Beyond President Sata’s Tantrums: My Passion For Zambia’s Economic Future

 Munshya wa Munshya

When a leader lacks a clear vision of what he exactly wants to accomplish, he spends his energy chasing shadows. Without a clear articulated economic vision for Zambia, President Sata and his PF government will continue punching in the dark. In Zambia, our greatest problem is not KCM or companies like that. Our biggest problem, especially right now, is that a bunch that has no plans and certainly no vision for Zambian economic recovery is leading us. And when you have no vision, it shows. To say that this is a chimbwi no plan government is, in fact, an understatement. This is a government that rules through tantrums. To be more specific, Sata is ruling through frenzies and outbursts. Before the PF further destroys the economy of our country, we must provide some remedies in the hope that they will reform and quickly change their ways.

Finance Minister Chikwanda does not seem to know what he wants out of the Zambian economy. So he does not know what to do exactly to bring about the desired change. The only thing he seems to be doing better is to contract one kaloba after another. By the time the old man is done with us, our debt levels will be much higher than the pre-HIPC times. At this rate, we will be $10 Billion in debt by 2016. It seems that this lack of economic foresight does not even bother President Sata. It is daily becoming clearer that it is not economic competence that Sata is looking for, but rather a tribalistic consanguinity in his collaboration with this Minister of Finance. Chikwanda cannot compare to economic visionaries such as Magande or Musokotwane. I should agree with FDD, Chikwanda might do us good by peacefully resigning. One wonders though, what Chikwanda’s resignation could accomplish for us, knowing that the buck stops at His Excellency himself.

To put Zambia back to economic revival, we must first face the truth. The way we have been mining copper since 1964 is seriously problematic. It is unsustainable in the long run. Just a few days into office, it is Hon Chikwanda himself who lamented that the cost of production for copper is just too high for the mining companies. It seems that when he came into office, he suddenly realized just how expensive it was. However, instead of acting strategically about this, the PF government has taken no identifiable steps to cushion the impact that might ensue as a result of mechanization of the mining industry. KCM is arguing that it costs less to produce copper using machines than using people. Now this is the reality world-over. It is the reality that in our global economy, machines will begin overtaking humans in production efficiency. Instead of interacting with this inevitable reality, Sata has chosen to play the kind of populist demagoguery fit for Katondo Street and not Nkwazi House. A visionary government, therefore, should begin a process of retraining the workforce so that it could be ready for changes. But instead of being proactive, the PF government has resorted to being reactive. And certainly it is trying to patch where there is no wound.

An economy that completely depends upon copper is unsustainable in the long run. This is the trap that we face as a nation. It is time to move away from copper dependency to economic diversification. But how then can we diversify this economy? We should tap into the resources and opportunities provided by a global economy. We should open up our country to foreign investment in manufacturing and agriculture. And the greatest asset we should be leveraging is labour and the peace we enjoy. This also implies that we need a sane government that would not be just operating on impulse. It should be the duty of a president to be methodic and diplomatic when dealing with investment. There should be rules and some assurances that foreign investment will be protected in this country. A president should not just be waking-up one morning and begin threatening to grab ZANACO or KCM. A president should not use short-term political consideration to shortchange a broader and long-term economic vision. Zambia has only one product to sell, the product of consistency and peace. But if our way of resolving disputes were through tactics fit for the Stone Age then we would lag behind. China is where it is today, because in spite of its communism, you will never hear the Chinese government threatening to repossess American or European companies doing business in China. China has prospered because these foreign companies have found it economically stable to invest. If Zambia wants to emulate the Chinese growth then we must put a stop to this nabukila ku left governance.

The recent outbursts from President Sata concerning KCM are very concerning. Sata cannot make up through outbursts what he has failed to provide for through sound planning. If this government had a plan, KCM would be very easy to deal with and jobs would be protected. Sata is being paid all these huge salaries so that he can engage sanely with companies and find wise solutions to problems. Not through mountaintop ifishobo and imiponto.

This then should take us to the issue of economic priorities. The Sata government came up with a 10% charge on raw copper exports. This was absurd. When Chikwanda and his officials realized their mistake, they used SI-89 to reverse it. I think the reversal was in order. Since copper production is so expensive in Zambia, it is ridiculous to lump more charges on production. The idea that this was a good tax for Zambia makes populist sense but once evaluated closely, it has very little economic impact. The issue with mines in Zambia right now is not about how many pointless taxes you lump on these so-called raw materials. The problem is with how the final goods get sold and how you account for them. This government has no clue about how much copper production costs and equally has no clue about how much it is selling for in London. Unfortunately, the 10% tax would not resolve these problems.

