This presentation examines the failure of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government to secure the electoral support of Copperbelt mine communities in the 2021 Zambian election, despite its implementation of ‘resource nationalist’ policies. These policies, which ended foreign ownership of two of Zambia’s leading mine companies, were ostensibly designed to appeal to Copperbelt residents in general, and mineworkers in particular, who had since the mid-2000s expressed growing discontent at the failure of foreign owners to develop their mines, create secure jobs and contribute positively to the Zambian economy. While the articulation of such policies had secured PF electoral support in 2011, 2015 and 2016, their implementation by the Lungu presidency was followed by decisive electoral defeat, with Copperbelt voters swinging away from PF and towards the opposition UPND, which won the Zambian presidency in 2021. This presentation combines analysis of electoral data, extended ethnographic observation, and interviews with mineworkers to explain the relationship and disjuncture between what it characterises as popular ‘resource nationalism from below’ and PF’s ‘resource nationalism from above’. In doing so it contributes to understandings of the relationship between resource nationalism, electoral competition and political change.
With Prof. Miles Larmer, History Professor, University of Oxford, UK
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