By Lawrence Zyambo
Sometimes the situation gets so dire and the conversation so predictable so much so that a category of people who have given up on politics all together is beginning to emerge. For such people, “politics are a dirty game” because over time, they have learnt to look at the day to day challenges we face as citizens of this country from a non partisan purview since they see no merit in preaching politics as a vehicle to delivering solutions to the social and economic problems our country faces because of how our politicians have lamentably failed us. Such a view on politics and its deliverables may also have come about as an expression of discontent at the behavior exhibited by some politicians who chose to gain political mileage by engaging in smear campaigns to discredit their opponents as opposed to engaging in issue based politics. What they forget though is that, as a citizenry, we have helped build such politics and politicians by offering them a platform and a listening ear. In as much as we have seen politics in our country being “played” by“dirty” people, politics should neither be seen as a game nor dirty but as a means through which our lives as citizens of this country are bettered by policies put in place by those we choose to represent us.
There is no game in bettering people’s lives and even if there was, it wouldn’t be dirty. It is nevertheless, the people we choose to represent us who make a mockery out of this noble process by making it look like a game and a dirty one at that. This is why it is very important to ensure that deciding which leaders we vote for to represent us for the next five years after this year’s elections should be done as a well thought out decision made with a lot of consideration, caution and restraint by those of us tasked with such a noble cause. A noble cause yes, because choosing the right next crop of leaders is not only important for our own futures as voters but also for the futures of our beloved ones, our children, our children’s children, and for those who will not vote because they have given up hope in the deliverables of politics and politicians or whatever reason they may have.
There is a danger that if we don’t make informed voting decisions we will perpetuate a worrying trend among most of us voters which I always see repeat each time we go for elections. This is a trend I see as one of many reasons we struggle to forge ahead in terms of development in this country. This trend is that we take our decision to choose leaders very lightly and base it on very short term benefits. We don’t attach the weight of importance a decision like this is supposed to carry. We rather go ahead and vote for a leader despite all the red alerts about that particular leader’s competencies then sit back and hope that somehow that leader meets our aspirations despite their blemished track record. Blemishes in the form of corruption, failure to deliver promises on time as promised and sometimes even complete incompetence by our leaders. Isn’t it a contradiction then on our part as voters that we hope to one day see our country developed like some of the developed countries in the world today, yet we don’t want to mimic what those countries put in place as the basis for their development? These developed countries are where they are today because at some point their people refused to align themselves with failed leaders or dictators. In the same developed countries we want to imitate in terms of development, track records like those of most of the leaders we sing praises of in Zambia would be enough not only for the electorate not to vote for them but also for such leaders’ parties not to consider them for adoption to stand on their parties’ tickets in the first place.
It is interesting though sad to note that despite the lack of seriousness we attach to choosing leaders, leaders on the other hand seem to have noticed and mastered so well this weakness in us the electorate by manipulating it to their advantage and we have no one to blame but ourselves. This is why you can see Lameck Mangani today resigning as Deputy Minister of Works and Supply in the ruling party’s government, the MMD, and tomorrow he is in the Patriotic Front (PF) without remorse or shame because he is assured of not only a position on the high table of the PF by the PF leadership but votes as well from us the electorate. Similarly, it’s the same weakness in you and me as voters in failing to hold our leaders accountable and answerable that Lameck Mangani manipulates by giving lame reasons for his resignation from the ruling party because he knows we usually don’t bother to demand explanations and answers.
He says his resignation from the MMD was a decision he made with wide consultation before arriving at it and we have no reason to doubt he indeed consulted. The question that begs a truthful answer, if we ever get the truth from our politicians, is what kind of consultation and from whom? Is it consultation in the wisdom behind a decision to leave a party he had served for such a long time with so much enthusiasm and resolve or consultation on what position would be in store for him on the PF high table and what he stood to benefit after resigning? Only he knows for sure what that consultation was. Would Lameck Mangani have resigned if the PF leadership refused to offer him an exit route to the PF? Should people who resign on principle first find where to go before they resign?
A similar story can be told of Mike Mulongoti, George Mpombo , Dr. Chitala and Sylvia Masebo to a lesser extent. These are the kind of leaders who take full advantage of how easily forgiving and forgetful us Zambian voters are. Yesterday we were calling these people all sorts of names when they were under the MMD and they were wolves in our eyes yet today they are sheep and darlings under PF and have been received with such open arms that even by their own standards of trickery, they have been amazed.
Micheal Sata is not exactly an angel himself and perhaps that is why he finds it so easy to absorb such people with such open arms within the party hierarchy. Time and time again he has shown dictatorial tendencies by holding on to the PF party presidency for ten years bar this year without subjecting his rule to a test of popularity by way of holding a party convention. Look at the issue of the third term during the late president Chiluba’s reign. Sata was ready to change the constitution just to allow one selfish ambition in exchange for an assumed favor that he will be made president when the late Fredrick Chiluba’s term came to an end. The violence and macheting of people that took place in Chawama and the era of the Kadobis and Nakawalas are still fresh in our minds?
Even on issues like the Barotese agreement, it is surprising how many positions Micheal Sata has taken in the last ten years. Just in one year he has had two positions on the Barotse Agreement. The earlier position being that he will restore the Barotse agreement in its entirety if voted into power. In the same year he turns around and says he will look at what is workable and implement those portions of the agreement that are workable. How can someone who seeks political office of the highest order exhibit such lack of consistency about an issue that is a burning issue to so many people just to get votes? An issue that needs care and caution to handle, he takes as something to make political mileage of. Yet when he says he will change this country in ninety days we all forget about his pitfalls and shortcomings and sing his praises.
Not long from now we will be voting for these leaders into office for another five years and expecting them to develop our beloved country, a job which they failed lamentably when under the MMD. I don’t know what kind of metamorphosis we think they undergo by simply jumping ship and standing on another party ticket.
Time has come when we held these leaders accountable for everything they promise and can’t deliver. Let us hold them answerable for every position they take and can’t stand by it the next day. They owe us such explanations because they are voted to represent us. Time has come for us the electorate to be very ruthless in our scrutiny because if we don’t we are simply endorsing perpetual bad leadership. If Sata wanted to change the constitution ten years ago to satisfy a personal appetite he will do it again if given a chance, he is still the same Sata so why should we assume he has changed? If Mulongoti failed us in MMD he will fail us in PF and the same goes for the rest of these leaders who want to jump ship at the eleventh hour.
We should learn that old habits die hard and that the greatest trick the “devil” ever used was to convince people that he never existed. If someone can exhibit dictatorial tendencies, they will be a dictator no matter how they may want to hide that now. If someone can show inconsistence, they will be inconsistent. If someone can exhibit bad leadership qualities, they will be a bad leader. Don’t vote for leaders who have shown bad leadership or dictatorial tendencies and hope that somehow a miracle happens which metamorphosises them into good leaders. It doesn’t happen. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.