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Tonight, their much anticipated IMF program may kick in. Those in power will make a lot of noise about this loan in the days to come. They will sing hymns of self-praise for securing the bailout and attempt to drive out any reasonable voice that warns about the adverse consequences of the deal.
But it is just a matter of time before Zambians realise that there is no future in the past. We have been on this route before and it has not worked for us. It is not the first time Zambia is going to the IMF. UNIP under president Kenneth Kaunda went to the IMF in the 1980s though KK was quick to abandon the Brettonwood institution after they failed to answer his famous question: “are you able to design a program that will not require me to kill my own people?”
The MMD under Frederick Chiluba went to the IMF in the 1990s. The MMD under Levy Mwanawasa went to the IMF in the early 2000s. Where have all these previous IMF deals left Zambia? In a much terrible place. If anything, they have simply exposed our incapacity as a people to govern ourselves. After winning independence on the ground that we can govern ourselves, does it really make sense for us to subcontract the running of our economy to the IMF, to return to the West and ask them to help us govern ourselves? As Simon Kapwepwe would say, Zambia twasebana!
The greatest beneficiaries of IMF bailout programs in Zambia are usually the same forces: Western companies, South African finance capital and the local businessmen connected to those in power. These forces are usually the ones who buy our state-owned enterprises at cheaper rates on the pretext that they are making losses. It will not be different this time. The poor will be hit hard. The workers will be hit hard. There will be retrenchments. It will end in tears.
Companies that even Chiluba refused to privatise under any circumstances such as ZAMTEL and ZESCO are this time likely to be sold to their business associates or the western firms. For years, those in power today told us when they were in opposition that they are very good at business; that the reason why state enterprises make losses is because of political interference from the ruling party and the politicians in power. Now that they are in power themselves, what will be their excuse for selling state enterprises since all they need to do is stop interfering in the operations of ZESCO or ZAMTEL and appoint competent people who can run such companies professionally and like private entities?
We repeat: the lasting solution to Zambia’s economic difficulties does not lie in the IMF. It lies in the collection of fair and adequate revenue from the mining sector for support to secondary industries such as manufacturing. It lies in the development of the arts, a hugely important industry that those in power today have reduced to a footnote in a ministry! It lies in increased state support to agriculture and enhanced food security, but those in power today are quicker to listen to the IMF and remove subsidies on farming inputs even when the US and other Western countries till subsidise their own agriculture industry. It lies in increased state investment to social sectors such as education and health.
And by education, we do not mean free education up to Grade 12. That is a racist colonial policy that was formulated on the premise that Africans only need basic or elementary education, not higher education. Only honorary whites in black skins can continue implementing such stupid policies. By investment in education, we mean free education up to university level because no country in the world has ever developed using primary or secondary school graduates.
We mean adequate funding to public universities to enable them function without disruptions, to afford our researchers the necessary funds they require to conduct research in social sciences and to support their scientific discoveries and technological advances. We have some of the most brilliant scientists in this country at UNZA, CBU and other public universities whose talents are going to waste because of lack of state support towards their research activities. This must shame us all because we have let down these people. We mean the provision of students’ living or meal allowances so that they can learn on full stomachs as opposed to the distractions caused by not knowing where their next meal will come from.
And when we say increased investment in health, we do not mean the employment of security guards and general workers and the designation of these people as ‘health workers’ in order to hoodwink the masses of our people that over 11, 000 ‘health workers’ have been recruited! We mean the training and recruitment of actual HEALTH workers such as doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists and other professionals who finish school with their diplomas and degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, with no one listening to their cry for availability to serve their motherland. Many of them consequently leave Zambia to apply their trade elsewhere, at a great loss to us since we are a country that is acutely lacking health workers.
Where will the money for investment in all these sectors come from?, some of you may ask. From fair collection of taxes from the mining sector. Those in power today cannot collect fair revenue from the mining companies because they have given tax breaks to these firms. No wonder the mining companies were saying they could not wait for them to get into power in the run-up to last year’s elections. Mining firms knew that they would only be paying little tax. Zambia’s situation will even be worse now with the passing of Statutory Instrument No.50 of 2022 that offers rebates, refunds and remissions to the mines. With all the noises going on over the two by – elections, many people have understandably missed this SI whose effect is that the poor Zambian masses will, henceforth, be subsidising private mines while being told these are “investments” for their benefits. The cynical cruelty of it all beats the mind.
The SI in question (and we invite readers to read it) simply means that we have in State House (or is it Community House since Statw House is too dilapidated for him?) a generous president who is providing for his supporters such as FQM who will save millions on their announced investment. The implication is damning. If FQM says it is investing US 1.3 billion dollars in Zambia, and half of it is in imports of “capital goods” (mining equipment) it will not pay tax – it will be refunded should it pay as part of the import transactions.
With the capital/labour ratio in mining heavily tilted to capital (all mining investments these days are heavy duty and high tech mining dependent and not labour based), the remaining “investment” will be used on a tiny Zambian workforce in lower and perhaps middle level jobs. Meanwhile, the profits of the shareholders are boosted because input costs are lowered because of these tax “incentives” which are in fact transferred onto the ordinary Zambians as losses from mining operations. In effect, they are government subsidies to finance capital and losses to the Zambians via reduced taxes. The IMF deal is facilitating all this madness, yet these people and their supporters in the Brenthurst Foundation, who are involved in designing a low mining tax policy, want us to cheer them on. Aikona man!
Those in power today cannot collect fair revenue from the mines because they have vested interests in this crucial sector, as they do in the beef industry. All these things will come to light one day and Zambians will know the kind of greedy leaders they are dealing with and supporting blindly. It is important to accept that the mining sector is now heavily reliant on technology and will never again create thousands of jobs as it did previously. The best we can do is to collect a fair share of taxes from our depleting natural wealth or leave the metals underground since they won’t rot. But will those in power listen? No, they only listen to their white friends in the EU, or those from the Brenthurst Foundation. Poor and ordinary Zambians have no voice in this government. To these masses of our people, we have only one request: the next time we say “Zivotele”, please pay attention!
Anyway, let them celebrate their dreadful IMF deal today, whose conditions must be so ghastly that they are too afraid or embarrassed to even publish them. At least those in power today won’t blame anyone for the political fallout that is surely coming as a result of implementing a dreadful IMF deal. Nipano tuli.
Fred M’membe
President of the Socialist Party

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