Zambia, worldwide, has been known to be a fountain of peace and peace initiatives such that the nation has, until recently, been the envy of countries in the region and a model on how a country can transition to plural politics.
So what went wrong? Well, while some may choose to point fingers at the decision by a named political party to insist that only a tribesman could lead their party, I choose to look elsewhere treating the former as a symptom of a much deeper national problem.
I have observed that in Africa, multiparty democracy has achieved very little in terms of economic development but has, instead, only managed to bring about inefficient governments, disastrous power transitions and social chaos because instead of having political parties that are anchored on differing political values, parties tend to be moulded on ethnic lines.
One may argue that the issue may be with the Patriotic Front leadership since what is happening now was not prevalent during the MMD era. To the contrary, the MMD was a replica of the UNIP that saw the majority of Zambians, from all the major tribes, migrate from UNIP to the MMD.
The real test of multiparty democracy, in Zambia, would come following the disintegration of the MMD, which in essence was not a political party but a movement for multiparty democracy. It was like each prominent figure that left the movement was followed by one’s ethnic group and its tribal cousins.
Before we apportion any blame, the aforementioned is what we need to bear in mind or we will continue trivialising the root cause that necessitated the need for the birth of a one party participatory democracy and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda’s insistence on One Zambia One Zambia and his deliberate political actions that reinforced the motto such as the transferring of civil servants from their province of origin to other provinces or ensuring that his cabinet was a miniature semblance of our ethnic representation at national level.
Otherwise why would a country, that was a beacon of peace under Dr. Kenneth Kaunda be a roosting hive of hate speech and now a country where it’s common for one to shed, without any remorse whatsoever, one’s brother’s blood? What went wrong. The answer lies in understanding what we destroyed when we rose against Kaunda. We destroyed a key institution we needed in order to develop our democracy. Instead of strengthening it by devising democratic means of changing leadership at the top, we chose to bury it altogether. It was a typical case of throwing a baby together with dirty bath water.
The current governance system prioritizes the desire to attain regime change at the expense of identifying the necessary needed leadership qualities and the formulation of development ideologies critical to realising a government that is focused on accelerating economic development. Recently, one of this country’s progressive brains, Dr. Lubinda Haabazoka, observed that “To ensure that we don’t remain focused, the West funds political formations in the country that continue to distract those in charge of the economy from concentrating on the real issues.”
He continued, “In order to stay focused, we need a huge shift in our political set up. We all need to be aligned to one vision – vision 2030. Post elections, we need to all sit on one table and ensure that each and every citizen works in one line of ensuring national economic development.”
He went on to echo my earlier sentiments on Rwanda, “Despite the huge achievements being made by Kagame, there is an international campaign to discredit his works and paint him as a villain. The next thing is that they will fund his rivals.”
“Back to Zambia, my main observation is that the current political situation that is built on hatred and not competition of ideas makes one group to work hard to ensure they stay in power and the other group to completely withdraw from economic development so that they capitalize on the ruling party’s failure,” he concluded.
What is the purpose of democracy if it only serves a select few? All patriotic Zambians ought to support our call for a national symposium on an alternative governance system for Zambia that must seek to promote national unity and a people sharing a common development goal.
Democracy simply means people participating in the important societal decisions which affect their lives. But since in the actual setup, each individual cannot meaningfully participate in decisions for the whole, it has come to mean decision-making by “representatives”, who are said to decide and act on behalf of the people.
This Western idea of the necessity of “multiparty elections” for other nations is an oligarchic myth. It leads people to believe they have choice in political decisions and thereby maintains the political status quo. Democracy as the possibility of the people making collective decisions for their common good is something that cannot be taught or imposed from the outside.
Surely we must have think tanks at our universities across the country who are privy to our ethnic and political conflicts and as such are in a position to help birth a political vehicle suited to drive the nation towards a destination that should benefit all regardless of one’s origin in the country. The current political upheavals cannot be solved by replacing one tribe with another. We need to go back to our time when Zambia was truly One Zambia One Nation.
There’s an urgent need to learn and accept that democracy cannot be reduced to voting alone. Democracy is not, by definition, government by the winners, it flourishes by allowing a diversity of voices to be tabled and heard. It is all about having an equal say and an equal right to determine what political action ought to be taken. What is democracy, according to you?
Mpandashalo Evans Mwewa
Global Capstone Centre
For Leadership Development.
WhatsApp: +260 977 430702
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