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Zambia’s Democratic Process: A Commentary

IT is fair and reasonable to support a record of fact, that Northern Rhodesia became Zambia upon achievement of political independence on October 24, 1964. This is a very important and special day which, regrettably some political players have politicised and shunned.

Colleagues, I humbly suggest that, notwithstanding your right to opinion and assembly, you without doubt, consider democracy as work in progress because, that is what it is.

For this reason, we must not be “detained” by incidents, but a holistic appreciation of the entire democratic process. Where does it begin? From home: Intra-party democracy! For our purposes, intra-party democracy is not negotiable, because it is critical to a functional democracy.

Democracy is neither a commodity nor an avenue to pursue dangerous assignments

Democracy is neither a commodity nor an avenue to pursue dangerous assignments. As for the human rights imperatives; which many quote and “imbibe” indivisibility, universality, inherency, inalienability and interdependent, remain the unyielding rock, upon which campaigners lean!

Democracy evidently is not the best form of governance, but the best system for now. As a matter of fact, the democratic process accommodates variants as long as fundamental pillars remain standing and strong.

I have indicated before that part of our collective shortcoming, is the failure to adapt the British template to, the one that fits our Zambian menu of options and realities.

During his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama had the following words for his fellow Americans.

He said: “For we know that our patchwork heritage is strength and not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.

“We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united.

“We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself, and that America must play its role in ushering a new era of peace.”

This in many ways is very relevant to most of Africa and Zambia in particular. There are lessons here for all my fellow citizens and indeed observers as well. Why? Because many times, people shoot from the hip, without thinking.

If we have 73 dialects, it effectively means that harnessing each to its full potential carries massive benefits which can unlock some challenges of development.

This is against the background that the cradle of government and therefore governance, sits in local government, dotted all over Zambia.

Politicising local government and civic responsibilities beyond elections, is as tragic, as banning the use of salt, country-wide.

Constitution making process

Let’s take the constitution making process and dialogue, in Zambia. I have in the past asked a fundamental question around the “dialogue process” in this space.

What is it that the proposed dialogue process seeks to achieve which the current Zambian government and governance systems cannot deal with?

What are the compelling reasons for the executive to share power with other stakeholders? Who says political parties are more important than say, the University of Zambia, Mulungushi, Copperbelt, Lusaka universities and other institutions of higher learning?

What about other critical stakeholders such as Journalists and other professionals? If political parties have issues with their own forum, (ZCID), why should such issues be transferred as a burden to ordinary Zambians – particularly those that are not affiliated to any political party?

From a common sense point of view, any reasonable person expects service delivery from government and NOT lack of movement. I am happy government has indicated that it will move on critical areas of governance.

This is consistent with reality that Zambia, has only One President, who is the Head of State. Any other is a by the way, which I insist, must be tolerated as a fundamental aspect of democracy.

Another provocative question is: “Who gives a constitution?” Is it the people or political parties? If we agree that the people form government and that Zambia runs a representative democracy, then we must quickly deal with two distinct processes of constitution making; namely, adoption and enactment. Politicking will never end, meaning, we are unlikely to get all political parties to agree on everything.

National Constitutional Conference

You see, what is circulating in our Zambia, around constitution making is a simple form of adoption. Here we have different viewpoints. I will not go into details. An example of a formal adoption process was the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) in Zambia, under the MMD.

The product of the equivalent of the NCC is then, according to law, taken to Parliament for enactment.

Who takes it to Parliament? It can never be a private citizen but government officials, facilitated by the Attorney General and the government machinery to which all Zambians, have access. Who does not know that all Members of Parliament are sustained by Tax Payers? All MPs, are government employees, without exception! (Remember, government has three wings, namely; the Executive, the Judiciary and Legislature – MPs – ruling, independent and opposition, constitute Parliament – the right and left). To demonstrate the governance process further, I and my colleagues, in 1996, realised that Zambia needed a Code of Conduct to govern elections and the best we could do, was to submit our draft to the new Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), which was receptive and moved with speed, for the benefit of Zambia and other global citizens.

Later on, I and many others campaigned for transparent ballot boxes and many more relevant deliverables. I expect others to make more and better changes and suggestions as opposed to “throwing stones” at the ECZ and police!

Elections are not the only democratic process but a key component of the democratic process.

Elections are not the only democratic process but a key component of the democratic process. This is one aspect which all stakeholders must understand.

It will therefore not help for any person to cast aspersions on the electoral process, since no country in the world has had problem free elections.

Civility and civic responsibility, is knocking hard on our doors. Have we fully accepted all the tenets of democracy or are we in the dangerous conspiracy mode?

As a matter of respect and common sense, many Zambians worked hard for the democratic process to be where it is today. As indicated above, I expect the current political players not to throw the ‘baby with bath water’ but add value to the existing body of knowledge, because that is what is expected of patriotic citizens.

Then there are the challenges of the rule of law, which must never be reduced to a ceremonial mantra. For record, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; the principle where all members of society are considered equally subject to disclosed legal codes and processes”

A South African definition is more relevant to our situation and clearly underlines universality. Accordingly, “The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no person is above the law.  The rule follows from the idea that truth and therefore law, is based upon fundamental principles, which can be discovered, but which cannot be created through an act of will”

Let me emphasise, NO PERSON is above the LAW. Do not be cheated by any one, Law is what it is and not what you want it to be. Should you wish to engage in law reform, I suggest you quickly lobby the Law Development Commission, seek guidance from the Attorney General’s Chambers, any Lawyer, your Member of Parliament, any Senior Government official and the Human Rights Commission among others. Here, I emphasise the word GUIDANCE.

I heard at the tail end of a Radio programme that some Civil Servants in Sesheke where transferred and victimised because of political considerations. The Public Service Commission chairperson is in the dark about this and categorically dismissed the claims.

I would not take such claims or truths, lightly though. Further, better and more particulars/details, are required. For instance: The names of the civil servants, when they were charged and what offence they were charged with among many.  The Public Service Commission should actually embark on a fact finding mission and make their findings public, with emphasis on the conditions of service in the Civil Service.With all the relevant data, it then becomes a matter of good governance for the Public Service Commission to have a neat conclusion of these serious accusations.

As I said last week, the Civil Service is the Engine of Zambia! It is important that this is done (without persecuting anybody) because we still are going to have elections in the future. We are here talking about a process, hence my strong recommendation.

These allegations of victimisation have a very strong bias towards the Rule of Law. As far as I know, procedure must always be followed. So is legality. So is reasonableness. How does the accusation sit with the law taking into account public policy? One equitable principle that will help Zambia and many radio politicians is that “He/She who goes to equity, must go with clean hands” In short, we must be seeking justice only if we are just.

Wrong doing, however understood cannot be justified.

See you next week.

Comments: ngandem12@gmail.com Mobile/SMS 0977776191

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