Hunger is HH’s biggest political opponent

Hunger is HH’s biggest political opponent

By Clinton Nzala

‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is a familiar saying adapted from a line in the play The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve, an English author of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

While I agree with a Congreve to a great extent, I think that if he lived in Zambia probably he would have known that ‘Hell hath no fury like a Zambian who cannot afford mealie meal’. I am yet to fully understand Zambians because they are very dynamic, constantly changing their opinions and attitudes. But as much as attitudes change, one thing is certain – Zambians have very little tolerance for any government that fails to keep the price of mealie meal in check. You can mess up everything, but make sure that people can afford to at least eat nshima.

Unfortunately, this is one area where the UPND administration has lamentably failed due to a combination of factors they have control over and those they don’t. To say the past couple of months have been difficult for Zambians would be an understatement. Since late 2022, the economy has been beset by runaway inflation that has resulted in steep increases in the prices of essential commodities especially mealie meal. And just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, there are signs that it is about to do just that. The poor rains recorded in the southern and central regions of the country can only mean one thing, a poor harvest. One does not need to be a genius to understand what this will do to the already high mealie meal prices. Many of our people are already unable to afford three meals a day, now imagine what is going to happen when the prices double or even triple.

Not to be a prophet of doom but this will likely lead to a significant increase in political unrest and anti-social behaviours such as crime and prostitution. The resultant civil strain will not only threaten public safety but our entire democratic system in the long run. If there is one thing that history has taught us is that democracy and hunger cannot share one bed peacefully. However it does not have to reach this far, I believe that there is still room for the government to manoeuvre and save the situation. The solution lies in a concept that President Hakainde Hichilema and his buddies at the IMF hate with a passion – subsidies. Despite how he feels about subsidies, I don’t think there is any card that the President can play to cushion the poor from the almost-certain increase in mealie meal prices. The poor rains will not only affect maize production but also lead to electricity load shedding which in-turn forces milling companies to rely on generators. This will lead to a high cost of production, a cost that will ultimately be passed on to the consumer. I fully understand that given the ongoing dealings with the IMF, reintroducing mealie meal subsidies will be a very difficult situation for the President. However, we are in a very difficult situation, and difficult situations demand taking difficult decisions. This is not the time to listen to advice from some bookworms living in ivory towers in Washington D.C.

To be honest I think it is about time the government told the IMF to take a hike because the over two years of engagement with the institution has produced nothing to write home about. How HH handles this year’s hunger will be the ultimate test of his leadership, it is what will determine his fate in 2026. It is without doubt the biggest challenge he is facing at the moment, not some Mickey Mouse political alliance of losers and looters. The only way that the masses might be seduced to get into some ‘unholy matrimony’ with that alliance is if HH fails to take decisive measures to shield our most vulnerable from the high cost of our staple food, and unfortunately the only viable method at the moment is subsidising the cost of mealie meal production. If he cannot do it for the masses, let him at least do it for his survival because if he fails to do so, he will be giving easy points to that political alliance with a name that sounds like that of some Nigerian actor. When people are hungry, they will listen to any charlatan that promises to take care of their stomachs and you honestly cannot blame them. It would be very unfair to expect to make rational political choices on empty stomachs.

The author is a political writer/producer with a Nairobi-based Pan-African media outlet. His work has appeared in leading media outlets in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. He is passionate about politics, agriculture and travelling. In football, he supports Green Eagles and Kalomo Jetters. Email:

[The Mast]

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