Category: Opinions

Climate change is a very serious religious issue

Climate change is a very serious religious issue Featured

Following last week’s COP26 in Glasgow the issue of climate change is still very much on my mind. And this Sunday I turn to the religious for leadership and guidance on this very serious and urgent challenge facing humanity.

There is a long history of religious thinking and attention to the role of humans as stewards of the earth and the environment. These theological underpinnings stem from the idea that God created earth and humans, therefore, God’s children have a responsibility to care for his creations. This perspective is shared across a number of faiths.

In June 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical urging Catholics and all people on earth to focus on a broad range of issues and problems in the environment including pollution, climate change, biodiversity and global inequality of ecological systems.In February 2006, a group of 86 evangelical leaders, under the auspices of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, challenged the Bush administration on global warming. Other religious groups and leaders in the USA, and other countries, have taken positions as well.

A robust policy strategy – regarding support in the religious community – should pay careful attention to the effects of both climate change and climate policy on the poor in both developing nations and the developed world itself. Understanding the cultural dimensions of climate change requires understanding its religious aspects. Insofar as climate change is entangled with humans, it is also entangled with all the ways in which religion attends human ways of being.

Religious leaders should continue to call for bold action in defense of God’s creation.Pope Francis, who attended the Earth Day summit, encouraged the leaders of the world’s largest economies to “take charge of the care of nature, of this gift that we have received and that we have to heal, guard, and carry forward.” These words are increasingly significant because of the challenge the world faces. As Pope Francis said, “We need to keep moving forward and we know that one doesn’t come out of a crisis the same way one entered. We come out either better or worse. Our concern is to see that the environment is cleaner, purer, and preserved. We must take care of nature so that it takes care of us.”Meeting the scale and scope of the climate crisis will require all religious leaders and activists, along with political leaders of all faiths and no faith, to unite around climate justice priorities.

The moral case to address the climate crisis is resounding in faith communities around the world. It’s up to political leaders to make the investments and changes necessary to safeguard and secure humanity’s survival and protect God’s creation.

Fred M’membe

Our initial brief reaction to the 2022 Budget

Our initial brief reaction to the 2022 Budget Featured

From their posturing, boasting and unending promises of a paradise, a heaven on earth, we
expected the UPND government to do better than this in their first budget. But it seems they are still in their unending campaign mode of making unnecessary promises of being Macgyvers who will easily fix this and that.
They have promised heaven but they seem to have serious difficulties delivering even purgatory. Their 2022 Budget is expansionary yet with tax concessions given to mining corporations, a clear demonstration that the UPND government is about to surrender our sovereignty to capital and not the people.

Suffice to say, we are known as the second largest producer of copper in Africa. By implication, the copper industry is the most important part of our economy. Be that as it may be, this sector has only been contributing an average 13 per cent to our GDP before Covid-19 hit and around 25 per cent after the pandemic hit us due to disruptions in trade and global supply chain. Ironically, it’s the retail business and PAYE that have been the major contributors to our GDP, meaning our country’s economic prospects is funded by poor people for the benefit of the rich.

You may wish to know that out of the 8 major mining corporations operating in Zambia, only two companies have been paying Company Income Tax (CIT) in the last 25 years. Meaning the rest have been declaring loses as our tax authorities have no capacity to find loopholes in their tax declarations. Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) seems to be very easy for these corporations. To maximise value from this sector, the Zambia Revenue Authority proposed the introduction of Mineral Royalty Tax (MRT) to bring certain “loss making” companies on the tax base. Mineral Royalty Tax is not a fee, it’s a tax. Currently it’s paid as final tax by both loss making and profit declaring mining corporations as a final tax. So it is net tax income to the Zambian people.

At the time when the copper prices are historically high, the UPND government has proposed in the 2022 Budget that MRT becomes a deductible tax. Meaning whatever losses they make off CIT can be netted off MRT. This may result in a significant resource mobilisation loss. In the end, the only benefits we may get from the mining sector are only business and job opportunities and PAYE.
Consequently, the named mine they are targeting to benefit from these concessions make super profits and externalise the money. There is no law that will hold them accountable for the promise of the USD2bn a named mine has promised to invest in Zambia. Moreover, in the unlikely event that decency prevails, the named beneficiary mine will use the same extra money saved from tax concessions after exporting Zambian minerals to reinvest in Zambia.

It’s public knowledge that only a named corporation had a legitimate complaint regarding double taxation with non- deductible MRT and Company Income Tax. Why didn’t those brains in government address this specific issue instead of mutilating the revenue base from the industry? One option was to reduce Income Tax to 5 per cent from 35 per cent or even reduce to 0 per cent and compute MRT at a level that protects Zambians.

