Below we publish an interview with the Economic Liberation Association, a socialist organization in Zambia. There website is www.elazambia.org.
Question: How do you view the present political situation in Zambia under the Lungu government?
Answer: The current political situation under President Lungu (whom it should be mentioned that his legitimacy is still being contested by the opposition United Party for National Development UPND following the massive electoral manipulation during the elections of 11 August 2016) is tense, as we are currently under a virtual state of emergency as of June 6. The Patriotic Front (PF) regime has basically turned into a dictatorial, authoritarian, tyrannical regime hiding behind a thin veneer of democracy. Under the current state of emergency, the police and other security wings have been given unlimited powers to search without warrant, arrest, and detain indefinitely anyone deemed to be risking 'public security'. Abduction of suspects, usually those opposed to the regime is underway and such suspects are being held in secret locations. basic individual and political rights of expression and free speech have come under heavy attack, with most independent media resorting to self-censorship. Other print media like THE POST NEWSPAPER has been shut down all together on the pretext of tax evasion.
Question: What is your opinion on the role of Hakainde Hichilema and his opposition party – the "United Party for National Development" (UPND)?
Answer: Our position as ELA on Hakainde Hichilema is that he and his party, the UPND, are a counter-revolutionary, neo-liberal party that is there to maintain the capitalist status-quo in Zambia. The party was founded and funded by a capitalist agent - late Anderson M. Mazoka who was an executive employee of Anglo-American corporation, itself an imperialist corporation that had a stake in the Zambian copper mines until 2001 when they sold out. The successor to Mazoka is the current incarcerated UPND leader Hichilema, who himself is yet another agent of international industrial and finance capitalism. Hichilema personally had a hand in the scandalous privatisation of the mining industry during the period 1997 to 2001 when all mines were sold off cheap to multinationals. Hichilema and his fellow compradors personally benefited from the looting of the nation. There own manifesto is totally capitalist inclined, filled with the usual promises of a better life, jobs, low taxes, free education etc but without a fundamental shift in the economic capitalistic structure and mode of production. Hichilema and UPND are not opponents of the IMF's austerity measures, they are not opponents of exploitation of workers by capital. They simply ride on popular discontent to propel their own power agenda.
Question: How do you view the state of the trade union movement?
Answer: The trade union movement in Zambia is dead. There has been a systematic obliteration and bashing of unions by capitalistic unions. Labour laws are outdated and ineffective. Labour unions are virtually non-existent and dysfunctional in the private sector where unionism is perceived as a hostility by employers and treated as such. Enforcement of labour laws that are alright in principle is another matter; corruption has so infiltrated the Ministry of labour that employers are able to sabotage or circumvent labour provisions which allow them to get away with abuse. Further, the labour courts are totally overwhelmed with labour cases, many of which are never heard nor resolved. Mostly corrupt judges and lawyers conive to frustrate workers justice. The labour movement is dead and has been killed by capitalist labour brokers and other union bashers!
Question: How do you assess the class character of Zambia's capitalism? Do you see it as a semi-colonial dependent on imperialism?
Answer: Zambia's capitalism is a fully fledged neo-colonial state, and it bears both a class and race character. The nation's economic and trade policies are basically determined by external forces who hand down policies to the government owing to our heavy debt estimated to be 7.2 billion dollars U.S, but it can be triple that in reality. The country's major resources - mining, is mostly and traditionally dominated by foreign western corporations who still view Zambia as an extractive mineral rich territory. But the Chinese are coming in fast in mining, construction and even farming, with an investment portfolio of over one billion US dollars. Domestically, in terms of local manufacturing and food processing, the Indian community exert great influence with nearly all household consumables monopolized by them from manufacturing right through to wholesale and retail trade.
Question: Which Great Powers exert substantial influence in Zambia?
Answer: The greatest power over Zambia is the industrial-finance combination of the IMF and Mining corporations. With the IMF being major funders of the Zambian budget, and the mines being the biggest contributors to mining export revenue, these two combinations have been collusion with the puppet capitalist regime of the PF to throw-wide open new avenues of exploitation of our resources and our people. CHINA is the next biggest foreign influence, with a lions share in construction projects which are overpriced and financed by Euro-bonds. China has also funded multiple government projects in various sectors, and the PF regime looks beholden to them. Chinese imperialism is very much on the march in Zambia. The third biggest influence is the INDIAN exploiting influence, though not frequently and adequately explored due to considerations that the Indians are also Zambians. But in reality, the Indian community sees itself as a separate economic class, with huge control in manufacturing, processing and real estate. The Indian community alone has more wealth than all Zambians put together, and they account for less than 1% of the population of Zambia.
Question: What you believe will be the main issues in the political developments in Zambia in the near future?
Answer: Rising levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality remain the biggest and most pressing issues. At individual level the nations youths are pressed by a high cost of education, then faced by high levels of unemployment and underemployment, not to mention wage slavery. We have poor health service provision, lack of decent housing and other social amenities. At national level the biggest issue is rising debt, and rising taxes and inflation which reflect itself in high cost of living and doing business. The economy is basically geared to serve capitalist interests, foreign and local elites.
Question: How do you see the possibility for the creation of a new Mass Workers Party which would fight for the interests of the workers and the poor?
Answer: The possibility exists, and ELA's strategic objective is to transform itself into the political vanguard of the working people once it is strong enough on the ground. Our objective is political, and all things being equal, 2021 elections should be our entry point at which we hope to contest. We are at present, the only truly socialist outfit in existence in Zambia both in theory and practice. We have reached out to workers and students and communities, and we are convinced that we are the best suited to propel the Zambian people's socialist revolution. Others may claim to be socialist, but they are only political opportunists trying to ride on the appeal of socialist values which always strike a cord among the oppressed masses.
Question: What are, in your opinion, the main issues of a revolutionary program for the class struggles in the coming period?
Answer: Liberation of the national economy and its resources from foreign/local private control and ownership via socialization of the state economy. Debt elimination and industrialization of the Zambian economy via an agrarian revolution. Scaling up of policies to attain full employment, better wages and conditions for workers, free education and healthcare, housing and infrastructure development.
Question: Can you say a few words about the history of your organization?
Answer: ELA was founded in 2015 by a few revolutionary minded young Zambians who are determined to overthrow the capitalist hold on our country's resources. We are not funded by anyone, for the obvious reason that no capitalist will fund a revolutionary agenda. Within ourselves and our ability, we continue to agitate for socialist principles via radio, TV, symposiums, community meetings, publications and many other avenues. Our reach of course is constrained by resources, but we determined that with continuous building of structures on the grassroot, we can gather the revolutionary impetus to move us forward no matter the hardships.
Thank you for the interview!