Man of the people? How Sata's Zambia is faring: it is just over a year since President Michael Sata and his Patriotic Front came to power. While the government is quick to point out its successes, the opposition disputes their claims. Reginald Ntomba reports from Lusaka.

AuthorNtomba, Reginald
PositionOVERVIEW - Essay

The election promises were mega and so were people's expectations. The settling down has been chaotic, characterised by ministers differing on policy, and President Michael Sata's frequent reshuffles and bundling and unbundling of government agencies. While critics see this as a sign of unpreparedness to govern, admirers say it is the right thing to do to put in place a working formula.

But, all the politics and economics combined, nothing is more vexing than the issue of unemployment. Zambia has an employable workforce of six million. But the formal sector can only accommodate around 700,000 jobs. Everyone--from the president and his ministers to the opposition--is describing the lack of jobs as a "time bomb".

Over one million first-time youth voters were crucial in swaying the vote in the Patriotic Front's (PF's) favour. They were promised jobs. Their impatience is palpable. Last August, angry youths, demanding jobs, openly confronted President Sata (popularly known as "King Cobra") as he toured stands at a trade fair in the capital, Lusaka, with his guest Robert Mugabe. A month earlier, thousands of youths lined up for 800 spaces in the army, to which Sata remarked that: "When you see children fighting over recruitment in the army, it means they are warning us. If we are not careful, these young people will beat us one day."

The government has called for patience, saying it has formulated a National Strategy for Industrialisation and Job Creation, which prioritises four major areas in the next five years, namely agriculture (550,000 jobs), tourism (300,000 jobs), manufacturing (90,000 jobs) and infrastructure development (20,000 jobs).

"We need a determined and bold assault on unemployment as a moral equivalent of war," says Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda. How much they deliver on this promise will be crucial for their 2016 report card. But the opposition is not convinced. Elias Chipimo, leader of the National Restoration Party, has accused the government of being "almost clueless" on unemployment.

Critics accuse the government of lacking "a clear policy direction". This is on account of ministers issuing contradictory statements on policy matters. Another issue that caused concern was the frequent merging and unmerging of ministries. In the last one year, ministries have frequently been created and recreated and what started off as a lean government has steadily grown. PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba admitted his party still...

To continue reading

Request your trial