Will Lungu take Zambia anywhere?

BULAWAYO - In 1980, by the time I left Zambia after nearly 17 years of residence and many years of citizenship, I had not heard of Edgar Lungu.

Today, he is the No.1 citizen of that copper-rich country.

Foreign heads of State descended on Lusaka to be present during his inauguration.

I went to the then Northern Rhodesia in 1963, from Southern Rhodesia after the break-up of the ill-fated British nightmare known as the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The people of the last-named country called this union Chitaganya, which they described as an obscenity.

Lungu possesses no political pedigree to compare with his one of his predecessors, Kenneth Kaunda’s, the first president of the republic.

Kaunda himself was toppled in a free and fair election by the late trade unionist, Frederick Chiluba, whose reign was short-lived.

Yet there are political pundits in Africa and elsewhere who predict that Zambia has entered an era of openness and freedom hitherto unknown to the people since the first years of independence.

Zambia has enjoyed relative political stability since 1964.

This compares with the violence and turmoil that buffeted the other members of the ill-fated federation, Malawi and Southern Rhodesia.

There is no surefire way in which to predict which way Lungu will drive his government once he has decided he is the man in charge and would do whatever it takes to make his mark on the country’s political map.

Lungu has a huge map of African politics from which to draw lessons.

Since the independence of Ghana in 1957 — and the turmoil that followed it — Africa has seen much bloodshed, much of it not centred on attempts to drive the countries carefully on a path of peace, progress and prosperity.

There has been a proliferation of greedy dictators, most of them, moreover, driven by an open desire to run the countries as their fiefdoms, designed to benefit their selfish desires.

Examples of African countries run strictly for the benefit of the people — and not the leaders — are few and far between.

Botswana has been portrayed as a country without the ugly hallmarks of the typical African dictator.

For many neutral observers, there have always been examples of good governance along some countries.

These have displayed, quite often openly, their desire to let any citizens venture boldly into enterprises that suggest their wish is to build huge enterprises, in which they will reap amazing profits.

In many countries, such ventures have been allowed to flourish — as long as the owners suppress the deadly desire to monopolise everything.

Of course, in many other countries, the politicians have themselves tried to monopolise business.

In a number of countries, huge conglomerates which operate as if they were owned by the State have turned out to be the property of leading politicians.

Yet there are a few examples of countries in which the equitable redistribution of wealth is openly manifest.

Botswana has that hallmark and has benefited much from foreign investment.

In many other countries, the idea of welcoming foreign investment is hampered by the government’s apparent desire to participate fully in such enterprises — and eventually take over completely.

There is still a remarkable reluctance among African government to allow foreign investment to enter their countries, without any restrictions.

There is always a reluctance to let the investors have their way.

The idea is always to insist on the locals taking a major share. Mostly, this can turn out to be government participation.

Many foreign investors would rather keep out — which has slowed down foreign investment.

Comments (1)

The writer is ignorant. If you take away government in Botswana, there is no economy and no employment. Praise the order in the country but do not mislead others. That there are rich pickings from diamond sales should not lead you to conclude the economy is booming. Many in the little private service industry do not earn wages sufficient for them to live a comfortable life. Government employees are better and they form the majority.

Chibwa Sipambi - 6 October 2016

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