The election in 2011 of President Michael Sata and his party, the Patriotic Front (PF), led to not only a major expansion of social cash transfers (SCTs) but to a decision for the initiative to be mostly state (as opposed to donor) driven as well. This study finds that under the former ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), there was a failure to address salient issues such as unemployment and income inequality, despite sustained economic growth between 2002 and 2011. The shortcomings of the MMD’s neoliberal economic framework led to increased demand especially among urban Zambians for a pro -poor reform agenda. Sata and the PF capitalised on these demands using a populist electoral strategy that included promises of pro-poor economic growth that would benefit people in villages and urban townships. Between 2011 and 2014, i.e. from the time of Sata’s election to his death in office, the PF government emphasised a shift from agricultural subsidies (which were preferred by the MMD) to cash transfers while also increasing budgetary allocations to other social protection programmes such as empowerment funds for youth and women. Reforms were also driven in part by other actors including international donors and agencies, civil society and bureaucrats, all of whom interacted with political leaders through various processes. The study highlights the importance of socio-economic factors, populist politics, electoral dynamics, and the roles played by different actors to understanding social policy reforms that happened after a change of government in Zambia.
Hangala Siachiwena holds a BA in Development Studies and Economics from the University of Zambia and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town (UCT). He is currently a PhD candidate in the UCT’s Sociology department and a researcher on the Legislating and Implementing Welfare Policy Reforms (LIWPR) research project in the CSSR. His research looks at how and why social protection policy making is affected by changes of government in Southern African countries, including Malawi, Namibia and Zambia.