Hunt for Successor 38: Democracy under threat

By Field Ruwe

 Please take a moment to read this article. It is clear that president Sata will not rule Zambia beyond 2021. Two obstacles stand in his way, the Constitution and age. In 2021 he will be 84 years-old, adding another five years of reign will be a strain on his health and unfair to a progressive democratic Zambia. Since this is a scenario that cannot be changed, it is our duty as Zambians to begin now, to prepare a Zambia for the future generation so that whoever succeeds the incumbent can lead a dynamic democratic African country interconnected socially, politically, and economically to a technologically explosive world.

But as things stand, this is unassailable because we are a divided people.  In his quest to consolidate his power, our president is creating and encouraging divisions, and fostering enmity in opposition parties so as to weaken them. We are witnessing the arrest of opposition leaders on flimsy grounds. Violent PF cadres are disrupting rallies and claiming fatalities. The president is using the same methods and stratagems as some of his predecessors. In doing so, he is pitting party against party, cadre against cadre, neighbor against neighbor, and tribe against tribe.

Democracy is under threat. The president has given the police force carte blanche to operate with judicial oversight. In a democracy, a police force is an agency of government that is not only knowledgeable and professional, but also non-partisan. In Sata’s democracy, the police force is repressive as under fascism and is subject to the wishes of the ruling party. Sending a police coterie to parliament to restrain the country’s lawmakers is a clear indication of where the country is heading—to netherworld.

No people can advance in a country where civil liberties are disregarded. We cannot prepare a model for Africa under repressive circumstances. We can’t; not when those who can contribute to change face extrajudicial punishment. They are arrested, threatened and detained—some released after spending days in TB infested cells. We cannot advance until we begin to fight this undemocratic seizure of our rights.

We are in the second year of Sata’s reign and nothing much is happening. We are as we were before—a stagnant people. Like still water our country continues to lose its purity due to fractured politics. From Chililabombwe to Livingstone, our architects have hardly changed the face of the country. The 39-year old, 295ft tall Findeco House still remains the tallest high-rise in the country and the symbol of our immobility.

From 1964, years have rolled away. It’s 2013. Our politics are still the same—of poverty, corruption, manipulation, and deceit. Our leaders are as they have always been—dishonest, greedy, insensible, and narcissistic. And we are the same individuals—proud, lazy, divided, and easily manipulated. Each one of us carries an element of pride that makes it impossible to work with the other.

In short, we hate each other’s guts. It bothers us greatly when our friends do well in life, school or at work. We hate their talents, aptitudes, and proclivities. Our natural compulsion is to drag them down, trodden them beneath our feet, so we can stand tall even when we have nothing to offer. As a result, we have failed to take ourselves on a virtuous road to eminence—to the perfection of our moral, intellectual, and physical nature.

We are a failed people, suffering from severe cultural lag, a disorder that has become an impediment to the advancement of our political, social and economic status; and one that makes it difficult for us to catch up with technological modernisms. “Cultural lag” is a term coined by William F. Ogburn. In this case it refers to the slow rate at which we are keeping up with the ever-changing and challenging world. We can’t seem to synchronize our adaptive instincts with those of the advancing world.

And yet we can do better. We can become the African country that changed the continent. Yes, we can become a “Singapore” of Africa. It took only thirty years (1965 – 1995) for a small former British-colonized country of Singapore to grow from a developing country to one of the most developed of the Asian nations. Like Singapore, our natural resources should not be minerals, but ourselves and our strong work ethic.

I already can hear groans of a lazy man: “You can’t compare our situation with that of Singapore.” The “Rome was not built in a day” syndrome has become our extenuation. We are like a vagabond who squats at the railway station watching trains enter and leave. Each time one stops, he rushes to the platform for handouts from disembarking passengers. He has become so addicted to begging, shame is not an emotion in him. When asked, he retorts; “What do you want me to do, steal? It’s not my fault that I find myself in such a situation.”

In the great leap from Colonialism to independence we have and continue to overlook the fact that the great number of us live by the use of our hands and have failed to put brains and skills into our daily modern occupations. We refuse to understand that we shall advance only when we learn to dignify our god given intellect and apply it collectively, cooperatively, and in harmony.

Again, the stumbling block is the undemocratic politics of the day. The president is blocking collectivism and corporation. We need them because they are synonymous with true democracy. We need them for our politico-economic advancement. We need them to alleviate poverty, hunger, and disease. Our people have suffered enough.

Since the incumbent has failed to take us on a true democratic path, we should take ourselves. We should form a freestanding, non-party “public good” pressure group to keep democracy and its ideals alive. The pressure group shall focus on finding ways to transform Zambia into a “Singapore of Africa.” It should comprise advocates of democracy within Zambia and in the Diaspora. These should include political and democratic activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and all those who are ready to confront Zambia’s challenges in the 21st century.  The mantra of the pressure group should be “change.” It should be a means and a social goal, essential to our advancement.

In the 48 years of our independence, we have witnessed firsthand a tranche of successes and failures of our Founding Fathers and their successors. We are now able to understand them. We know their style of leadership is the same. We now understand that if we maintain the status quo their style will be passed on to us and our children. We therefore intend to change the political landscape of our country and develop a set of strategies and recommendations for effectively addressing today’s complex and intractable developmental issues.

We need to live in a country where our thinking and actions are not stifled; where our intelligence is not eroded. Our future leader should see us as a path to upward mobility and as a weapon for intellectual success. As we educate our sons and daughters, we shall also educate children of the poor, and kaponyas. They are the ones who will be gliding through the mazes of technology. We need to identify in them those skills, which will give them the occasion to practice. We should make it possible for the gifted to showcase their talent in the arts and sciences and reward them accordingly.

That’s right, “our sons and daughters;” it is among them a leader should arise, for it is not ours, but their future. It will not do them any good to continue lagging in technology and society. They need strong analytical skills, practical ingenuity, creativity, good communication skills, business and management knowledge, leadership, high ethical standards, professionalism, dynamism, agility, resilience, flexibility, and the pursuit of lifelong learning.

The existing assumptions and values surrounding our current archaic education system leave them all but at a loss. A new form of “culture education” is the only upward mobility; one that is aimed at the improvement of their condition. The years preceding 2021 must be devoted to their advancement. In paving the way for them, we are paving our way to a respected and prosperous people.

The greatest frustration is that we don’t believe in ourselves. The major questions are: Don’t you think we have been held to ransom by the same old politics long enough? Are you happy with the direction in which our country is heading? Don’t you think we have been a disrespected people around the world for a long time? Isn’t it time to show them we are a force to reckon with? Do you truly believe we can change this country? Wouldn’t you want to be part of the people that did it?

There are 14 million intelligent people in Zambia waiting to be elevated in the scale of existence. All we need is a change of character and attitude. We need to start replacing all the negative words with positive ones—“can’t” with “can,” “don’t” with “do,” “hate” with “love” “failure” with “success” and “impossible” with “possible.” We must build a culture of hope; of curiosity; of success; and of efficiency. We must begin to communicate happiness amongst ourselves.

Working together, we can revive Livingstone Motor Assemblers and not just assemble cars, but also make them; Mansa batteries and make solar batteries for rural electrification and locally made radios; help Clive Chirwa realize his dream of a railway system of modern times. We can create new factories for computers, cellphones—even planes, believe it or not. If we believe in ourselves, we can make Zambia a thriving nation with the highest per capita real income.


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