Why do mining corporations love income tax? Simple transfer pricing and exaggeration of costs to declare lower taxable income. Why do they hate MRT? It’s based on extracted minerals and easy to administer by ZRA and difficult to cheat. Remember this, countries with deductible MRT and lower taxes in this industry have higher stakes or even controlling shares in private mining corporations. So they collect lower taxes and get dividends. In Zambia some mining companies are 100 per cent privately owned. Why such concessions? If Parliament has any spine, this is the time to show it.

Moreover, government just added K4bn non-discretionary expenditure by hiring 40,000 people at one go. It looks good on paper as a percentage of GDP, but that is a lot of pressure on the Treasury given that our wages plus debt service is equal to 114 per cent of domestic revenues. So, at the very least, pretty much all non-wage expenditure is coming from borrowing, which is unsustainable. Given their promises on debt contraction, one would have expected them to match their words with action by reducing on both domestic and foreign debt. If they are going to borrow $4.2 billion in one year yet reducing on the tax base, then they are further plunging the country into a vicious debt cycle.

Like PF, the UPND are continuing on the path of funding their budgets through debt. When you starting funding education – the building of schools – from borrowings – then you know you are on a very dangerous path. For many reasons – economic, cultural and otherwise – education should be funded from your own generated resources no matter what the difficulties or challenges. They seem to have no ideas on how to reduce the budget deficits yet they have unnecessary think tanks on their payroll such as ZIPAR, PMRC and National Economic Advisory Council who get paid for doing nothing and don’t even apply for competitive consultancy works for sustainability. You have 14 grant aides institutions under the Ministry of Health that are embroidered in the duplication of efforts. You have unnecessary courts, unnecessary service commissions and other grand aided institutions that can be merged and leverage on the usage of IT, internet of things and blockchain for less cost and less time while having more impact on productivity.

There has been a significant increase in CDF with no systems in place to manage that. As a socialist party, decentralization is one of our key pillars but it has to been done in a well thought out manner beginning with the transfers of key officers from the ministries that have been merged so that Lusaka only plays an oversight role. What has been assured is the what, the how has not been clearly stated.

We expected the UPND government to give a clear policy direction on the importation of fuel, especially through some government to government arrangement or private sector participation through their own pronounced Private Public Partnership in an attempt not only to stop wastage in terms of subsidies that only benefit middlemen but also to reduce the pressure on the exchange market each time we go to buy dollars to pay for fuel. In a word, they have continued on the same PF path of lack of innovation, generation of new ideas and strictly adherence to the same modus operandi.

Their fears of China shouldn’t be ours

Their fears of China shouldn’t be ours Featured

Let’s not allow others’ fears of China to be our fears.We really should have nothing to fear about China. Everyday we are being bombarded with anti-China propaganda on their television channels and other news media outlets.
Those who have enslaved us, exploited us, humiliated and colonised us for centuries are today trying to scare us about China doing the same to us. Why? Is it because they now love us more, care about us more?

It’s not about us they are worried; it’s about themselves. They are very worried about being surpassed by China economically, technologically and consequently militarily.
They must let others develop while seeking their own advancement; they must let others live better aspiring to live better themselves; they must let others feel secure while seeking their own security.

Let’s not blindly follow them on China. Every country’s situation is different, and every path is different. Whether the shoe fits or not, only the wearer knows.

We have more to learn and benefit from cooperation with China. But this is not to say dealing with China will be without problems or challenges. There’s no relationship without problems or challenges. But these have to be understood, weighed and dealt with as they arise. But our problems and challenges with China are very different from their problems and challenges with China. And they openly state their problems and challenges with China.
For instance, in early October, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States announced that it had created a top-level working group on China. CIA Director William Burns said that the United States is facing its “toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry,” and so the CIA stated that it would focus its attention on this test. What is the test? The test is, as US President Joe Biden put it, China’s “aggressiveness.”
What is the evidence of Chinese “aggressiveness”? The last time the armed forces of the United States and China had a serious clash was in 2001, when a US Navy intelligence aircraft, which was conducting a reconnaissance mission extremely close to South China’s Hainan Province, collided with a Chinese fighter jet. Since then, there has been no direct clash between American and Chinese forces. However, the US has continued to build up military capabilities in the Pacific Ocean, strengthening its Indo-Pacific Command, establishing two new military and strategic channels (the QUAD with Australia, India, and Japan, as well as AUKUS with Australia and the United Kingdom), in addition to ratcheting up its rhetoric versus China. China, meanwhile, has built up its defensive capabilities, including military means to defend its territory and its regional interests.

