AS a civic duty, citizens are duty bound and expected to participate periodically in all national elections. This is an opportunity for national politics to stand tall signifying the importance of a nation state. It is an opportunity to manage, distill and demonstrate that a nation can deal with its power to foster national development.
That said, elections, which essentially are a power “chess board,” are actually undermining political participation and stability in Africa, to the extent of demonstrated unreasonableness.
Much as there is political competition at three key levels, namely President, Member of Parliament and Councilllor (the three-piece suit), what is causing such headache in Africa, is the position of President. This is a matter that we must attend to because if we fail to attend to this problem of compounded poor choices, we risk bigger problems such as institutionalising dangerous emotions.
If violence becomes an ingredient or indeed a permanent feature in the aftermath of every election, then we should begin preparing for systemic voter apathy, which could make room for tyranny. The extreme is that if the post-election activities, include doses of violence, and if we reflect seriously on Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it will be difficult for any reasonable person to look forward to an election.
Strangely, it is common sense and common knowledge that there can only be one President at a time. Regrettably, the various political power brokers, all expect to push for their candidate to be successful. The evident extreme levels of “dogma” in most Africa, represent a crisis and potential outrage.
Can you imagine the soccer power house of Brazil, insisting that they must win every World Cup? Or indeed, another soccer powerhouse, Germany, insisting on being the World champions all the time. What would this mean for the game of football? What would it mean for competition? It would be good for our politicians to look at competition from this angle. Competition in any game, presents rules and regulations. Rules/regulations, require a buy-in. Simple!
While citizens are one of the legitimately entitled power brokers (using the ballot paper) there are other power brokers who use unacceptable methods to play the political game.
Citizens, use the ballot paper, whose only beneficial value is to express choice; when tabulated (as must be), according to law. Others use complex methods that include contaminating/contaminated institutions.
We all know that in institutions, are individuals, who severally or/and collectively may run agendas that are diametrically opposed to statehood. But as it has happened over decades, some citizens, will be in the know of wrong doing and actually play a role, (knowingly or unknowingly), in the complex methods.
You see, the primary purpose of having periodic national elections, is to elect a leadership as provided for in the constitution. As far as I know, no constitution makes room for political tension, innuendoes, suspicion, arrogance and other vices that are actually outlawed and inimical to a people.
Make no mistake and I invite comments, each and every government, whether there are elections or not, has a duty to maintain law and order. So all electoral processes, all power brokerage, all political manoeuvres, must stand within the four corners of the law. What this means is that society which is premised on the rule of law, stands tall and is more important than any other entity of any description.
The international community (Not Ngande Mwanajiti) many years ago, outlawed hate propaganda. It is actually not surprising that there is an increased international debate on whether or not the international community must face reality and respond to some challenges resulting from the information highway. (There are specific concerns around irresponsibility by the social media).
For purposes of emphasis, we have national elections to enhance democracy and development. Neither national nor partisan politics are intended to promote or lay a ground for anarchy. For if any political party was to profess and promote lawlessness at inception, authorities would with-hold licensing.
I have in the past talked about the difference between national and partisan politics. In brief, national politics is that which involves and affects all. An example of national politics is the decision to make/maintain a highway (road) and any other infrastructure. Partisan politics include things such as adoption of a party candidate, running a party convention, party mobilisation etc.
My assessment, which is neither absolute nor conclusive is that the collective failure to harmonise national and partisan politics may be responsible for unexplained “political tensions” that the media reports. Herein, is the problem! At what time does an issue, qualify to be edgy?
Let’s go on: On the one hand, we expect a government, to function by running a sound economy, promoting trade and commerce, delivering on social services and creating a truly enabling environment for all citizens to succeed.
On the other, the same government is pushed to a tight corner by a technical onslaught on the economy, a disruption on social services, through criminal activities such as compromising social welfare and the generation of falsehoods as disseminated.
Contrast this with a close look at the geo-political matrix. It will really not help world peace and therefore Southern Africa, if South Africa, was on “fire” as almost happened. It will not help if challenges facing “smaller” economies/countries in SADC continue to fester. I will be a downer, if Angola is not properly accommodated as a result of different perceptions.
It will be a disaster if we allow the legacy of President Mugabe to overshadow last week’s elections in Zimbabwe. Squeezing Zambia by manipulating reality, will not help anybody.
Refusing to manage the ghost of King Leopold in the bastion of rhumba music, will simply usher in a grave period of uncertainty and trouble for SADC and serious challenges for residents of Kasumbalesa and beyond.
Then one asks: What really do we want? Stability or instability? Is it an accident that the trade protocols in Southern Africa are still problematic (very little value addition)? These are questions that require honest answers beyond elections, politics and power brokerage.
You see, we need to get into the space of reality and ask: How much money is the world spending on elections in Africa. In addition to what governments spend, we see the following: (a) Donor support directly to government (b) donor support to international observer missions (c) Donor support to international monitors – short and long term; i.e. (i) The European Union (ii) The African Union (iii) SADC (iv) Commonwealth (v) Others; ie Carter Centre, National Institute for Democratic Affairs (NDI), church groups, NGOs (d) Government increased support to law enforcement and others.
Yet, some of these costs qualify to contribute to the ever decreasing humanitarian budget line. How can we explain and justify these high levels of expenditure, when national economies are struggling? If we agree that you cannot benefit without investment, the truth of the complications of elections, power brokerage and political gymnastics, may not lie in what we are seeing, reading and therefore debating.
No doubt, elections and politics are processes. But whose processes? I actually like the view that if it is not broken, do not fix it. Take Zimbabwe as the most recent example of a façade and do not be shy: what was the state of that economy in the five years or so of President Mugabe’s taking over power from the Colonial Power? Go further and ask: why should opposition politicians mislead Zimbabweans to burn down the country and immediately go in hiding, or indeed as we have been seeing, a national (I really do not know if he is) unleashing venom from a safety of distance – in a cosy foreign studio?
Although freedom of expression and choice are fundamentals that I support, ( and I am proud that I supported the liberation struggle in Southern Africa, when others chose comfort and are now shouting the loudest), they are always contextual.
Nobody anywhere in the world, will subscribe to a tirade of insults against another and justify it as freedom of expression. Verily! Just how? We must just never forget that nobody, nobody emphasised, is above the law.
Civic responsibility explained broadly means that we must act towards one another with reason. The thinking from a human rights angle is that it is expected that all, will relate with another human being knowing too well that respect of each other is critical. Do you?
We must not forget that institutions, do not have a mind of their own but that of respective managers. The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) will not by itself as an institution collect revenue. But its agents, who are staff members from the lowest to the Commissioner General, will collect revenue as mandated by law on behalf of the government of the republic of Zambia.
So in this example of ZRA; avoiding tax by whatever method and by whosoever, presents a herculean task to Zambia’s operative governance. This distresses the efficacy of our electoral system, undermines political power and offers a package of adversity for most of our institutions, which are anchored on the rule of law.
Suggestion: Let’s not just sing our National Anthem. Let’s understand and appreciate/practice it!
See you next week.
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