towards a state of war. Full-scale war does not start abruptly. It is cumulative. It is a process. It is the failure of reason under a corrupt, undemocratic system that creates the objective conditions for war. In Zambia today, a bunch of petty bourgeois politicians are holding the masses hostage. Their rivalries have nothing to do with humanity, equity and solidarity. They are fighting for the spoils of the capitalist system that keeps our homeland subjugated and highly exploited by international capital. They are fighting for the control of public resources so as to sustain their parasitic existence. For this greedy intention, they are ready to kill.

The violence we experienced in 2016 was a mere dress rehearsal. The 2021 elections will be worse. Many lives will be lost. Any political party able to marshal and execute more acts of violence and intimidated the voters will emerge victorious. This is archaic and a reverse of the normal. The normal condition is that people will turn and vote against acts of violence. However, President Edgar Lungu and his cohorts have effectively applied violence and secured many victories. Violence has now been institutionalised in the electoral process. The average Zambian does not want to be at the receiving end. It is apparent that ordinary people are being intimidated and their resolve to withstand systemic violence is weakened.

For the opposition political parties, appeals to the police and Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) get drowned under their own acts of violence and loud celebratory moods of the victors. The police have become an extended arm of the PF – to the dismay of many officers still hoping to see some professionalism in the service.  The opposition political parties will definitely prepare adequately for what is to come. Blows, knives, machetes and even guns will be part of the arsenal punctuated by verbal obscenities A state of war is much closer than we imagine. Many countries that ended up in full-scale war often ignored these obvious signs. We are not behaving differently.

The Socialist Party stands for Justice, Equity and Peace. These are the three pillars of our programme. Peace is a pre-requisite for any meaningful socio-economic developmental. All political parties should ordinarily prioritise it. However, what we see is the complete opposite. The political parties talk peace but behave violently. They do not believe in peace. All talk about peace is a façade meant to blind Zambians. Without violence, they have nothing much to offer. The violence starts with their threatening language; the never ending lies; treachery; physical acts of violence and ends up with counter-accusations plus denial.

In any rational situation, we would have demanded for 1) the nullification of the Chilanga election results; 2) The setting up of a bipartisan commission on political violence that would come up with concrete recommendations for implementation before any other election is held; 3) The resignation of the police command; 4) immediate resignation of President Edgar Lungu and his Minister of Home Affairs. In todays Zambia, however, such demands become naïve and subject to laughter. The moral decay is deep rooted. Nothing short of a revolution will be required to bring back sanity and stop this senseless violence.



General Secretary Cosmas Musumali on Corruption

General Secretary Cosmas Musumali on Corruption

Corruption is indeed very endemic in Zambian society, but we are not doing justice to it by merely trying to limit it to individuals; talking about: ‘this one is a non-corrupt individual, the other one is more corrupt’. I think we have to look at the entire system. If you look at the system of capitalism and look at its basic values, and those basic values are individualism, greed, and aspects of unbridled competition and consumerism. Those values are more prone towards ensuring that our society remains corrupt. You cannot handle corruption effectively under this system.

What we are trying to do on an everyday basis is to look at what is called the high level corruption. It is justified because it’s more visible and its impact is very, very serious for our society. But at the same time we should acknowledge that if the top leadership is corrupt there’s a great possibility that even the masses of our people are also corrupt. So, we live in a society that is corrupt from the top to bottom. And if we want to fight corruption, yes we can deal on the issue of policies, we can look at the issue of the strategies, we can look n the issue of changing the laws – providing certain incentives, providing education to the masses, but that in itself doesn’t help very much. What would help is to bring in new values in our politics, in the economy, basically in the entire society; and that’s where socialism comes in.

Socialism is based on the fundamental values of equity; it’s based on honesty, humility and solidarity. These are values that take away the aspect of corruption. A socialist society is not a corrupt society, a capitalist society is a highly corrupt society.