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Address “shrinking economy,” Deliver on Promises, Jesuit Scholars in Zambia Urge President

The Logo of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR). Credit: JCTR

Jesuit Scholars in Zambia have called upon the newly elected President to work toward reviving the country’s “shrinking economy” and delivering on the promises he made to Zambians.

In a statement published Sunday, August 29, the leadership of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) highlights some of the challenges bedeviling the Southern African nation and urges President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) to prioritize addressing these challenges for the good of the citizenry.

“HH and his team have an arduous task to fix a shrinking economy and put it on a growth trajectory,” the Jesuit scholars say.

They note that “expectations from the Zambian people who turned out to vote en masse amid widespread poverty, high youth unemployment, and general economic decline as evidenced from the high cost of living and sustainable external debt, are too high.”

“HH and his administration are expected to implement economic reforms that will put Zambia on a more sustainable fiscal footing, liquidate foreign debt, and secure a bailout loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” JCTR officials say.

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The Jesuit scholars further say, “Citizens, particularly, the jobless youths and women are eager to see the new team come up with deliberate efforts to create jobs and business opportunities for these youths and women who made up the majority of the voters who turned out on 12th August.”

Mr. Hichilema was sworn in as President on August 24 after emerging the winner of the country’s Presidential poll.

In their August 29 statement, the Jesuit scholars note that “Mr. Hichilema has stated that his team has come to work; work and more work. There is evidence that HH is a hard worker.”

“One wonders though if the individuals in HH’s team will match up to his work ethos. As for work, there is plenty of it cut out for HH and his administration to bring about the much desired constitutional, governance and economic reforms in a consultative and inclusive manner,” they say.

They further highlight the need for Zambia’s new leadership to “foster unity under our motto of ‘One Zambia One Nation’. This is predicated on embracing a path of healing of the wounds of any wrongs or harms committed during the just ended elections.”  

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“People must learn to move on and march together towards a hope-filled future that taps into the all-embracing leadership qualities of women and the very creative and innovative energies of youths,” the Jesuit scholars say in the August 29 statement signed by the JCTR Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe.

They further express the need for the new government to “rid this nation of political and electoral violence once and for all.  This entails completely abolishing cadreism in any shape or form in this country by finding creative and sustainable ways of economically empowering those who are accustomed to making a living from this way of life. “

The HH-led government will have to “strengthen democracy anchored on the rule of law, respect of human rights and people’s liberties as a catalyst for economic recovery and national development,” the Jesuit scholars say.

“This must include a people-driven constitutional refinement with a referendum to consider adopting some progressive provisions to enhance the Bill of Rights.  This must also include legal reforms to address retrogressive provisions in the Public Order Act, introduction of the access to information law to enhance transparency and accountability, and reforms of other contentious pieces of legislation in our laws,” they add. 

In endeavoring to steer Zambia in the right direction, JCTR Officials say, “HH has professed to have adopted a servant-leadership model to guide his work.”

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“When leaders prioritize being at the service of the people other than being at the service of their own interest or greed, they inevitably empower the community to grow in commitment to the common or shared vision,” they add.

The members of the Society of Jesus are curious to know if “HH’s team will buy into this model of leadership.”

“HH needs the support of a game-changing team. Does each member of his team share his vision?” JCTR pose.

They say the danger for the President is that “if there are some individuals within his team who don’t share and internalize this model of leadership, and for that matter, other goals he has set for himself and his administration such as zero tolerance to corruption, these individuals are likely to militate against their leader and his vision.”

The Jesuit scholars further say, “HH will need to be incisive in identifying elements of passive aggressiveness within his team where some opportunist individuals will pretend to be with him and pretend to share his vision, when deep down their hearts they are a wolf in a sheep skin.” 

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“A servant leader must be strong enough to embrace a counter-cultural way of doing business even at the expense of rocking a boat or losing close allies or friends.  The Bible has Jesus as an example for it,” they say.

They further urge Zambians to “pray hard that HH will be a transformative leader and that he will have genuine transformative individuals in his team to drive this country in the right direction of strong and functioning governance and economic systems.”