By Nina Mbabazi Rukikaire (Ugandan Monitor)
A week is a long time in politics, so they say. Alas, we have Zambia to show for it. While we were all mesmerised by the gracious withdrawal from state power of Zambian President Rupiah Banda, little did we know that incoming President, Michael Sata, would wait for only one week before he started to unleash his pent-up anger on the MMD. I guess the title “King Cobra” wasn’t given to him for nothing.
Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) having failed to convince the courts of law that his rival MMD (Banda’s party) had indeed imported campaign cars and not paid taxes, this week resorted to his control of the police forces to impound 37 vehicles belonging to the party. Of course he needs no reminders that a competent court had thrown out the case. He is now the President, and like many who have the power, has decided to use it not to bring justice, but to try and curtail a party that trailed by about 200,000 votes; a close enough margin to scare him.
Three lines from Rupiah Banda’s speech come to mind here as a reminder that nothing lasts forever. “To the victors, I say this: You have the right to celebrate but do so with a magnanimous heart…. Remember that the next election will judge you also. Treat those who you have vanquished with the respect and humility that you would expect in your own hour of defeat.” Very rare words coming out of an African leader, but there we had it, a speech to make us all proud to be African; a speech that separated us from uncivilised leadership. Rupiah joined the list of men that have served Africa with honour, and by his actions, his name will always be spoken alongside Mandela, Nyerere, Mogae, to mention a few.
But President Sata’s actions this week underscored why elections in Africa are violent, or at the least bring out the worst in supposedly good people. Leadership remains open to abuse in Africa.
Elections are violent because we citizens assume the best from our leaders, often-times to see the exact opposite. The MMD of course has its history of such underhanded methods of operation and Sata may have suffered some of these tricks; but to show in the first week that finally the rulings of the court of laws need not be respected because one is President says a lot about what kind of leader he shall be; leave alone the empty promise to transform Zambia in 90 days, an impossible feat by any measure. It is likely that he knows that Banda’s words will come back to haunt him in five years when he has not delivered on his promises. It is then that most people will open their eyes and say, how comes we never saw that character in the beginning?
It is at moments like this that the Zambians needs to rise to the challenge in all wings of government where they have representation and put in place laws that will protect their democracy. As Banda said, their independence was hard-fought and won on the blood of many Zambians. To not see the dangers in existing loopholes and plug them would dishonour their nation’s history.
President Sata’s actions this week shows us that every generation has a cause to fight for, a reason why they must take up active service in any field to do whatever they can for their country. If an entire generation chooses to sit on the sidelines and ignore their service to country, then they should not complain when the democracy they get is not one they desire.
Ms Mbabazi is a social critic.