IN the past few weeks or months, Zambian politics have progressively been sinking to very low levels.
The last by-election in Sesheke was reportedly a battleground for cadres imported into the district with no inkling of the needs of the people of that constituency.
There are two by-elections taking place this week and some of the campaigning has been so insulting with no focus on the needs of the people in the concerned constituencies.
In one video which went viral on social media, one politician is quoted as accusing President Edgar Lungu of parading his thin legs instead of serving the people.
Unfortunately the crowd is heard ululating and laughing at this cheap politicking.
In another development, a politician is reportedly resisting to go for a convention in his party and one politician is urging this politician to speak out and make his views known on the need for a convention for his party.
In fact, it was revealed during the week that the main opposition party, the United Party for National Development has not had a convention for many years almost since its leader Hakainde Hichilema took over at the helm of the party in 2006.
Senior party officials have just been hand-picked and replaced without the participation of the general membership.
I, in view of the above worrisome scenario thought I should check on whether the constitution has anything to say about the conduct of our party leaders. I discovered the following:
Constitution of the Republic of Zambia, PART V SECTION 60, Political Parties:
(1) A political party has the right to —
- dissemminate information on social and economic programmes of a national character and of its political ideology;
- sponsor candidates for election or nomination to a State office in respect of which elections are required to be held; and
- conduct primary elections for the selection of candidates.
(2) A political party shall —
- promote the values and principles specified in this Constitution;
- have a national character;
- promote and uphold national unity;
- promote and practice democracy through regular, free and fair elections within the party;
- respect the right of its members to participate in the affairs of the political party;
- respect the right of its members to seek redress from a court or tribunal when aggrieved by a decision of the political party; and
- subscribe to and observe the code of conduct for political parties, as prescribed.
(3) A political party shall not —
- be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, tribal, gender, sectoral or provincial basis or engage in propaganda based on any of these factors;
- engage in or encourage violence or intimidate its members, supporters, opponents or other persons;
- engage in corrupt practices; and
- except as prescribed, use public resources to promote its interest or that of its members.
(4) The following shall be prescribed with regard to political parties:
- the establishment and management of a Political Parties’ Fund to provide financial support to political parties with seats in the National Assembly;
- the accounts of political parties which are funded under the Political Parties’ Fund and the submission of audited accounts by political parties;
- the sources of funds for political parties;
- the maximum amount of money to be used for campaigns during elections; and
- matters incidental to matters specified in this clause.
I therefore now as ask a few questions:
- If a party does not meet all the above criteria, does it deserve to be registered?
- If a party does not practice intra-party democracy, can it be trusted to or be expected to practice democracy when or if it assumes State power?
- What are the sanctions for parties that do not meet the demands of the constitution on the conduct of political parties?
- Most importantly, what has the government done about educating the Zambian population about the constitutional provisions on political party conduct?
I believe that once they become aware of these constitutional provisions, those Zambians who act with rationality would start questioning their leaders on the importance of practicing intra party democracy because without it, there would be no democratic governance.
It is for this reason that I find it bad politicking by Patriotic Front Deputy Secretary General Mumbi Phiri to ask Mr. Hichilema about the UPND convention.
Ms. Phiri should have reminded Mr. Hichilema and his henchmen about these constitutional provisions and implored Zambians not to follow or trust politicians or political parties which do not meet these minimum standards of a good political party.
I am sure many Zambians still remember the promise of the MMD, it was Multiparty Democracy. It would appear that we are sliding into the era of tinpot dictators.
I wonder where our democracy is heading to?