Even the US military has acknowledged in a key report that China does not seek to attack the US nor threaten its interests outside of Asia (Pentagon, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2020). This same document from the US military makes it clear that China, unlike the US, has adopted a “no first use” nuclear policy. As the US military document notes, “China will never use nuclear weapons first at any time nor under any circumstances, and China unconditionally undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any nonnuclear-weapon state or in nuclear-weapon-free zones.”

If the US military’s own assessment is that China is not a threat, then why does the White House continue to advance the view of a “China threat”? In his first speech to the US Congress as President in April 2021, Joe Biden said that “China and other countries are closing in fast.” Biden was not referring to any specific military developments. Despite all the rhetoric, the US still boasts a vast military, much more powerful than any other military force on the planet.

So, when Biden says that China is “closing in fast,” he is not in fact referring to a military challenge but to an economic challenge. It is now widely recognized that in certain key fields, such as telecommunications, high-speed rail, etc., China’s scientific and technological achievements are already one or two generations ahead of the US. This is a serious challenge to US-based high-tech firms, which have come to believe that they have a divine right to retain their superiority. This challenge from China has been something of a surprise to them, and one that they feel can only be remedied by non-market forces, such as a US-imposed hybrid war. It is this rising economic threat that has provoked the US to adopt its increasingly war-like rhetoric and a military build-up on China’s shores.

Fred M’membe
President of the Socialist Party (Zambia)

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe Featured

Intolerance – the unwillingness to put up with disagreeable ideas and groups – is increasingly becoming a staple of those who want to hear only one narrative in this country.

The topic is today no less important than it was in the days of UNIP and Dr Kenneth Kaunda. In those days people were dissuaded in all sorts of ways from uttering words against, or in opposition of, UNIP and Dr Kaunda.

The failure of truly democratizing our politics to embrace political freedom for all, even those in the opposition, is one of the most important impediments to the consolidation of our multiparty or plural politics.

Without protection of the right of all to participate in politics, the marketplace of ideas cannot function effectively. The idea of a marketplace is that anyone can put forth a product—an idea—for political consumers to consider. The success of the idea is determined by the level of support freely given in the market. The market encourages deliberation, through which superior ideas are found to be superior, and through which the flaws of bad ideas are exposed for all to see – almost as if guided by an invisible hand. Without a willingness to put up with all ideologies and ideas seeking to compete for the hearts and minds of the citizenry the market is likely to fail. Thus, a fairly simple theory is that democracies require the free and open debate of political differences, and such debate can only take place where political tolerance prevails.

Political tolerance in a democracy requires that all political ideas – and the groups holding them – get the same access to the marketplace of ideas as the access legally extended to the ideas dominating the system. This definition obviously precludes any form of violence, bullying and therefore I make no claim that political tolerance extends to the right of violent elements to engage in violence. It may, however, protect the speech rights of violent elements, or, more precisely, those who advocate violence.

Actions and behaviors related to efforts to persuade people and to compete for political power must be put up with. Obviously, illegal activity need not be countenanced, even if I acknowledge that the line between legal and illegal is often thin, given the power and propensity of our rulers to criminalize political activities by the opposition and other dissenters.

The marketplace of ideas approach anticipates two important – and interconnected – restraints on freedom. First, many fear that the government, typically under the guise of regulation, will usurp power and deny the expression of ideas threatening to the status quo – i.e. the power of the government of the day.

A second constraint on freedom is more subtle: it originates in the political culture of a polity – the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors of ordinary citizens. Restraints on freedom can certainly emanate from public policy; but they can also be found in subtle demands for conformity within a society’s culture. To the extent that ordinary citizens are intolerant of views challenging mainstream thought, the expression of such viewpoints is likely to generate sanctions and costs. This can in turn create a spiral of silence: a dynamic process in which those holding minority viewpoints increasingly learn about how rare their views are, thereby leading to silence, which in turn makes the ideas seem to be even less widely held, and therefore more dangerous or costly to express.

This growing intolerance, if not stopped, will create a silent generation, a cohort unwilling to express views that might be considered controversial or unpopular. And, to complete the circle, mass political intolerance can be a useful form of political capital for those who would in turn enact repressive legislation. To the extent that a political culture emphasizes conformity and penalizes those with contrarian ideas, little tolerance exists, and the likelihood of political repression is high.

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend – Fred M’membe

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend – Fred M’membe Featured

Dear comrades;

Fellow Zambians;

Today we begin to mourn the passing of a leader, a revolutionary, a patriot, a father, a fighter, an internationalist, a theoretician and an organizer. Indeed, it is the combination of all these qualities so splendidly in one individual, which made Comrade Simon Zukas the great African revolutionary that he was.

