It is possible to confuse political participation with elections. Therein, rests our problems. I would like to comment on this issue, because it has a bearing on how Zambia and indeed many countries grow.
Part of the problem is that political participation involves all citizens, where as elections, while involving citizens; are primarily driven by political considerations and political at the parties centre.
In the last few years, Zambia has had over three General Elections and many by-elections. I ask: How much money has the Zambian Tax payer/government, spent in conducting National Elections and by-elections? How much money have political parties spent so far – inclusive of financing violence and planning anarchy? And, how much have the monitors and observers spent? What about the distant and close sympathizers of this or that party? Then the media! In this entire web, is time a factor? What about tear and wear?
Of course that is what the constitution requires us to do. I am sure we all know that the constitution has never and can never be part of the commendable efforts of the Treasury and the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) on revenue collection.
I am convinced, (can be persuaded otherwise) that, here elections apart from being a red flag of danger; are a heavy load on our economy and appears to be unsustainable. Financing elections is noble, but becoming a constraint on the Treasury. From this stand point, certain propaganda campaigns that constrain the Treasury only, symbolize political diatribe and democratic stagnation.
Like it or not, it all boils down to the democratic model that we inherited and refuse to change. We have elections for Counselors, Council Chairpersons, Mayors, Members of Parliament and the big one – the President (Who has a running mate). Logistically, it is quite challenging for the Electoral Commission of Zambia, to manage abnormally long ballot papers (in millions) and five distinct elections.
It is for this reason that many times I have argued that elections are both Administrative and Technical. Simply because the act of voting is uncomplicated does not mean that we should embrace the problematic casual approach of “elections made simple” as adopted by most political parties.
My overall concern stems from the fact that we have gravitated to a point where citizens popularly known as “Cadres” have come to control politics and living in Zambia. Why? I learnt recently from a professional who I respect that “Cadres” actually look forward to a by-election, because electoral activities are a great source of livelihood. Gate way to illicit wealth! For these, elections are necessary to sustain a lifestyle which includes debasing morals.
I will never forget the day I boarded a bus from Intercity, which was all blue (just before the 2011 election), and thereafter, colors changed from blue to green, as soon as President MC Sata was sworn in. These former MMD cadres smelt the coffee and jumped ship to the Boat of the PF. They call it moving with the wind! I bet you, when the next political wind blows, a similar movement will occur. The wind also affects business players, who are pieces of/on the chess-board!
Struggle for being appointed/elected Campaign Manager/Provincial Chairman, should not be a surprise. Equally struggle for visibility among political players when there is an election, is not a surprise. Political activities and for that matter partisan activities, which include hooliganism, are now providing a menu for governance options.
The same applies for “resources” not reaching the intended individuals. How can resources reach the so called grass-roots or intended targets, when the main objective of heading a campaign is not necessarily delivery, but enriching one and the “cabal”? The inherent disease of self actualization is long and enriches the silent or accidental architects – who are “cadres” and pseudo supporters. (By the way, the actual meaning of the word “Cadre” is very descent, just like the much abused word of “comrade”.)
If sincerity was part of our electoral landscape, a cursory look at some results in the recent elections – both national and by-elections, will show the problem of deception, self-destruction and worrisome conclusions. Also, a strategy anchored on the zero option, is problematic and requires immediate amendment to bring about the required focus. Strategically, control of any environment is important in much the same way that a calculated strategy and tactics employed must not be at variance.
There have been extremely unfortunate postings on the social media. Very unfortunate! I have never been a fan of some politicians, but would see no reason why any person, in the “comfort” of home, bar, restaurant or office, can decide to unleash unprintable invectives and insults targeting political adversaries.
It is a shameful act and I am extremely happy that the Patriotic Front (PF) which was mentioned; immediately distanced itself from the disgraceful and barbaric act.
May I take this opportunity to appeal to fellow citizens to exercise maturity, understanding and tolerance all the time? Rather than posting insults about known personalities, just visit their offices or homes and convey your message in person. That it way; it may be taken seriously and you will also have the opportunity to hear the other side.
Individuals mentioned in some voice notes, have a duty to show the world that they do not endorse lawlessness and anarchy.
Back to elections: So, given the chagrin, hurt, economic burden and the social and political disruptions that elections have been causing Zambia and the rest of Africa, what can be done to have an orderly and civilized method of managing our behaviors, managing our finances and managing our democracy?
One known and quite powerful country holds the view as many other political scientists do, that each country has a duty to carry out a sincere mapping of its political, economic and social construction in order to bring to light what governance methods, effectively contribute to both delivery and process accountability. Such in-country profiling, is critical and an essential aspect of civic duty and responsibility.
If any government anywhere in the world exists to serve its people, I think there is merit in the view of incisive and sincere introspection. This view does not necessarily entail, abandoning current democratic practices/systems RATHER (emphasized) adapting and reposition the character and location of elections in the governance matrix.
Remember, we elect representatives for the purpose of effective representation and nothing else – not even hero-worshipping. It weakens professional value and negates civic responsibility!
Consequently, much as political parties are clubs with own rules and are self regulating, I would submit that any political party, which tacitly avoids elections and the existing laws, does not fit in the current political dispensation.
But this refusal to hold periodic elections if ONLY not laced with mischief is economically sound and not necessarily contradictory. Yes, there is always a fear of “undesired” results. One undemocratic but unacceptable way, is to avoid intra-party elections altogether (But still eat the soup others cook – grand deception)!
A reality which we must all address is the fact of expenses attached to elections. Ferrying delegates from all Zambia’s ten provinces cannot be a cheap undertaking! It is expensive!
Because of the common problem we all face, there is a fantastic reason NOT to look and treat each other like enemies. You can only hate and hurt an enemy! We must look at each other, as compatriots and ONLY do things which do not create havoc and breed suspicion.
Please, do not be surprised, if this reasonable proposition, which produces a WIN-WIN scenario, is scoffed at and undermined by a faction of citizens. Such citizens, could be running an Agenda hell bent on wrecking havoc in Zambia. Havoc “will not stop” in Zambia as is happening in other mineral rich jurisdictions. (Inhuman kitchen decisions)
Those who benefit from chaos have a clear strategy to maximize on illegitimate gains, amidst trouble; and I hold a pragmatic view that there is a limit to which we can blame investors. What kind of professionals does Zambia have and indeed need? (There is no academic/professional course which does not have an element of ethics of the “trade”). Can we for once take responsibility and not simply point fingers?
All this talk of elections revolves around the practical affordability of our democratic system. Can we afford it? Or, are we doing it in order to please others? You see, democracy, is NOT just about elections. It is about values, traditions, practices, precedents, culture, the rule of law etc. To that extent, the formal sharing and management of political power cannot be the ONLY major focus of our democracy. Such a focus is detrimental to other equally relevant sections of our democracy. For example: How can merchants of violence and slander be concerned with economic governance? All these are interested in, is power and power at any cost!
So my wrapping up is not necessarily that the democratic process is undesirable. Not at all! The gist of my argument, as stated above and before is that the current democratic model or template is problematic and more of a challenge. The answers to the challenge are plentiful outside the box of the current mind-set.
We are facing problems partly because of political opposition’s choice to reject the referendum in 2016.
See you next week.
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