KENNETH KAUNDA THRIVED ON AN INHERITED ECONOMY(1 964-1 991)
Article by Mbunga Pan Africanist
Reminiscent of the PF government which thrived on an economy inherited from MMD; Kaunda thrived on an economy inherited from colonial masters.
At independence from Britain in 1964, Zambia, rich in copper deposits and agricultural potential, was rated as one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Though, with huge inequalities in wealth distribution, as in the case of the Barotseland region which was impoverished by Kaunda deliberately.
But these, as many interested observers assumed, would soon be reversed by the enlightened social policies of President Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP), the protagonist of nationalist agitation in the early196OS and Zambia’s ruling party from 1964. Unfortunately the great expectations of independence were soon dashed for
the overwhelming majority of Barotse and Zambians.
Mismanagement, patronage, corruption and growing political authoritarianism all took their toll. By the late 19703, shortages of such basic foodstuffs as maize-meal, sugar, salt and cooking oil were commonplace, and queuing for essential commodities had become a significant part of everyday life in the urban areas of the country.
Due to Kaunda’s poor management of the country, costs in industrial production escalated further! and thus, redundancies grew more and more common.
The Pot-holes along almost all the roads inside the cities as well as those leading to provinces became,not only a butt of jokes about the efficiency of the UNIP government in managing the economy, but also a source of serious fury against the UNIP government. The maintenance of roads literally abandoned and the only good criterion for repairing any section of the road seemed to be either when a catastrophic accident occurred along that road or if Kaunda himself,one of those rare occasions, decided to pass along the said road on his way to attend some function.
By the beginning of the following decade,
after a number of earlier aborted attempts, Zambia, bereft of capital, had half-heartedly submitted to the Structural Adjustment Programmes advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Food riots in Zambia’s urban centres in 1986, as well as consistent defaulting on debt repayments and servicing, led to a temporary suspension of relations with the IMF and the further decline of what had
once been widely seen as a vibrant economy, society and culture.
By weakening state patronage, economic crisis ushered in political reform.
The earliest initiatives came from individuals who strongly felt that change was inevitable if the country were to be saved from this political and economic disaster. The pioneering Efforts in this direction were made by Sikota Wina who, at the Fifth convention of UNIP in Lusaka 1990, submitted an open letter to the convention, which outlined some of the problems with One-Party system of government, the state of emergency and basic human freedoms in Zambia.
Later, others joined Mr Wina’s efforts.