Liberalism in Zambian Governance

Last Updated: 26 Mar 2021
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Every country worldwide is ruled with certain rules and regulations which whether accepted or not by the preponderance, are still accepted as right. Thus, the aim of this essay is to elaborate on the various forms of liberalism, discuss on each of them, and explain while giving clear examples which one of them has been prominent in Zambia from 1991 to present day. It will begin by defining the main concepts; then the forms of liberalism shall be presented and discussed.

Thereafter an analysis of which form of liberalism has been pursued by the Movement for Multiparty democracy and the Patriotic Front in the ruling of the country of Zambia shall follow. A conclusion will then be drawn from the main body. Liberalism has been explained or defined in many ways. It comes from the word liberal, which implies freedom. Therefore if incorporated in the aspect of human life, liberalism means an ideology that advocates for gradual reform in the different aspects of a human life, for instance, social, political and economic aspects.

According to Doyle (1986:2), “liberal resembles a family portrait of principles and institutions, recognizable by certain characteristics, for example, individual freedom, political participation, private property, and equality of opportunity. ” From generation to generation, different forms of liberalism have emerged due to various reasons. Classical liberalism is said to be perhaps the oldest form of liberalism, which according to historians, emerged in the 16th, and 17th century though became prominent in the late 19th century.

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Some of the major pioneers of this type of liberalism were John Locke, David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Classical liberalism hence is said to uphold a French ideology laissez-faire which literally means “to allow. ” When applied to classical liberalism it advocates for non-state participation in the affairs of its citizens, (www. cambridge. org). To sum it up, classical liberalism advocates for “limited government, protection of personal freedoms, and free markets, they rely on rules of thumb derived from experience,” the Policy (2009:15). Classical liberalism has been criticized heavily that it only benefits the few elite.

This led to the emergence of Social liberalism in the mid 19th century. The word in the center of social liberalism is “equity”. This is where each individual has equal opportunities in society and benefits equally from the economic activities of the state. There is common ownership of means of production and goods are produced not for private profit making but for the benefit of society. Thus, in summary, Social liberalism advocates for equal opportunity, for self realization by the citizens and improvement in social status of everyone with the state as the major player.

It is said to be “committed to individualism but includes protecting individuals from acts of omission as well as commission,” the Policy (2009:16). Another type of liberalism is Political liberalism which focuses on the freedom of citizens in the participation of political activities without interference or hindrance by the state. This type of liberalism was mainly pioneered by John Harsanyi and John Rawls, (Policy, 2009). According to the Policy (2009:4), political liberalism emphasizes that “everyone has an equal opportunity to hold political office and to influence the decisions made in the political sphere. Green liberalism is liberalism with a notion of sustainable growth. It focuses on preserving the environment even in the midst of growth. Steinberg (2012:1) emphasizes that “green liberalism is the idea that market forces combined with individuals all doing their part can save the planet. ” Though supported by many, this type of liberalism has been criticized that it is not logical in that for development through liberalism to occur, nature or primary goods are involved hence their exhaustion is inevitable.

Neo-liberalism, another form of liberalism, is regarded as a re-introduction of liberalism. Various proponents and scholars have alluded that Neo-liberalism was first coined by the German economists who were trying to compare it with classical liberalism. Boas and Gans-Morse (2009), clearly state that neo-liberalism is both in rejection of laissez-faire policies and emphasizes on humanistic values. Neo-liberalism supports free market trade, private capitalism and private property while it reproves government intervention or interference.

This type of liberalism is likened to classical liberalism though it “ goes even further than classical liberalism in that its ultimate goal is to create a world where political action is governed entirely by the free market, so that all decisions are unbiased and fair,” (www. ehow. com). The Neo-liberal policies were and still are widely advocated by International Monetary Fund and World Bank, (struggle. ws). The policies advocated by Neo-liberalism have been criticized in that there is usually unequal distribution of development within a country.

