As the presidential elections loom in 2011, the major political parties in Zambia have been making efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people, as confidence in the government continues to slide. Pledges are being made by the ruling party MMD to improve the infrastructure of the country, following the floods in the capital city which forced many residents to abandon their homes.
In contrast, opposition parties in the country have been calling for major reforms particularly with regards to the provision of basic services. The health sector has been severely affected by lack of equipment and human resources with 27,000 health workers in the country serving a population of 12 million people, approximately 1 health worker for 2,000 people. The educational system is also in a serious crisis with only 14,000 or 6% gaining entry to institutions of higher education out of the 300,000 students who complete high school each year.
Over the past few years Zambia has experienced economic growth spurred on by the mining sector and investments made by China in the country. This has helped create an emerging middleclass but has also widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Accusations, abound that the arrival of the Chinese has simply benefited the well connected elite. Voters have plenty to grumble about, amid rising concerns about the government’s inability to properly invest in education, to secure a better future for young people living in a country where nearly half of the population is under 14 years.
At independence in 1964, Zambia was the second largest producer of copper in the world – after the South American country – Chile. The country now has one of the lowest GDP per capita in Sub-Sahara Africa, with two-thirds of the population living on less than $1 a day. Tainted by scandal and accusations of corruption, the ruling MMD (Movement for Multi-party Democracy) is no longer the force it once was when the party took over the reigns of power, from Kenneth Kaunda who served as president for 27 years. The political scene in Zambia is now characterised by personality clashes, political infighting with accusations being levelled against the government for doling out positions to other political players.
Zambia has been a relatively stable country since independence and a growing number of Zambians are keen to see a smooth transition of power with the benefits of economic growth trickling down to the masses.
© 2010, Kabukabu Ikwueme. All rights reserved. Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.