LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
LAST week I was privileged to listen to a conversation while travelling on a public passenger bus in Lusaka, Zambiaâ€™s capital.
The conversation gave me an idea about the current political mood in my country. Ordinary citizens â€“ street vendors, sweepers, cleaners, housewives, marketeers, bus conductors and low-income workers including labourers, domestic workers and security guards â€“ were discussing load shedding and the depreciation of the Kwacha.
They tied the two issues to next yearâ€™s general elections and I have deemed it wise to communicate what I heard on that bus so that the politicians and their supporters can learn one or two lessons from it.
Often times they are misled by text book political analysts strutting around with bundles of degrees tucked under their armpits. I am referring to the men and women who carry big titles before the names their mothers and fathers gave them.
These snobbish citizens make loaded statements in the media and at public meetings after reading huge volumes of text books. They are completely divorced from the realities on the ground, which is the reason I rarely take them seriously.
But that is not the case with the â€˜komboni analystsâ€™. They speak what they see and feel, and account for the bulk of voters. Any wise politician will do well to listen to and believe them.
These are simple citizens with humble education or none at all eking out an honest living on the streets, in the markets, on the roads and in myriad work places.
They donâ€™t own mansions or drive big cars bought with fraudulently gotten money. Nor do they indulge themselves with multi-course meals for a dish of nshima with decent relish is enough for their sustenance.
I love and respect those komboni analysts because they do not talk to appease some politician in exchange for favours. Nay.
The bus on which I was travelling was going to Shalom via Y Road and White Wall Fence in Lusaka West, Kanyama Constituency.
It all started after the bus had turned into the gravel Shalom road. A middle-aged woman sitting in the back seat of the bus started complaining about load shedding and the high prices triggered by a weak Kwacha.
â€œWhat kind of life is this,â€ she moaned, â€œwhere you are subjected to load shedding every day?â€ Several other passengers agreed with her in a chorus. One woman said the energy crisis was indeed proving a big challenge to her family.
Then the initiator of the whole issue spoilt it all by waxing political, stirring the proverbial hornetsâ€™ nest.
â€œYou people did not vote properly in 2011. You should vote more wisely next year so that we donâ€™t have all these problems again,â€ she said.
Apparently, she had expected another round of support from the other passengers.
But she was shocked at their reaction. The same woman who had earlier agreed with her rounded on her. â€œAwe apo pena ba sister mwatena, ifyo mwayambokulanda nifinbi [your remarks are offside sister, you are saying is something else],â€ she said.
But the grumbler was undaunted. â€œI am just telling the truth. Was the Kwacha as weak as it is now during the time of Ba Sata?â€ she retorted.
â€œUko kukamba kwaso mwalakwa amayi. Edgar Lungu si Mulungu ayi. Nanga wamene mufuna wina kuti akankale president next year amapanga mvula? Tiuzeni [you are wrong mother, Edgar Lungu is not God, no. Will the other person you want to be president next year manufacture rain]?â€ said a young man seated in the middle seat.
Before the woman could open her mouth another woman said, â€œMadam, I am a crossborder trader. I regularly travel to South Africa to buy merchandise which I resell here in Zambia. But I have not travelled in the last three weeks because the exchange rate of the rand against the dollar is just too low.
â€œIt is not making any sense to travel because you end up making heavy losses. Now, are you telling me that the PF [Patriotic Front] responsible for the fall of the rand?â€
A man seated near the door joined the onslaught. â€œMaybe you donâ€™t follow international news madam. The prices of copper have fallen to the lowest on the international market where we sell our copper. Thatâ€™s why there is a shortage of dollars in our country,â€ he said
The bus conductor was not willing to miss out on the offensive. â€œOlo mitengo akakwele bwanji bantu bazagula. Kucinja government si solution ayi [even if the prices rise people will still be buying, so changing the government is not a solution],â€ he pontificated.
A woman chipped in from the back, â€œOnly the Son of God can stop these problems.
Even if you voted for another person or party next year if God does not give us rain and China does not buy our copper what magic is he going to use to bring the rain and force the Chinese to increase buying the copper so that its price rises on the international market?â€
A man seated in the front passenger seat demanded to know what formula the person the â€˜grumblerâ€™ wanted to take over next year was going to employ to arrest the depreciation of the Kwacha.
â€œWhat is he going to do which the current government is not doing madam?â€ he asked.
The woman was overwhelmed by the opposition from her fellow passengers and was now quiet, realising that she was a lone voice on the bus. No one was supporting her views.
As I disembarked from the bus at Peterâ€™s Palace people were still tongue-lashing the subdued â€˜dissidentâ€™.
If this is how these simple komboni people are thinking about the current challenges the country is facing then the opposition politicians must look at their tools of political analysis more critically.
I rest my case.
LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA