HH aims to tether Zambia to the West and transform it into the wealthiest local puppet, according to Azwell Banda.

HH aims to tether Zambia to the West and transform it into the wealthiest local puppet, according to Azwell Banda.

HH aims to tether Zambia to the West and transform it into the wealthiest local puppet, according to Azwell Banda.

Numerous Zambians have voiced their discontent, claiming that Hakainde Hichilema lacks a clear vision for Zambia. This viewpoint has been articulated across various sectors, including opposition parties, civil society, intellectual circles, academic communities, and religious organizations.

Alongside this criticism, there’s often an assertion that the UPND government lacks concrete strategies to address Zambia’s multifaceted and pressing challenges. However, I must contend that these assessments are mistaken.

Those who assert that Hakainde Hichilema, while in office, lacks both a vision and concrete plans for Zambia are mistaken. Hichilema indeed harbors a vision for the nation and is actively pursuing it with determination. He firmly believes in this vision and has developed meticulous plans, which he is currently executing with resolve to realize his vision for Zambia. Central to Hichilema’s agenda is the ambition to firmly align Zambia with the economic, political, and military interests of the United States and its Western allies, while positioning himself as the wealthiest Zambian figure aligned with Western powers.

During his electoral campaign, Hichilema employed populist tactics, vilifying the ruling Patriotic Front as inept, deceitful, corrupt, and thieving. Concurrently, he made promises to the impoverished majority, pledging to reduce prices on essential commodities such as fuel, transportation, electricity, rent, foodstuffs, and other basic necessities, as well as the costs associated with business operations.

To bolster these pledges, Hichilema vowed to drastically enhance the quality of democracy, governance, and combat corruption. Dressed in populist rhetoric, he presented himself as the solution to the myriad problems afflicting Zambia, positioning himself as a compassionate champion for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and offering himself as a beacon of hope for the nation.

At the midpoint of Hakainde Hichilema’s sole term in office, a consensus among rational Zambians has emerged regarding his true intentions: he is a wealthy individual ruthlessly determined to exploit governmental power for personal enrichment and to facilitate Zambia’s permanent alignment with the United States and Western interests. With this understanding of Hichilema’s agenda, it becomes evident to discern his actual “vision” for Zambia and to unravel his strategies to achieve it.

Hakainde Hichilema espouses a form of primitive capitalism characterized by right-wing principles, where the doctrine of “survival of the fittest” reigns supreme. His key proponent of this ideology, Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane, has consistently advocated for orthodox neoliberalism, emphasizing that the unrestricted operation of capitalist market forces and free trade will dictate the pricing of commodities, including essentials like mealie meal, effectively commodifying human life in Zambia.

Without affording Zambians the democratic opportunity to scrutinize, deliberate, and endorse the measures negotiated between Hichilema’s government and the IMF in exchange for financial assistance and debt restructuring, clandestine agreements have been reached. These agreements entail the adoption of stringent neoliberal austerity measures that erode national sovereignty.

Key among these measures is the elimination of government subsidies and corresponding price controls on essential goods and services. The objective is to bolster tax collection mechanisms, allowing the Zambian government to resume debt repayment at negotiated terms.

During his time in opposition, particularly leading up to the August 12, 2021 elections, Hakainde Hichilema and his inner circle within the UPND were fully aware that they were deceiving and misleading the majority of impoverished Zambians with false promises. This awareness stems from their early negotiations regarding how a potential UPND government would address Zambia’s debt situation with international entities such as the IMF, the United States, and Western powers. Consequently, now that they are in power, Hichilema and his associates cannot afford to apologize to the suffering masses for their deceitful campaign rhetoric. Such an apology would not only undermine their grip on authority but also necessitate an admission of deliberate falsehoods.

In pursuit of their vision for Zambia, Hichilema and his cohorts have made a deliberate choice to subject the impoverished majority to severe IMF austerity measures, effectively surrendering the nation’s economic, social, and political sovereignty. This approach is seen as crucial for Hichilema and his inner circle to amass significant wealth while managing Zambia’s debt obligations. Notably, the IMF has commended the UPND government for adhering to the stipulated conditions of debt restructuring, even amidst a cholera epidemic exacerbated by the rapid impoverishment under Hichilema’s brief tenure.

Many Zambians now recognize that Hichilema’s administration is facilitating neo-colonialism and imperialist dominance over the nation’s economy. The implementation of IMF conditionalities perpetuates unequal relationships between developed and developing nations, favoring the interests of global capital and the ruling elites within the UPND. Consequently, the burden of IMF austerity measures disproportionately falls upon the working class and rural poor, exacerbating social and economic disparities while enriching a select few.

The economic policies embraced by the UPND serve to widen inequalities and impoverish the majority while benefiting a privileged minority. This echoes the experiences of the 1990s, where IMF-imposed measures predominantly affected the most vulnerable segments of society. As the cost of living continues to rise under UPND governance, the poor bear the brunt of these policies, while Hichilema and his associates grow wealthier.

The IMF-imposed conditionalities for Zambia’s debt restructuring are further entrenching the nation’s economic dependency within the global capitalist system. Once again, Zambia finds itself compelled to enact severe structural reforms aimed at liberalizing and integrating into the global capitalist market. This integration firmly ties Zambia to the fluctuations and shocks of the global capitalist system, as evidenced by the permanent linkage of fuel prices and the Zambian kwacha to global commodity prices and currency movements since the UPND assumed office.

The neoliberal policies embraced by the UPND, in alignment with IMF directives, are inexorably leading to a reduction in real public spending on essential social services such as education, healthcare, and welfare programs. Consequently, the number of severely hungry Zambians has surged to two million, while informal settlements proliferate across urban areas, contributing to the current nationwide cholera epidemic.

IMF conditionalities advocate for labor exploitation through deregulation and flexibility in labor markets, exacerbating the erosion of workers’ rights and job security amidst deteriorating economic conditions. The UPND government’s plans to establish economic zones with flexible labor policies, including lower wages, further exacerbate the plight of Zambia’s working poor.

The rush to increase mineral production, particularly copper, to generate more tax revenue for debt servicing has led to a chaotic and corrupt allocation of mining licenses and the privatization of mines. This pursuit of economic growth prioritizes short-term gains over environmental sustainability and the well-being of Zambians, inevitably leading to environmental degradation.

The financialization of Zambia’s economy, highlighted by speculative activities overshadowing real investments, contributes to economic volatility and instability. This instability hampers investments in the real economy, perpetuating underdevelopment.

Zambia’s financial system faces severe vulnerabilities, which could escalate into social and political turmoil as the prices of essential goods and services soar beyond the reach of the majority. Despite the adverse effects on the populace, these IMF-driven conditions benefit Hichilema and his associates, enabling them to exploit economic vulnerabilities for personal gain while masquerading as “homegrown” initiatives. Ultimately, the vision remains for Hichilema to become Zambia’s wealthiest individual, serving as a well-compensated puppet of Western interests.

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Source: Zambian Observer

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