Men and women of rare qualities are few and hard to come by. And when they depart, the sense of loss is made the more profound and the more difficult to manage. Yet we do draw comfort, Comrade Simon: – from the knowledge that you left a legacy which we shall all strive to emulate; – from the knowledge, Comrade Simon, that you continue to live in each one of us through your force of example, vitality of spirit and passion for justice, fairness and humaneness.

Today, as the nation starts to mourn your death, we are at the same time starting to celebrate a life lived to the full; the richness of which touched the hearts of millions and made an indelible mark on the history of our country.One day when our people start enjoying a rising standard of living in a more just, fair and humane Zambia, they will be right to say, Comrade Simon was a chief architect who helped lay the foundation for a better life.

Comrade Simon was one of those who taught us that individuals do not make history. Yet, in each generation there are a few individuals who are endowed with the acumen and personal bearing which enable them to direct the course of events.

Comrade Simon, the first recipient of the Socialist Party’s highest honor – the Nsingu award, belonged in that category. In that sense he was a rare species, an institution. To reflect on Simon’s contribution is, therefore, to retrace the evolution of Zambian politics in the past six or seven decades. Such is the life we have started celebrating today: a life not so much of white generosity to the black people of our country; for Comrade Simon did not see himself as a white Zambian but as a Zambian. He was a full part of our people, his people, acting together with them for a more just, fair and humane order.

Comrade Simon lived the life not merely of a theoretician, confined to the boardroom and library. He was at all stages of struggle there at the forefront, generating ideas, and there too, in their implementation.

Comrade Simon was a full human being at heart. And he possessed the passion and natural intellect to see reality for what it was. He had, at an early age joined the Communist Party of South Africa. He had decided that in his life there was only one target, and that target was to remove the racist regime in South Africa and colonialism in Africa and obtain power for the people.

Those of us who had the honor to be closely associated with Comrade Simon, know that he lived true top the dedication he knew fully well that he would walk again and again through the valley of the shadow of death to reach the mountain-tops of his desires. I was fortunate to be close to him and to be with him in many struggles. With his wife, Cynthia, we would debate many issues.His sharp intellect and incisive mind would always light the way.

Comrade Simon was a well-rounded human being. Up to his last days, he lived life to the full. It is this passion for happiness in his life and the lives of others that we saw in his contribution to the campaigns of the working people and the poor. It is precisely because of his seminal contribution to the liberation struggle that Comrade Simon was loved by those struggling for freedom.

Though the defenders of apartheid and colonialism sought to obliterate his memory, the struggling people knew that he was an effective and skillful freedom fighter.The most central factor in his approach to struggle on any front was the understanding of the political situation, the balance of forces and thus the approaches necessary to advance that struggle. Thus he was able to appreciate changes in the objective conditions and initiate discussions on changes to the tactics to be applied.He knew when to compromise. Yet he never compromised his principles.

He was a revolutionary. Yet a revolutionary who knew how to plan, assess concrete situations and emerge with rational solutions to problems.The advocates of racial superiority could not understand how Comrade Simon could be part of the liberation struggle and operate under the leadership of the hapless inferiors they despised. But Comrade Simon took part in struggle as an equal, as part of the people.

The defenders of colonial exploitation and subjugation could not understand why Comrade Simon would seek to end the dominance of his racial kith and kin. But Comrade Simon’s kin was all humanity, especially the very poor. The champions of privilege and concentration of wealth could not fathom why Comrade Simon identified with the wretched of the earth. But Comrade Simon knew that these were the creators of wealth and they deserved their fair share.

Let it be said loud and clear today, that the qualities Comrade Simon demonstrated in abundance in the past few decades were the same attributes that spurred him to struggle, the qualities that drove him to join the Communist Party of South Africa, the independence struggle in Zambia and the qualities that he helped engender in these struggles.

We in the Socialist Party know intimately what vacuum Comrade Simon’s departure has left in our midst. We shall miss not only his incisiveness, experience and verve. We are conscious that it is given to a few to so ably combine theory and practice, as Comrade Simon demonstrated in our struggles.But we know too that he has left us a legacy which will continue to guide our approach. And that is to mobilize all the role-players in any area of work for joint efforts to build a better life for all. If we have taken liberty to claim Comrade Simon as ours today, this merely underlines that there are those to whom he was more than just a revolutionary and a friend.

We know, dear dear Comrade Cynthia and your family that you feel this pain more deeply. We cannot fully grasp the magnitude of your grief. Please be comforted by the fact that the nation shares your grief; and we shall always be at your side.Like you, our sorrow is made the more intense because we have lost not just one of our leaders; we have lost a veteran whose qualities are in many respects unequaled. He is irreplaceable.

Comrade Simon, if you see tears welling in our eyes, it is because we cannot bear saying:

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend!