Illegal citizenry, SMEs in Zambia


WE LIVE to work and most importantly for the legacy that succeeds our earthly life. In this respect, Christians create their legacy not without a spiritual aspect.

They are always conscious of Jesus’ statement: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Therefore the love for one’s neighbour commandment quite well defines the much vocalised Christian nation status for Zambia. Seemingly, this is the legacy our generation is moulding: being welcoming ‘good neighbours’.
What I am not too sure about is whether our being good neighbours stems from the Christian values Jesus asks us to uphold or something I would call being too trusting. But I am concerned that being a good neighbour is one thing and being gullible is another.
Foreigners represent a huge percentage of the Zambian population and they have the higher level of business achievements. Is this what we call foreign direct investment (FDI)?
Generally, FDI is performed well by those from the West, Middle East, and Asia. It is evident in the mansions, shopping malls and supermarkets, among other investments found in our big and small towns. They keep their heads above water in Zambia as they quickly acquire citizenship or other related documentation that support their stay here. Moreover, they never forget the right procedures of investing in a foreign nation. In a way, they provide employment, some of which results in skills that many youths succeed in attaining.
My main concern and the reason why I was encouraged to write this piece is about the neighbours that run most of the kiosks in the very heart of Zambia. About 90 percent of the SMEs (especially kiosks) found in every corner of Lusaka compounds are being controlled by people from neighbouring countries.
Despite the ‘good neighbour’ legacy which our generation lives to create, we are aware that about 80 percent of our neighbours that control the SME businesses in Lusaka and other areas are illegal citizens. Does it mean the natives of this nation can’t run these ntembas? Don’t we have the skills and the ability, and even brains, (in spite of being good at drinking beers 24/7), to take care of the SMEs which the illegal citizens are taking advantage of?
It’s very surprising, but also annoying, knowing that these neighbours enter Zambia without legal documents like passports and visas. They intermarry and make illegal families when their being here remains totally fictitious. Some of them become so controversial and intimidating in that you can hardly come into good books and negotiate for a same profit-making selling price with them.
There seems to be an impression that one will be required to engage in rituals to make a successful business in their midst. One must put on amulets for business protection and fortifications. This is being accepted when we know that it’s something against both our religious and cultural values.
I don’t wish to sound mean to state that these illegal citizens come to make the monies that we the natives are looking for and can make locally. Who gives them illegal entrance, who welcomes, hosts and embraces them? It’s Zambia herself, our Christian nation, with Christians living and working to create a ‘good neighbour’ legacy.
I doubt if a Zambian could easily set off to Kenya, Uganda or South Africa, and illegally run businesses there. If so, I wish to roam the world and experience for myself what it feels like to live as an illegal citizen in Tanzania, DRC, UK, USA, China or anywhere other than Zambia. If these countries mentioned above appreciate the good policies that work well for foreigners, how do they help them develop and how are they different from us?
This is how I look at it: I personally think that, if the illegal citizens illegally running shops in Zambia were helped to route back to their rightful places, Zambian youths could perfectly handle the SMEs. Many would be exposed to vast business opportunities and would soon lessen the corruption and poverty levels in Zambia. I don’t think it is in order for foreigners to control three quarters of the SMEs in our ‘Christian nation’ when we also have the capacity to do the same work.
Is Christianity setting a chasm between the Zambian citizens and their constitution? Every good home is guided by substantiated rules and we have sound rules that govern our nation. What do they stipulate on aliens coming to Zambia? They say ‘a home is where a burger is’, but is it wise to invite illegal strangers to a burger that cannot suffice for the owners?
I therefore recommend that, as we keep moulding our legacy as good neighbours’ from a Christian perspective, we should also be conscious of the illegal citizens, some of whom trade in various drugs and engage in other illegalities to which our own people succumb. Jobs are hard to find but business opportunities should readily be available for our struggling family members.
I am confident that am shielded in the good spirit of mother Zambia and that of my ancestors as I defend morality, and therefore I remain fearless.
Gullibility will not develop our nation, neither can it help our own people. Feeling pity for a criminal is being an accomplice, and keeping illegal citizens is equally a grave and punitive crime.
Trobisch Kapalu is author of ‘Walls Beyond The Horizon’.

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