Happy Independence Day to all the Zambians out there!

Image source: Wikipedia

more on the zambian elections

Check out African Arguments for a brief backgrounder.

The election remains too close to call, which means that Banda is winning.

Given how stacked things are against the opposition, they can only win if they do so convincingly. If it is close (like it was in 2008 when the president won by just over 30,000 votes) the electoral commission will be under immense pressure to hand the ruling party, MMD, the win.

Mr. Sata (the main opposition (PF) candidate) has urged his supporters to stay at polling stations to monitor the tallying and relay of results. I understand there will be an NGO-led parallel vote tallying (but which won’t be publicized because of govt. sanctions). I hope I can get a hold of these results before the end of the week. The electoral commission of Zambia has promised to release the results within 48 hours of the polls closing – that is Thursday evening.

In Lusaka everything is slowing down in readiness for the elections. There is a sense that there will be isolated violence in some parts of the city but nothing too serious. From what I gather the Copperbelt is the region most at risk of election-related violence. People there have (or believe that they do) the most to gain if PF wins (The Copperbelt is also majority Bemba. Mr. Sata is a Bemba speaker).

The MMD’s privatization drive (of the mining sector) since the early 1990s has hit this region the most. Many lost their sinecures in parastatals;  free medicare and schooling disappeared; and there is also a sense that foreigners are benefiting at the expense of ordinary Zambians in the region. Mr. Sata has promised to channel more resources from the mining sector into social programs and a more aggressive job drive.

This is largely campaign hot air but it appears to be sticking. The MMD will be lucky if it gets even a single parliamentary seat in the Copperbelt.

Zambian elections

The Zambian elections will be held on the 20th of this month.

The main candidates are incumbent President Rupiah Banda (RB) and opposition leader Michael Sata (Sshhh, don’t kubeba). The two are running on the MMD (movement for multiparty democracy) and PF (Patriotic Front) tickets respectively. Both parties have fielded parliamentary candidates in all constituencies. PF is widely expected to take the urban areas and most of the developed parts of the country. MMD’s stronghold is in the rural areas.

Many on the streets of Lusaka and other parts of the country – well mostly along the railway line coming down from Nakonde – believe that it will be a close election.

They also think that if it were truly a clean election Sata would win.

MMD knows this and has been distributing chitenge and other goodies like there is no tomorrow. This has prompted PF’s slogan of don’t kubeba (don’t tell them); which asks voters to take the chitenges and money but not tell MMD that they are truly PF. I have seen pictures of women in the Post in which women have two chitenges on: a PF one covered by an MMD one.

Because of the deep skepticism over the integrity of the upcoming elections many in Lusaka think that there might be disturbances if PF does not win.

More on this soon.

Quick hits

Guide to arguing on the internet (HT Lauren).

Speaking of arguing on the internet, I like the drama that is spats between economists and other academics on their respective blogs.

The Economist presents the faces of famine in the Horn. It is beyond sad that so many people should be condemned to suffer this man-made tragedy.

Brett Keller has posts here and here on Sam Childers (a.k.a. machine gun preacher), a gun-runner into the habit of doing morally and ethnically dubious things in the name of God. Keller says that Childers is “stockpiling arms at his orphanage and has admitted to selling weapons to unnamed armed factions in Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda.”

In Zambia (where I shall be for the elections in Sept.) the politics of citizenship and belonging are yet to be settled 50 years after independence. We recently witnessed the dangers of de-legitimizing whole sections of countries as outsiders in Cote d’Ivoire. I hope that if Sata ever wins he will not do what incumbent Ivorians did to ignite a rebellion in the northern reaches of their country. For more on this check out this great book on the Ivorian collapse. I have read it and absolutely loved it.

A muddy few months ahead for the South African government. Infighting with the ANC top brass might mean an early exit for President Zuma. With over 60% of the votes in the last election, the ANC is essentially an oversize coalition prone to internal wrangles. It will be interesting to see how Zuma weathers the storm in the midst of challenges from both COSATU and Malema.

Lastly, the current issue of the Journal of African Economies looks at the impact of higher education in Africa. The main takeaway is that the low quality of education at lower levels (primary and secondary) has meant that the biggest bang for the buck on the Continent, as far as education is concerned, only comes with higher education. Too bad that many of those that get higher education are underpaid or out of the Continent all together.

chiluba dies

The firebrand Zambian trade unionist-cum president, Frederick Chiluba, has died. The Daily Nation reports that the former president of Zambia died in the early hours of Saturday.

Mr. Chiluba came into power in 1991 following the defeat of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia’s first multiparty elections. Although tainted by allegations of corruption – he has been accused of having embezzled US $46 million – Mr. Chiluba will be remembered as one of the fearless civil society leaders on the continent who championed the democratic cause at a time when it was dangerous to do so.