By Given Mutinta
The recent statement by the Home Affairs Minister, Kennedy Sakeni that government will deal with individuals planning to demonstrate against its decision to realign some districts in the country makes a sad reading. What is brewing up with regards the realigning of districts is an incontrovertible symptom of a severe breakdown in the continuous and thoughtful attentiveness in the practice of democracy.
As a democratic state, it is important that people who retain political sovereignty are consulted on the realignment of districts. Public consultation is not a luxury but a regulatory process that can allow President Michael Sata to ascertain people’s views on the realigning of districts. It is through public consultation that Sata can learn about democratic governance.
Ill-advisedly, Sata has snubbed the public on the realigning of districts. This is undeniably undermining and emasculating our democracy.
In good conscience, the realigning of districts can be a noble idea. If planned and implemented without underhanded motives, it can enable government to bring the service such as health, education, and others closer to the people that for a long time have been privileges for the rich people. It can enable government to give our people effective and efficient service delivery.
If well sought of, the realigning of districts can also enable government to create valuable jobs at district level, address the issues of infrastructure such as district hospitals, roads, water and electricity. It is irrefutable that the realigning of districts can make it easy to supervise development projects, take more resources direct to the people, and other benefits.
In spite of this, the realigning of districts can be rejected or fail to enhance service delivery if immediate beneficiaries are ignored in the decision-making processes. It is discriminatory, unjust and undemocratic to realign districts without public consultation.
Thus, it is not overstretching the truth to say that Sata’s failure to engage our people in a prolific dialogue to share views and concerns on the realigning of districts has triggered the current tempest in the provinces being robbed of their land and resources.
Owing to lack of consultations, our people have the right to be suspicious of Sata’s drive to realign districts. Sata is to blame for the mistrust and apprehension over the realigning of districts. For sure, lack of public consultation suggests that the realigning of districts is Sata’s political strategy to widen his net of political patronage. Sata’s lack of limpidity and transparency in his decision to realign districts shows that it is a ploy to woo political leaders from areas that voted against him, with the hope that their supporters will follow.
It is also discernable that Sata wants to dismantle Southern and North Western provinces to perpetuate the ‘Bemba’ hegemony. Sata’s belief in ‘Bemba’ superiority and favouritism towards his own tribe, and excessive suspicion, intolerance, hatred, exclusion, mistrust and contempt towards other tribes is stomach turning. Sata’s tribalistic heart is evil.
If Sata’s idea to realign districts is irreprehensible, why didn’t he consult our people, the beneficiaries of the so called new idea?
Sata may be good at exploring new ideas, but he is dreadfully poor at public consultation making his new ideas lack support. It is lack of public consultation in realigning districts that his decisions are not made by following sound economic and financial judgments but pure political, tribal and regional expediency.
Sata should consult Southerners and North Westerners on the realigning of districts. This may help him respond to people’s demand for greater democratic responsiveness and restore people’s confidence in his polarised government.
Our people should refuse to accept Sata’s decision to realign districts, not out of hatred but their commitment to democratic principles. Sata’s fast growing and now widespread failure to pay attention to the voice of the people is disgusting. He has lamentably failed to prioritize serving the common good as he is focused on his tribal and regional political interests. This is the cause of the disturbingly low levels of trust in government.
If Sata is ‘a man of the people’ he should give our people a stronger and clearer voice in the process of realigning districts through public consultation. Engaging in a dialogue with Southerners and North Westerners is one way Sata can enliven our people to contribute to restoring confidence in the democratic process and government decisions.
Surely, if Sata is a democrat as he claims to be, he should find pleasure not ‘pressure’ to consult our people. By engaging our people into a genuine dialogue we may actually arrive at conclusions similar or different to the ones being made. In either case, having public consultation will give people a greater voice and will create an opportunity for a real dialogue that can move beyond the current mistrust and guardedness.
It is regrettable that Sata is not able to see that dialogue with Southerners and North Westerners can give policymakers a way to test his new idea of realigning districts. Right now the processes by which Sata’s new ideas emerge and are being implemented discount our people. For example, our people have not been enlightened why and how the rebasing of our currency will impact on their life which also applies to the realigning of districts.
I appeal to Sata, to unstintingly consult Southerners and North Westerners on the realigning of districts. As it is validly argued, ‘public consultation is a force for greater consensus.’
It is undeniable that under Sata’s leadership we are now living in a country where government and parliament that shape public policy are highly polarized. This makes it easy for Sata to make decisions on whatever pleases him and make them prevail. These are incontrovertible signs of despotism. Thus, let us insist on public consultation which has potential to mediate the polarized forces of the current policy processes.
If our people are not going to be consulted on the clandestine realigning of districts, Southerners and North Westerners should democratically resist Sata’s decision. It is high time Sata knew that he is not the only ‘intelligent’ person who knows what is best for our country. Let us help him to consult our people so as to draw on the collective intelligence and wisdom of our society before he can realign districts.
Sata’s conundrum of realigning districts can be solved by integrating the views of our people that will definitely bring unique perspectives. The integration of these perspectives will effectively ‘pool knowledge’ and produce conclusions that reflect a greater intelligence that cannot be found even in the smartest individual in Sata’s government.
Dialogue with Southerners and North Westerners is a requirement if we are to embolden and vitalize the policy discourse and give expression to the full spectrum of views from our people on the realigning of districts. Let us consult our people and draw on their intelligence.
It is unfortunate that Sata is devoting his time dividing, and stripping down our country. Our people are aware of his conspiracy with Fred M’membe; the most committed and distribution of evil force influencing the current government to dismantle Southern, North Western, and other provinces.
The people of Southern and North Western provinces should resist Sata’s decision to realign districts until unadulterated initiatives for public consultation are in place including; circulation of proposals for public comment, public notice-and-comment, public hearings, informal consultations, and advisory bodies. Consulting our people on the realigning of districts is not a waste of resources but a sure way of validating large scale decisions and strengthening democracy. This is a key building block of the rule of law.
Let us allow democracy to be the underpinning principle in the realigning of districts. Consulting our people on matters affecting them is a sure way to improve efficiency, transparency, and public involvement in national decisions.
Once more, Sata should genuinely and actively seek the views of interested and affected groups in the realigning of districts. This will help to facilitate the way forward where our people will not be robbed of their land.