By Bwembya Mutale
Zambia is a country that has made some stride in democracy and seems spirited to turn around her economic story. Within 18 years of political and economic reforms from a one party system we have become institutionally a stable and growing democracy. Politics is competitively uninhibited with elections held on time. Within twenty four months time citizens will be exercising their constitutional rights in the voting booth freely faced with “Decision 2011”. But some politicians are getting acrimonious with their politics that evolve around insults and hatred. Doesn’t Zambia deserve better than this political culture? In whose interest is all this implacable political culture and Where to with it?
Economically the country has just gotten on track to prosperity with fundamentally sound pro-growth economic policies, property rights and the rule of Law making her sub Sahara Africa’s best case for investment. Economic zones are shaping up and could spark some Grand scale economic activities in record history. But why the acrimony in politics and irresponsible media sensationalism as if the country is in the furnace?
The world has seen Singapore and Malaysia rapidly develop on the models they believed in and collectively pursued with determination as a country. There is no doubt that likewise, Zambia is determined to become another success story. Massive pro-industry investments in economic zones and other sector areas will foster technology, skills and capital transfer Zambia need to take off economically. The current economic investments have the propensity to transform the country into a regional economic hub where many opportunities will be created if and only if the country could retain her political stability and democracy.
Besides many acts of aberration acrimonious political actors are engaging in against the country, it is heartening to see that the one year old administration of President Banda straight from weathering a historic Global crunch that has left many nations destabilized, is warding-off the effects instead, remain tenacious in national wide development with a systemic approach and determination. The administration is pulling massive investment portfolios into areas that have unrealized potential evident by their detailed diverse public policy, technical and infrastructural support in tourism, Agriculture and education sectors in and around the county.
The country’s increase with capacity building in economic predictability and stability is triggering investor confidence. There is evidence of leadership in fiscal and monetary policies despite many social and macroeconomic forces the young economy is facing. The challenges remain high unemployment rate and HIV aides toll on the economy besides many others.
Other than greediness and unpatriotism, the basis of recent acrimonious politics is missing by all logic. To arrest corruption and enhance public finance accountability with total internal control, the administration has settled for an Integrated Accounting System in most public institutions and has revisited the anti-Graft policy with introduction of new fighting tools focusing on prevention and protection of whistle blowers to make prosecution easy and undefeatable.
But in spite of all these progressive moves, our competitive democratic politics are missing it instead; they are increasingly getting incongruous to all progressive initiatives and what voters want. Politicians are giving precedence to their political power dreams over public interest. Instead of joining hands in harnessing economic opportunities for the common good, politics is becoming kitchen sink with personal attacks and insults on the incumbent. There is no effort to articulate issues that would help reverse the trend of voter apathy and overcome wide scale poverty among Zambians. Voters are finding themselves without an alternative while facing a tough choice in decision 2011 between “democracy and national disintegration”.
Like never before we have centrists, populists who are armed with their usual utopia, opportunists and some reckless tribal cabal preoccupied with interest of their clans and needlessly assassinating the character of a seating President ignoring the fact that republican presidency is not only a symbol of unity, but national institution a country cannot afford to destroy.
Surely, why the prevalent perversion as if Zambia is not Greater than anyone of us with individual needs or voters are without issues that need public office leadership? Looking at how competitive Politics is degerating into cynicism and Pull Him Down wanton Theater instead of propagating issues, we have misunderstood democracy.
In many mature democracies, political campaigns articulate issues of public bearing on which citizens can comparatively make informed decisions and politicians convert them into their voters based what citizens come learn and appreciate. Politics of centering the stamp on insults as if Zambians are perverted lot with a national passion for insults has no political dividend. May be it’s the way our leaders find themselves in politics which they consider a career for all without entry barriers.
Democracy is not all about dislodging the incumbent or indeed marriages of convenience that are failing to win hearts and mind of voters. Progressive politics is about championing of social justice, and capacity building of effective democratic institutions that foster Governance for all continuously.
Unless competitive politics changes its act, political marriages that overlook voters’ needs are no magic bullet for power. Ignoring the fact that issue based voters deserve issue centered politics and are not static is turning oneself in a political Cul-de-Sac. Voters’ predisposition cannot be counted as naturally given for respective parties based on previous alignment. Believing otherwise is flawed logic and more dangerous in competitive democracy because most voters change their alignment based on given circumstances and details in the political campaign.
In Politics, the worst thing is to trap members for long in a valley of uncertainty on the fundamental issue of “leadership and political power framework” in view of the challenges a political marriages of convenience create. Voters align with leadership that is clear, historically risk-adjusted, measured across a broad spectrum of criteria and with a record of holding best practices and building upon them. When these norms are missing in party politics, members become disillusioned and susceptible in the political arena.
Its time competitive politics put the act together for the people because acrimonious politics are disconnecting followers. Unless our competitive politics changes the act, voters see no alternative leadership on public issues.
Zambians are very sober people that deserve civil and issue based politics that foster national development and unity. We have deep aversion for anarchy and tribalism. We cannot risky our treasured country with irresponsibility, immaturity, hatred and opportunism; otherwise posterity would judge us harshly. We Voters expect all political actors to magnanimously appreciate the Zambian spirit of responsibility, democracy and unity.
Irresponsible politicians brazenly truncating national unity, enduring peace and the democratic process with their narrow end self seeking goals for power at all cost will have it tough again in 2011. As a country we must guard our hearts against politics of embracing tribal cabals that are publicly pushing the country to dangerous fault-lines of failed narrow ethnic nationalism which experienced nations regret and have vowed never to revert to.
If all political actors can start showing political will of addressing their own parties’ residual structural problems in the polity, start institutionalizing decision making process in their entities against individualizing everything, the Zambian democracy would nurture even faster. Political convulsions devoid of comprehensive agenda for national progress would find no constituency.
Citizens are guarantors of victory and peace in democracy. Democracy is seeded in the citizens more than the insulting party politics which we have condoned in the political arena. It’s us the ordinary people who can restore sanity in politics and press on with the consolidation of our democratic governance national healing. We must guard democracy and national unity at all cost so that these valuables don’t slip off.
Our beautiful country is a unitary state in diversity. Political parties with a fragrance for tribalism and writing manifestos that put party patronage as a prerequisite for public service jobs in their administration must be proscribed from politics because they are dangerous to national peace.
Unchecked political utopia could push this country into antiquated super-nationalism and needless instability. Constitutionalizing political Patronage is actually the most dangerous political pathology we must all reject as self respecting citizens. It is inimical to a dynamic society of the free thinking with choices.
The political ideology of institutionalizing patronage in the civil service on the basis of party membership is retrogressive and a recipe for anarchy. It violates universal rights of citizens in many dimensions. If condoned, it would only perpetuate a fascistic spirit of a self seeking regime against citizens’ democratic rights.
Therefore, the way forward in our democracy is for all political players to inject democratic leadership in their politics. They must embrace intra-party democracy, increase descent, hold conventions, institutionalize their party decision making, alienate all cabal crusading tribalism, comprehensively articulate their vision for Zambia to the smart citizens and avoid selling utopia, insults and xenophobia against foreign nationalities.
NOTE: The views in this article are exclusively those of the author and in no way representing this media. Criticism and rebattles are welcome.