Analysis: EVANS NGOMA
THE current cholera outbreak has brought to the fore harsh, painful and stubborn realities and facts.
Lusaka has over the years been characterised by annual cholera outbreaks. Every year during the rainy season, we are aware that the city floods, drainages are always blocked with litter and garbage. In townships, we have pit latrines that are always bound to fill up with water and pose a danger as most of our people use wells, besides the high risk that the underground water gets contaminated.
In spite of all these facts, every year, we always have crisis management scenarios and pull out with huge catastrophic levels.
Unfortunately, this time around, we have not been very lucky and it had to take the head of State to call in the armed forces to help avert the crisis.
I have observed that it takes an extreme scenario to get people’s attention. Unfortunately, in our current situation, loss of lives (may their souls rest in peace), and loss of business and productive time.
I have in quite a number of articles stated that as a country, we are rich in human and natural resources, thus, we have a huge economic potential. All the above are an indication that we should be able to deal with the current crisis.
Dealing with such a potentially fluid situation requires financial, material and technical resources and zeal to get it done.
Despite the abundant mineral wealth, the unfortunate fact is that the wealth is not in the hands of the people and communities but owned by many mining establishments which have invested in equipment, technical know-how, feasibility studies on mineral exploration, created jobs for our local people, contributed to the growth and stability of this country through payment of taxes and earning the country the much-needed foreign currency.
However, we need to have community trusts as vehicles to ensure that we benefit from our resources, which are a finite.
Some might ask, what is the link with the current crisis? There is a big link and situations like these require huge resources from a strained and drained fiscus. What has been happening is that businesses have been making pledges materially and financially for the fight against cholera and these efforts are well applauded and commended.
The fact remains that the quantity and volume to donate is not imposed but a helping hand based on what they could afford as well as compassion levels of the executives within that company. I believe, as a country, we are getting a raw deal.
I have, on behalf of BuyZed, been calling and lobbying for establishment of community trusts, whose sole aim is upliftment of communities’ well-being – health, education, infrastructure and social amenities – leveraging on our God-given resources.
As communities, we are the ones who are losing our loved ones. We are truly compassionate about friendship and relationship is not a commercial one but purely about being a brother’s keeper.
I strongly believe that with the resources we have in this country, fighting this epidemic should and must not be a strain on Government alone but communities alike to help.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that though we have resources, outside statutory obligations and specific organisations’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies, which you and I can only appreciate as a recipient. I cannot do as I should when we have trusts purely looking after its communities using our rich value in resources.
Let’s push the agenda of community trusts to an extent that now we could have collected quite significant resources not with a begging hand but on what we ought to benefit. I have always asked a few colleagues, should we beg for our resources? Think about it.
There are media reports that a named mining firm has committed to the construction of Lusaka City Market, this is commendable. However, I feel with community trusts, more could be done.
The other observed harsh reality is that we have a lot of businesses that could have come on board on our crisis, but some are not, for the simple reason that their head offices are outside the country and this is not directly affecting them.
I will highlight just a few issues to help comprehend the view. Of the goods that we procure made outside the country, where are the profits going? Of all the road contracts that have been awarded worth millions of dollars, where are the profits going? Your guess is as good as mine. Now if we procure and support locally-made goods and services, profit retention and re-investment is for us locally and it becomes easier for businesses to pull together and work on the crisis.
Without mentioning names, some have heard or seen support given by local companies. It’s truly a sign that ‘wako ni wako, mabvuto ni kuthandizana’ (Take care of your own, let’s be empathetic).
We can do more collectively and all we need is to support our very own by having preference towards locally-made goods and services. We are their primary market and will do all it takes to satisfy.
The president of the Zambia National Farmers Union Jervis Zimba has noted with concern that local farmers are losing business due to closures of markets and since primary market is us, there is nowhere to export to unlike farmers in their respective countries whilst waiting for Lusaka situation to stabilise. We believe they are focusing on their local markets.
Let’s support our own. It takes you and I to make our country great.
The author is the founder of the BuyZed campaign.