Marilyn Celli, an international good governance advocate who recently visited our country, made some very interesting observations and asked some very important questions.
Celli observes and asks: "Poverty is a multi-dimension that is characterised by a series of different factors, including lack of access to essential services. Fighting corruption is the only way to change the situation in Zambia. This country has minerals being produced every day and exported, but why is it that over half of the population wallows in poverty? These are the things we should ask ourselves and make strides to resolve them, and make this country that enjoys relative peace to see development."
Celli further observes that in a corrupt environment, income inequality increases and the state's governing capacity is usually reduced, especially when it comes to attending to the needs of the poor. "We have seen before leaders entrusted with constitutional powers abuse their authorities with impunity and selfishly merely for private gain. Corruption denies the participation of citizens and diverts public resources into private hands. This has cost Zambia a lot and must be stopped now. We have seen people questioning the PF government's stance, but that's the way to go to clean up the governance system and to ensure that people begin to see meaningful development," observes Celli.
This year we will be celebrating 49 years of independence. But for most of our citizens, it will be 49 years of waiting to see a tarred road, electricity, a qualified medical doctor in their area.
Forty-nine years is not a short period in the life of an individual and in that of a nation. In less than five years after independence, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and his UNIP government managed to construct a tarred road to every provincial headquarter of this country. They also managed to build a hospital and a secondary school in almost every district. Electricity was extended to many areas that never had it before. That was just in the first five years of self-government. We are approaching 50 years, half a century of independence, and yet most of our citizens have never seen any of these things that today constitute development and civilisation.
We appreciate and support the efforts being made by the government today to try and open up areas of the country that have not benefited in any meaningful way from the last 49 years of independence in terms of infrastructure. New roads are being constructed where there had been none before, opening up new areas of our country to development. In every province, there is a road, there is something on the cards that has never been there before. These are good dreams, these are dreams that must be realised. These are things the Zambian people have been dreaming about for close to five decades. They have never given up on these dreams because giving up on such dreams is tantamount to renouncing life itself. It is said that today's dreams are tomorrow's reality; today's reality was yesterday's dream. We should keep on dreaming about a better life in our homeland and indeed in the whole world.
However, it's not accidental that after 49 years of independence, the great majority of our people are still waiting to travel on a tarred road, on a good gravel road; they are still waiting to see electricity in their houses, in their villages, in their areas. They are still waiting for many basic things without which a human being, an area cannot think or talk about development. Why is this so and why should it continue to be so?
Yes, we do earn some income from the extraction and export of mineral resources. This is not enough to give our people great material wealth, but enough to give them a sense of equality, of human dignity. But a sense of equality, of human dignity is only possible in a country where those who govern do so in the interest of the common good. This is so because working for the common good requires us to promote the flourishing of all human life and of all God's creation. In a special way, the common good requires solidarity with the poor who are often without the resources to face many problems, including the potential impacts of climate change. Our obligations to the one human family stretch across space and time. They tie us to the poor in our midst and across the globe, as well as to future generations. The commandment to love our neighbour invites us to consider the poor and marginalised of our homeland as true brothers and sisters who share with us the one table of life intended by God for the enjoyment of all. This is not possible if those who are entrusted with governing try to get a lion's share of everything for themselves; want to sit at the table alone. The common good demands justice for all. The common good is opposed to abuse, to corruption. Where there is abuse of office and public resources, where there is corruption the common good is not being promoted, it is being undermined.
It will not be possible for us as a nation to give our people a chance, an opportunity to see the things they had been dreaming about for close to five decades if we tolerate corruption at any level of our governance system.
We have not been able to take tarred roads to all the parts of our country because for most of the time we have been mending the same roads every year at a very high cost. Money is given to contractors who those in power are working with or conniving with to rob the nation. Shoddy jobs are done but the government still pays for those poor works. Why? It's because someone in power is eating, has been bribed. Sometimes public works are done by people whose business partners are government officials. This in some way explains not only the shoddy jobs being done, but also the very high cost of our government construction contracts. We don't believe that the government has been paying the right price for its construction works, be they roads or buildings. Paying for shoddy jobs is not the best way to empower citizens; it is corruption. And it is this corruption that is robbing most of our people the opportunity of seeing development - tarred roads, electricity and other services required in an organised society in their lifetime.
We are not exaggerating when we say that there are people who were born in 1964 but to date have never seen a tarred road or electricity. Go to Kalabo, Shangombo, Chinsali, Chadiza, Kaputa, Chiengi, Chama, and you will find many people who have never seen any of these things we are talking about, things that constitute development.
We therefore agree with Celli that the future of our country will only be safe and secure if the fight against corruption is kept alive. And as Celli advises, those who want to see our country develop and their lives move forward must not be swayed by corrupt elements like Rupiah Banda and his supporters and defenders who want to derail the determination of this government to end corruption. They should not listen to elements like Hakainde Hichilema, Nevers Mumba and others who are more ready to defend Rupiah's plight instead of the plight of the poor people of this country. As Celli says, if corruption is eliminated, Zambia will become a world-class economy and the benefits from our mineral resources would begin to reach all our people.
Integrity should be observed in the management of public resources. It is imperative that no one, out of indifference to the course of events or because of inertia, indulges in a merely individualistic morality.
Through corruption, citizens are not only compelled to pay for services that should be free; state budgets are pillaged by corrupt politicians; public spending is distorted as decision-makers focus spending on activities likely to yield large bribes and the economy suffers, but also corruption costs in terms of public trust and citizens' willingness to participate in the affairs of their country. Corruption is robbing our nation of scarce resources; corruption is a sin and has drastic evil effects. And the fight against corruption is inevitably universal as it is inter-twined with the promotion and enhancement of democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency.