By Trevor Simumba
Zambia is at an important crossroads in its history as we approach 20 years of multi-party democracy. However, since 2001 our country has seen increasing polarisation and divisions based on tribal origin and party representation. Even the Church which is meant to help guide the nation has taken stringent partisan positions. It is indeed an irony that in a supposed democracy, political parties which are critical components of democracy lack internal democracy and are the least democratic institutions of all with some not even ever having held internal elections. Every political party in Zambia is led and dominated by the same generation of politicians that benefited from the one party state and ditched it to go with the 1991 revolution and since then have created various offshoots of the same party.
In terms of the media the nation has gone even further behind with the media taking unprincipled and unprofessional positions on issues related to governance in Zambia leaving the masses uninformed and unable to make decisions on voting that is informed by issues that affect their lives. Given the role the media could play in promoting or sabotaging democracy, there is need for mechanisms to sanction media practitioners’ that display partisanship in their political reportage, the need to mandate state-owned media to provide regular free air time for civic education and grant all candidates and political parties airtime for programmes on an equitable basis and on equal financial terms.
Although reform of the electoral process is important and should be pursued with vigour, there is need for concerted efforts to the issue of sanitising the political terrain before 2011 and ensure our country does not make a big mistake come the elections that time. A recipe for change must be developed now and not tomorrow. The time for recycled and selfish politicians must end in 2011 otherwise we will face a ticking time-bomb of greater disillusionment amongst our restive youth. I have seen personally the devastating effect of civil strife in Sierra Leone, the DRC, Angola, and Rwanda and very recently in Kenya. We do not need to go that route if only Zambians of goodwill could stand up now and consign some of these stubborn politicians to the rubbish bin of history and delete them from our society. This is the time to plan for the 2011 elections because very soon, politicians will start parading themselves as saints, righteous individuals and saviours requesting for our votes. The process will be driven largely by money-politics and tribal allegiances.
In which case, the elections have been concluded and the battle will be between the ruling MMD and the PF. The money that will be employed to campaign by both parties will not be a function of earned income but largely a product of graft, underhand deals and unhindered access to public wealth. This means that the bulk of the resources would be public funds and therefore the current managers of public funds, which pre-dominantly are MMD/PF members, would direct the process. To prevent this sadistic approach to creation of a one party state and our descent into despair, we must create new organisations that have the necessary orientation, meaning and value to support the hopes and aspirations of all Zambians. These new organisations would then be the levers for new governments with promising programmes and potentials to produce high quality changes in the realities facing citizens.
We must prevent a situation where an individual aspirant contributes 100% of the campaign fund and instead ‘organise political campaign initiatives that would be based on delegated community structures with accountability frameworks such that the candidate is only a functionary. In other words, the candidate is selected based on established criteria and by that measure could be disciplined accordingly, including dropping him/her. The main focus thus is the ward and local government levels. The theoretical orientation would then be bottom up rather than the current top down approach where the focus is on higher offices. As we progress toward 2011, the political landscape will be saturated with people aspiring for all manner positions. And it is these people that would dictate placements for offices at lower levels i.e. national assembly, local government chairmen and councillors.
Our nation has a good history of producing leaders from the missions like Mwenzo and Lubwa, through to the native welfare societies and the mineworkers unions; Zambia has produced leadership that has stood the test of time. One wonders where are the Kapwepwe’s of today, the Nkumbula’s of today or the unsung heroes like Dauti Yambayamba, Lawrence Katilungu, Mbikusita Lewanika or even Nalumino Mundia? What about the courage of women like Mama Kankasa or most recently Lucy Sichone?
Today we treat criminals, tribalists, and ill-mannered people as heroes? It is difficult to accept that in a nation of 12 million people we continue to fail to identify quality leadership that respects the opinion of others, that respects public service as a service and not a route to wealth and a leadership that has a vision for the nation and not just for the village they happen to come from. Perhaps before the professional politicians arrive we can at least develop a proposal for change now? In a democracy we have the ‘power of choice’ and we need to use it now for the good of our country. Surely we can do better than the rabble rousers we currently have in our country today.
We should all remember that wherever people have remained silent in the face of evil, many have died and dictators have been birthed. We are not a special case. It has taken strong Presidents supported by well meaning Zambian citizens to uphold and maintain ‘One Zambia One Nation’.
Let us reflect on the words of two great Christian leaders:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. —Dietrich Bonheoffer
We will have to repent . . . not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
We need more men and women like Bonheoffer and King–more people with the courage to speak out against wrong things. Continuing to remain silent in the face of corruption, lies, insults and tribalism in our country is the same as supporting it. Actions are needed now please! Imagine if there are enough people in Zambia willing to stand up for what is right. Be principled. Speak out against injustice, evil and wickedness. Stand up for your rights. Demand for change now. Fight for social justice. Enough is enough. Stop hiding in your big houses in Kabulonga and in your nice semi-detached homes around the world in the Diaspora, it’s time to bring real change to Zambia now!!! Our old men need to be consigned to history. Let them rest and allow a new generation of Zambians take the helm peacefully otherwise, the ticking bomb may just stop ticking and blow them out of power! Change must come and it will surely come.