Zambians hope for a better future after crucial vote

 15 Aug 2016 - 16:37


By Thembisa Fakude

The elections provide an opportunity to showcase a country’s profile, at least this has been the case in Europe and indeed in the United States (US). This in turn encourages tourism and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).  Global media attention often eludes countries unless there is a major event that cannot be ignored.
       Most elections in Africa have not been able to attract positive media attention. African elections are often marred by violence and irregularities.  The August 2016 electoral process in Zambia has been characterised by violence and destruction of property. Notwithstanding, Zambia is still regarded as one of the most stable democracies in Southern Africa.
       Zambia gained its independence from the British Colonial rule in 1964.  Kenneth Kaunda affectionately known to his people and many in Southern Africa as “KK”, became the country’s first black Prime minister and later the country’s first President. Kaunda embraced a pan African political outlook and was one of the most active leaders within the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).  Together with Julius Nyerere of Tanzania he led a sustained political and diplomatic campaign to rid Africa of colonialism and apartheid.  
Zambia had its fair share of political misfortunes, two heads of state died whilst in office in a space of 6 years. The stories of the dying presidents of Zambia continue to provide a juicy fodder for the superstitious in Africa.  
President Levy Mwanawasa died whilst still in office in 2008 and President Michael Sata also died whilst still in office in 2014.  Zambia was one of the Frontline States that supported financially and in kind the liberation struggles of South Rhodesia which later become Zimbabwe and South Africa.  The current governing African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa had its headquarters in Zambia for the better part of its existence in exile.
The Zambian government notwithstanding its meagre resources and security threats posed by the Afrikaner minority regime of South Africa, provided an unwavering support to the ANC. The August 2016 elections are hotly contested between a total of nine presidential candidates. However, it is the incumbent President Edgar Lunga of the Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Huchilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) who are the most popular contenders.
These elections are a test for President Lunga who inherited the presidential incumbency following the death of his predecessor President Michael Seta. Zambia has an exemplary multiparty democracy, three different political parties have governed the country since independence.  
Despite the violence during the period leading to the elections, the process was concluded and the counting started  on Thursday.   
Zambian economy is beginning to show signs of recovery after years of slow growth and high unemployment.  Zambia’a economic woes were triggered by the nationalisation process of the economy in 1975.  The government basically inherited a declining mining industry consequently sliding deep into debt. Agricultural sector provides the largest employment.  
The advent of Chinese investments particularly in the copper mining industry has given a boost to the economy.  However, the international price fluctuation of copper remains a great cause for concern for the country whose economy is heavily reliant on copper exports.  
Furthermore, the attitude of the private investors inside the country towards copper mining has not made things easier.  Many have in the past indicated unwillingness to continue investing in the sector due to low prices of copper in the global market, this has added a strain to the economy.  The economists have also blamed Zambia’s economic challenges to the lack of diversification of its economy.  Zambia has a great potential for tourism, it has attractive natural spaces and a stunning fauna.  
It is the home to the Victoria Falls or Mosi – oa- Tunya, one of the World Heritage Sites which it shares with neighboring Zimbabwe.  However, the country has failed to capitalise on these natural resources.  
The elections come at a very crucial point in Zambian history.  The country has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.  Like many countries in Southern Africa, Zambia suffered one the worst draughts in its history in 2016.  Many ordinary Zambians have therefore pinned their hopes on the new government to improve their daily lives.

The writer is a Researcher at Directorate Studies Centre, Aljazeera Network.