May be the 10% was going to make sense if indeed we had the capacity to process all the copper in Zambia. Had President Sata been serious about raising the capacity to process copper in Zambia, he was going to be more intentional in promoting relevant infrastructure. Obviously, instead of building this strategic capacity, Sata is busy building expensive soccer stadia and the so-called universities all over the place. It shows the shallowness of his priorities.

Munshya wa Munshya

Munshya wa Munshya

If he wanted to process the copper here in Zambia, why didn’t he then invest in a copper processing plant? In fact, except for the Chinese owned Chambishi plant, all other smelters on the Copperbelt are so dysfunctional that they are more famous for transmitting respiratory pollution than anything else. From Butondo to Nchanga chemicals from these plants are daily rioting the nostrils of innocents. And Sata does not care for a moment as long as his retirement house is being built. There is some good news out of this, however. The year 2016 is fast approaching. And in that year, we could at least start afresh and retire this so called A-Team, in national interest!

4 responses to “Beyond President Sata’s Tantrums: My Passion For Zambia’s Economic Future

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  2. To Elias and Macnicious. I just want to add one remedy to the poor performance of our economy. The answer does not lie in building universities first nor changing leadership.
    The answer lies in teaching all Zambians the now neglected subject called: CIVIC EDUCATION. Why blame Sata if a pupil in std 7 does not know how to spell the word TEACHER or a custom officer who lets loads of goods in the country at a small custom duty fee paid to his pocket only. In short what we have to combat first before we even change leadership is the love for Materialism in Zambia which has polluted the minds of all of us in Zambia. The change from the MODEST SAFARI SUIT introduced during the HUMANISM era to the LUXARIOUS DOUBLE BREASTED 2 PIECE SUIT with a handkerchief in the front pocket ( MATERIALISM ERA) is what has precipitated the downfall of the Zambian society.The WAKO NI WAKO slogan during the late HUMANISM ERA was fought so that DIGNITY AND PEACE NEATH ZAMBIA’s SKY could be restored. Now instead the PAMENE USEBENZA NDE PODIELA, a worser moral decay governing the Zambian mind. President SATA or SATAna, KIng Cobra and his PF are just the IMAGE or a PHOTOCOPY of the Zambian people. Birds of the same feather flock together and attract their own kind. President Sata was elected by people whose mind is same as his. So Moral Education, civic Education from the grass root to the top most is the first step in correcting this evil. It is true that the President and the PF are failing us but what about the teacher, the cleaner, the officer at the passport office, the traffic police officer and the list is endless of people who draw a government salary and yet do not perform.

  3. Macnicious Mwimba

    I would like to start by acknowledging the effort you (Elias) made to write the article and express your opinion on the economic issues and the decisions being made, which you have overly condemned. I must state from the work go that I value objectivity and will as such comment based on and led by objectivity.

    I berg to disagree with you that construction of universities is a wrong priority by the PF government, far from it. I consider it as a strategic response in a country where 65% of the population is below 35 years and almost 50 percent of the population is below 25 years. For me this is an indication that the lager population in the learning stage. As such its an important investment to educate our youths. As John F Kennedy said, “No nation can develop swifter than the knowledge of its people, the fundamental resource every nation has, is its people”.

    On the other hand, I agree with you that the investments (loans) into the national stadiums will got give a good economic returns that investments into the processing of copper into finished products would have given. For me, I agree with you that indeed its a surest way of poor priorities.

    Zambia has a country must move away from exporting our base and precious minerals as raw materials. We have to strategically begin to make exporting of our base mineral more expensive than exporting finished products from our base and precious minerals. For over 50 years we have been exporting raw copper and other precious minerals and nothings has developed in Zambia in real terms. We need to begin to do things defferently like Ng’andu Magande and Mwanawasa started collecting more tax on exporting of raw copper, that is when we will begin to develop. As long as we continue to things in a mad way, as Albert Einstein defined madness as; doing the same things over and over and expect different results, Zambia will continue to be poor.

    I am not a chief advocate for total ownership of mining firms by foreigners. I am yet to learn of any country that has allowed foreigners to be running is major resources and has successfully developed to the level of a developed country. Notwithstanding the international cartel in ownership of mines and financing of mult-national companies that continues to disadvantages developing countries, Zambia needs to be assertive enough to begin to act in the interest of the nation.

    The PF government has started contributing to some of the strategic actions that will make Zambia develop such as construction of roads. Admittedly, its has also made some serious mistakes that will make the people doubt their commitment to the development of the country such as refusal to reintroduce windfall tax.

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