By Mwatula Chiti Bsc. Econ & Fin, LLM – International Relations
A historic wind of change has swept across the peaceful nation of Zambia, as the nation ushers in its 7th President after a dramatic record-breaking General Election. On the 12th of August 2021, an air of silent expectation was palpable across the nation. Zambians rose up early to queue up at their respective polling stations in readiness to cast their votes in the long awaited Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections. Pictures were circulated on social media platforms showing how some citizens spent the previous night, vigilantly waiting for their change to be among the first to cast their vote. It was a ‘do or die’ election, particularly for the Youth of Zambia.
Before we applaud the Youth across the nation for exhibiting such an applaudable spirit of unity and assertiveness, lets begin by briefly deciphering what caused the wind of change among the young people.
The last 5 years under the Patriotic Front Government saw the nation’s economy degenerate and its currency losing value at an astronomical rate; depreciating from trading at ZMW 5.25 per US Dollar in 2016 to ZMW 22.21 Per US Dollar (Temporally currently trading at ZMW19.25 after implementing monetary policy gymnastics in frantic attempts to improve the situation two weeks prior to polling day). This was just one of many issues which irked the Zambian Youth over the last few Years.
Another cardinal area in which the previous regime mismanaged the plight of the Youth was the education sector. The cries of Lecturers and University students fell on deaf ears numerous times. Rather than cordially reaching out to students; On 4th October 2018, Police Officers were deployed to disperse a non-violent students’ protest at the University of Zambia main campus. Excessive force was used on the unarmed students; leading to the injury of several students and the death of a beloved student, Ms Vespers Simuzyila (May her soul rest in peace). The nation was set ablaze with anger and sentiments on the grave injustice and unnecessary violence which lead to the death of a student. Students marched, all clad in black clothing to mourn their late colleague a few days later. Sadly, in response, the powers that be nonchalantly turned a blind eye, hoping that the noise would die a natural death. But the youth took note.
This was evident when on 17th May 2021, Prof Nkandu Luo was appointed as the then Incumbent president’s running mate in the forthcoming elections. Social media was set ablaze with sentiments of shock, anger and disappointment on the selection. Remember it was under Prof. Luo’s regime that government sponsored students’ meal allowances were scrapped away. This was for a progressive reason, but as was her style, the then Minister of education condescendingly issued a number of ‘interesting’ statements which the Youth took record of. Appointing the Youth’s ‘public enemy’ number one was tantamount to poking a healing wound. This Political miscalculation rejuvenated the Youth’s determination to teach this regime a lesson.
A similar series of events calumniated into the Youth being called disgruntled by a named Provincial Minister. This was after plans to hold a peaceful protest by the Youth were thwarted as Police Officers armed to the teeth and clad in heavy anti-protest attires manned the proposed protest site. Enough was enough. It was clear that this regime took the Youth’s voice for granted. The future seemed hopeless. Cadres seemed to have easier access to opportunities and fair dialogue than the average Youth.
Fortunately, the Youth had a Knight in shining amour, lurking in the periphery, waiting for the next political showdown. Now more than ever before, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema warmed up to the Youth. He had evolved politically over the last decade and was nicknamed “Bally”, a slang term used by Zambia Youth to refer to an older man or one’s own father; a respectful name of endearment and hope. Bally’s Facebook and Twitter Pages exhibited more and more interaction with the Youth, taking their concerns and trends to heart. Mr Hichilema and team had found a diamond in the rough. The message was clear. For a better future, stamping out corruption, improvement of the education system and general development; Bally was our hope to fix things. The Patriotic Front unfortunately did not truly consider the Youth to be a factor. However, to their detriment, the previous election in 2016 saw President Lungu beat Mr. Hichilema by a mere 100,530 votes, a figure which the Youth of one province alone could overturn.
The deed was done, the Youth turned out in numbers, standing in long queues for hours on end, determined to leave only after casting their vote. By Sunday afternoon, 15th August, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema was leading by over 700,000 votes. Clearly headed for a landslide victory.
Robert Green’s famous 48 laws of power offer some priceless nuggets of wisdom worth noting. Law number 3 and 4 state the following; ‘Conceal Your intentions’ and ‘Always say less than necessary’. There is a certain type of silence which is ‘loud’; and this silence is what the Zambian Youth used to usurp the system. The incumbent regime knew that the Youth wanted change but they did not know to what extent and how desperate we were.
In conclusion, a famous local saying accurately summarize the Youth’s expectations: “Uwa kwensha ubushiku ba mutasha nga bwacha.” Meaning, you can only thank the person who helped you walk in the night once it is dawn. The most beneficial things are difficult to implement, but once implemented everyone can see the benefits and are grateful. We congratulate His Excellency, the 7th President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Mr. Hakainde Hichilema on his election. We humbly implore him to remember what we endured and how Youth from 10 provinces, with the support of our middle aged and senior citizens voted in large numbers, putting their hope in the hands of a valiant courageous Leader. Remember US your Excellency. We Love You. One Zambia One Nation!!