Privatization measures are said to benefit the foreigners more than the local people. Even though the IMF and World Bank emphasize that these measures would help improve the welfare of the vast majority, it has been argued that privatisation is characterised with corruption, trade is controlled by the super powers which has seen to the market being populated with cheap imported goods and hence discouraging local producers. These policies are said to only benefit the few elite, (Simutanyi, 2009). Zambia is a landlocked country in the southern part of Africa which after being colonized by the British, gained its independence in 1964.

After independence the country had its first president Dr Kenneth Kaunda, leader of the United National Independence Party who according to scholars saw to the rise of autocracy in the country. Thus the country was turned into a one-party state where the state controlled a major part of the economy. Some of the characteristics of Kaunda’s rule include “a system of terroristic police control; control of all means of effective mass communication, control of all means of effective armed combat,” (Phiri: 2001,2).

Since the main aim of the government was to ensure equity, therefore it can be right to say that during that time, Zambia was under Social liberalism, (Simutanyi, 2006). Due to the many shortcomings of the UNIP government for instance the food riots, foreign debt, economic decline and social disintegration, the Multi-Party Movement for Democracy which was headed by Fredrick Chiluba took over leadership and adopted the Neo-liberal policies. There was “independent rational attitude, free expression and the promotion of private self-interest over general system,” (www. ambiastruggle. com). Sorabjee and Bourne (1996:27), stated that when MMD was elected, there were major changes in the country such as “privatisation or liquidation of state enterprises, the relaxing of import controls and of investment regulations and barriers, removal of subsidies and other protections, and freer regime in agriculture and manufacturing. ” These policies were “implemented largely at the insistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank,” House (1991:2).

Since the economy was and still is mainly dependant on the mining sector, many mines were privatized so as they can be more productive and efficient. According to Simpere (2010:7) “under the influence of its lenders especially the World Bank and following the election of a new government in 1991, Zambia decided to dismantle and privatize its mines. ” The mines were not the only state-owned enterprises privatized but many other companies, approximately two-hundred and sixty three (263) companies were taken over by foreigners.

This happened between 1994 and 2004, which was predominantly during the reign of the MMD precisely Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa, (Simutanyi,2006). There was also the liberalization of foreign exchange and import. “Since late 1991, Zambia has fundamentally changed its trade and economic policy. The trade regime has been considerably liberalized and there has been substantial decentralization and deregulation in other spheres of economic activity,” (www. wto. com).

The dominance of neo-liberal economic programs in Zambia promised fast and sustainable economic growth, where Adam Smith’s invisible hand comes in play that the majority of the poor would benefit, (Zambian Economist, 2007). Thus the MMD fully adopted the Neo-liberal policies and the government enacted economic and political liberalism in the country. The Patriotic Front led by President Michael Sata is the current party in government in Zambia. It was elected into power in 2011 during the tripartite elections held in Zambia.

It is not clear whether the state under the current government is undertaking a neo-liberal type of governance or a socialist. Some spectators have argued that due to the move of the Patriotic Front to join the Socialist International, the country seems to be heading into the direction of a socialist state, (www. zambia. com). Even though this is so, the Patriotic Front government has corrected the misunderstanding that they shall continue to advocate for socio-economic liberalism spearheaded by neo-liberal policies as was stated in their manifesto, (m. lusakatimes. om). Nothing much has, in reality changed during the past twelve months of the Patriotic Front’s rule as compared to the twenty year rule of the MMD. Companies are still privatized, trade liberalism still exists, democracy still prevails and the existence of property rights exists as well. The country of Zambia still values the foreign investors and their relationship with other capitalist societies with whom they enjoy the benefits of trade liberalism. Therefore, neo-liberalism as proven above has been the dominant type of liberalism in Zambia from 1991 to present day.

Even with the consequences of neo-liberalism such as increase in the poverty level, increased debt, uneven development, Zambia continues to boast of being one of the most liberalized states in Southern Africa. In conclusion, liberalism has been a major player in determining the role of the state in Zambia, hence among the many types of liberalism Neo-liberalism has been adopted by the country of Zambia to spear-head its development. What is not certain is, if it were not for the government being pressured by the IMF and the World Bank, would it have, on its own adopted the neo-liberal policies or it would have continued as a social state?

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Liberalism in Zambian Governance. (2017, May 24). Retrieved from

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