Tuesday, May 11, 2021
THE meaning of “once bitten twice shy” is that a person who has failed or been hurt when trying to do something is careful or fearful about doing it again.
In the context of this article, the bitten person is the Zambian nation or the people of Zambia. In 1991, trade unionists, businessmen and opposition politicians came together and formed the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
The MMD turned into a political party and went on to contest the presidential and parliamentary elections against the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
The then sitting President Dr Kenneth David Kaunda lost the presidential race to trade unionist Frederick Titus Jacob Mpundu Chiluba.
There was euphoria and all Zambians were enthusiastic to see the change that MMD had promised in their manifesto. How mistaken we were! I was a diehard supporter of the MMD and it cost me my good job in a parastatal company.
What followed the MMD victory was disaster for the country. In fact the MMD would have lost the 1996 elections to Dr Kaunda if they had not amended the constitution to block the UNIP strongman from contesting the presidential race.
The MMD within five years in government engaged in a monster of a programme called the Zambia Privatisation which left many Zambians languishing in poverty.
Former director of the Zambia Privatisation Agency James Matale called the programme the “the biggest fraud in economic history.”
The late Matale who served as director from November 1992 until he was fired in September 1994 said that the destruction of the public enterprises which accounted for 80 percent of the economic activity was an act of unprecedented vandalism.
“It surpassed even the destructiveness of the definitive Attila Hun. Zambia lost economic investments and assets accumulated over a period of hundred years,” Mr Matale said.
He said that with the destruction of Zambia Airways, Zambia had lost the entire stock of civil aviation technology that she had acquired over 30 years at a great cost.
Zambia Airways was not the only victim of this disaster; Lusaka Engineering Company (LENCO) used to assemble buses, today it’s a warehouse for imported merchandise, the Livingstone Motor Assembly is a graveyard, Premium Oil Company disappeared and now we import all edible oils, Dunlop Zambia was sold to a company which merely removed machinery to another country.
The Ndola Copper Refinery which used to process precious metals just disappeared and nobody knows where it went to, all the buses that belonged to the United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ) just disappeared into thin air, cattle from state ranches were all swallowed by pythons. The list is endless.
I stopped over in Mansa on Saturday, May 1, 2021 and visited a relative who stays in the Mansa Batteries compound next to the factory.
I nearly cried, the beautiful factory is overgrown with grass and could get burnt if a fire broke out at the premises.
Mansa Batteries was a company established to utilise the rich manganese deposits found in the area to produce batteries for the nation. Today, all the manganese that is mined in Mansa and Mkushi is exported mostly to India and Japan with very little benefit to Zambia.
The most bitten by the privatisation monster are the Zambian workers. Many workers from Zambia Airways, UBZ, Chilanga Cement, Luanshya Ramcoz, Kafue Textiles, BP Zambia Plc and many more have starved to death because they have never been paid their benefits after privatisation.
Each time I think about and experience the suffering of the abandoned workers, I recall Dr Kaunda’s warning that it was dangerous for us to hand over the management of the country to a group of businessmen with divergent interests. “They will soon break up,” he warned us.
Today, the same people who shamelessly and remorselessly engaged in the unprecedented fraud in economic history are assembling together to get back into government again. They are talking about “the Zambia We Want.”
What Zambia do they want? Have they given us any idea of the Zambia We Want? These are hollow words meant to hoodwink the voters from history; they were all involved in pillaging the Zambian economy at the expense of the workers whom they abandoned without any compassion.
Felix Mutati was a minister in the MMD government and so were Simon Zukas, Guy Scott, Enerst Mwansa and Bert Mushala. The UPND leader around whom they are gathering was a consultant to the Zambia Privatisation Agency and what he did is well known history.
Does this group of people deserve a second chance at running the affairs of this country? In my view we will be taking a very dangerous path if we were to vote for the UPND and “the Zambia We Want alliance” to get into power.
They are already talking about privatising the agricultural sector. This will impoverish the Zambian farmers because private businessmen will fix very low prices for all produce while charging exorbitant prices for the finished products.
The example of India comes to mind when one talks about privatising agriculture. The Indian farmers have been protesting for months against the bill to privatise agricultural marketing because they can’t withstand the exploitation of private businessmen.
We may also ask if all “the Zambia We Want” political parties had their own manifestos. If they did are they going to abandon them and accept the UPND manifesto without amendment? That is impolitic, imprudent and unwise.
For us voters, we should think very deeply about our future. We must put our emotions aside and analyse the situation very carefully. When we voted Dr Kaunda out of power, there was no comparison to help us determine the choice. Today, there are three regimes to compare; UNIP, MMD and PF.
Which of these three regimes has added value to our infrastructure? In all fairness, UNIP tried, the MMD destroyed and the Patriotic Front has done very well to rebuild and even build where there was no infrastructure.
Many rural areas are reachable in a much shorter time than ever before. I have in mind Kalabo in Western Province, Zambezi and Chavuma in North-Western Province, Mporokoso and Luwingu in Northern Province and Chama in Muchinga Province.
I travelled to all these destinations between 1982 and 1993 and I have done so in the last three years. The improvement is remarkable!
There are better hospitals throughout the country and we have more university teaching hospitals where the MMD only left one. There is similar development in education where more and better schools have been built.
Farm output and productivity has increased in agriculture because of the diversification encouraged by the PF government.
I therefore firmly believe that it will be counterproductive to bring back the people who superintended over the destruction of the Zambian economic activity through the UPND.
“The Zambia We Want” is the Zambia that exists in their selfish and personal interests. We Zambians must watch out against deception during the silly season or election time.
Once bitten, twice shy.
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