Sunday, May 27, 2012

Zambia: President Sata in power

The Patriotic Front, under its president Michael Sata, won the Zambia general election that took place on 20 September last year. There was heightened jubilation in all areas that had voted for the PF. The MMD only managed to salvage votes in Central and Eastern provinces. The PF performed badly in only three provinces. It was a massive victory for PF leader Sata, who said he was going to transform the economy in 90 days.

At exactly 2100hrs the Chief Justice Ernest Sakala announced that PF leader Sata had won the presidential elections. There were mass celebrations in Lusaka and the Copperbelt mining townships. During his swearing-in ceremony President-elect Michael Sata went on to thank the people of Zambia for electing him president and assured foreign investors that he was not going to chase them from Zambia. Outgoing MMD president Rupiah Banda conceded defeat.

What was significant in the election was the voting patterns that emerged afterwards. It is a fact that ethnic and tribal allegiances still remain unchanged – people voted in political leader to whom they had direct ethnic and tribal patronage. The Bembaland voted for the PF, whilst the Nyanya, Ngoni and Tumbuka voted for the MMD. The Tonga voted for UPND. Ethnic and tribal allegiances still remain as the major factor that determines the strength and popularity of political parties in Zambia today. The PF won last year’s elections by increasing votes in Western and Eastern Provinces. It is frightening to note that the PF did not win any parliamentary seats in Southern Province (political base of UPND).

The death knell of the MMD is ringing. The has virtually been swept out of Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula and Northern Provinces.

Large numbers of votes were received in Lusaka and the Copperbelt Province. It seems that more young people had registered to vote. Policemen, teachers, students, nurses and the unemployed youth voted for the Patriotic Front. The elections were pronounced free and fair. Sporadic bouts of violence only began when the Electoral Commission of Zambia stopped announcing election results on 21 September, when it appeared the PF leader Sata was still in the lead. Mobs went and started to attack private property – mostly shops and cars. Things only returned to normal when the Chief Justice announced that PF leader Sata had won the presidential election with 52 percent of the vote.

During the swearing-in ceremony, President Sata summoned the Chinese ambassador and cautioned him about the low salaries and poor conditions of service existing in Chinese-owned mines and companies. The President went on and announced the following economic reforms: The sale of Zamtel was to be investigated and salaries and wages to be revised upwards

But is will that the PF government enact a people-driven constitution the people of Zambia have been demanding? Will the PF government increase salaries of civil servants by 100 percent and revise the labour laws to favour indigenous Zambian investors and workers? Shall we see free elections and building of new hospitals, roads and bridges – the opening of rural areas into tourist resorts, and the re-investigation of the fertiliser support programmes? Shall we see more jobs – to fill people’s pockets? All as was promised in the PF political manifesto. Because the previous MMD government was characterised by corruption, it may be that in the short term some of the PF economic reforms will succeed.

But what many workers and unemployed youth don’t appreciate is the fact that capitalism as it exists in Zambia today cannot be reformed to accommodate the aspirations of the workers, peasants and unemployed youth. The late MMD president toyed with these ideas but failed. The mainstay of Zambian economy is copper, whose price is determined on the London Metal Exchange. The success of the economic growth policies pursued by the PF depends on the tax revenues received from copper and related mining activities. Introducing a minimum wage will have dire effects on the informal job sector – labour retrenchments will become the thing of the day.

The World Socialist Movement understands that the PF cannot make capitalism work in the interests of Zambian workers – it is only socialism based upon a classless, moneyless and stateless society that can resolve the problems facing the workers in every part of the world.

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