A COMMENTARY ON INSTITUTIONS AND GOVERNANCE

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AFRICA and Zambia in particular, require strong institutions. We need strong, vibrant and purposeful institutions. The reason is that strong institutions give meaning to concepts such as One Zambia, One Nation, good governance and democracy.

I raise this point given the fact that last year and shortly before, we experienced several man-made upheavals. I consider upheaval such as the Dialogue process which seeks to “cure man-made issues”; as a very interesting way of doing national politics. I hope we learnt something about the third force in the run up to the 1991 elections.

If one is in doubt, please take interest and follow comments from Alliance leaders, intending to seek finantial assistance as well as the viral correspondence on the social media. Caution: unpack, analyse, distil and reflect beyond politics. Once you become analytical, you will see a very interesting trend and pattern. I ask a question: Do you have to be paid to complicate the Zambian governance profile, through unhelpful comments and opinions?

I appreciate the reality of talking to each other as citizens, but we should not behave as though there are no institutions which are mandated to deal with issues such as Law reform, maintenance of Law and Order and the general governance terrain. Lest we forget, no political party owns Zambia and any suggestion that the much talked about dialogue process is exclusive, is retrogressive and works against democracy.

The point and issue raised by a Civil Society leader on the need to respect the Head of State, President Edgar Lungu, strikes a code with the need to have strong institutions.

Since all political parties in the opposition do aspire to go to Plot 1 (State House), which is the formal seat of government, it is only fair, logical and legal that the government machinery is engaged and engages in top gear.

In a similar manner, the recent views of a political scientist on the need to democratise all political parties, is so fundamental that it should not even come as a surprise.

As a budding democracy, all political players must play by the rules of domesticated democracy, without exception.  The Court precedents in Zambia classify/regard political parties as clubs!

The import is that should any such club decide to pursue an agenda which is at variance with national values, my expectation is that since NOBODY is above the Law, notwithstanding public policy, sometimes described as a rude horse, the law must be applied firmly, without fear or favour.

This is timely advice (repeated on Wednesday, the 09th of January 2019) and has nothing to do with anybody but the peace and sanity of mother Zambia.  All political parties must subscribe to democratic tenets and embrace transparency and accountability.

From an institutional point of view, I have the greatest respect for the Church – one of the oldest institutions. As indicated earlier, one of the things I hope the Church can achieve, is to engage its members who fill the pews of our worship centres every Sunday and almost every day for our Muslim brothers.

Most of the members are Zambian citizens who have a duty and responsibility towards Zambia. From what I know and see, some of these Church members, occupy senior and serious national positions, so much so that if the values preached in Church were to be upheld, Zambia, would be a governance model.

Yes, the Church has every reason to get involved in National Politics, but never in partisan politics or indeed, activities which lower the standing of the Church before the people of Zambia. It is a tight rope to walk!

As I have said before, strong institutions are germane to building a useful, resilient and serviceable society. The stable democracies around the world that we talk about or refer to, are strong not because of geographical location but because of investing in the future through critical institutions.  Do not destroy our institutions!

With due respect, the media, which is no doubt, our Fourth Estate, played a very destructive role in the recent genocide in Rwanda. Not surprising, but disgusting, a known radio station was strongly attached to a known Church. Can you imagine, the challenges that democracy comes with?

As I have said before, NO right is more important than the other. (Just that some rights are so visible and easily explained. A fact which no rational person can dispute is that Zambia stands to benefit more from Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, than say, North America.

It is easier to run a political headline than a human interest headline.  So is the case therefore with public opinion.)

Democracy is a package of contradictions, and this could be the reason why there is a general consensus that although democracy is a useful governance system, it has many inherent failures. For our Africa and my Zambia, it is an expensive process which tends to be foreign driven.

If we are pushing a process which attracts foreign involvement, many question pop up. Is the involvement in the context of international solidarity or is it hidden in latent interests – economic or social? (Some political parties are heavily financed by external entities and it is not too remote to state that democracy has created a social safety net for some opposition political parties), how then do we retain and lay a strong claim to state sovereignty? This is just food for thought!

What the media carries is classified as the right to expression and association. Really? Should the Media be used in a clever way to unleash hate speech/propaganda, and confuse the unsuspecting? I do not think that should be the case because as we all know, hate propaganda, is a crime against humanity. It is a cruel form of relating with one another.

Talking about hate speech/propaganda, I do hope that the much talked about dialogue or some other national forum, can address the problem of hate speech/propaganda, beyond the documented United Nations declarations. Why: because the vice is tearing our society apart and only benefitting very few individuals, – the fundamentalists, who are not very different from war Lords, Suicide bombers or Terrorists.

For purposes of order and intellectual benefit, the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, notes that “Hate Speech is a complicated concept and there is no internationally acceptable definition or understanding of it. Gradually however, through legislation, court precedents, and academic publications, the damage and danger certain forms of expression entails, has been internationally recognized.”

Since Zambia is a large beneficiary of the European Union, it is advisable to look at how the European Court of Human Rights has defined hate speech.

There is no standard definition but reference to it as “all forms of expression, verbal, or written, which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance. (Also on grounds of religion).”

What this porousness tells me is that we need to localise the problem and I am preparing groundwork to deal with the matter without fear or favour.

Here is my take and conclusion. We are lucky to have a test case involving a nurse in Kalomo (or wherever) who is currently serving a suspension because of another human being who elected or chose to “fix” him on flimsy grounds. Let us see how our governmental system will deal with the issue!

I would be failing in my duty as a citizen if I do not commend the mature and professional manner the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) reported the incident; compared to some independent radio station, which ran the story devoid of basic investigations and odium slant.

Why strong institutions?

First, they create a framework within which good governance is managed and distilled. (Please note that some jurisdictions use the word “good governance” for “human rights” because they have serious human rights problems in their backyards). Go back to the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, all the “world” major powers and loud countries, had very serious Human Rights challenges.

Second, strong institutions are critical for the maintenance of law and order. I know no country which does not put prime on its internal security.

Security or law and Order in the long run, is about creating and promoting Love, Unity and Peace. (Just look at your family. Those three inputs of love, unity and peace, make for harmony and progress. (Of course if one is unfortunate not to appreciate or understand family values, they will be lost at sea)

Third, Security of Person and Property, as recognised by both local and international law, are contingent on strong institution.

Fourth, all rights which we enjoy, including the controversial ones, are dependent on strong institutions. How can you talk about human rights and the rule of law where there is absolute chaos?

I was involved in defending human rights for a long time (which known beneficiaries call pretence) and I have a very good knowledge of both quiet and loud advocacy, in the context of struggle.

Fifth, Composite knowledge of Zambia and its issues, from independence, depends on strong institutions and relevant institutional memory, which comes from knowledgeable citizens.

So let’s invest in a future of strengthened institutions, beyond emotional outpourings.

See you next week.

Comments: ngandem12@gmail.com Mobile/SMS 0977776191 and 0955776191

 

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