Sunday, December 9, 2012
No one can dispute the critical role that politics plays in promoting national development. In fact it is folly to think of any meaningful development in an environment where the political system is mediocre and retrogressive.
Politics should be understood as the means to Development.
The nature of politics, the caliber of politicians and the quality of political entities will to a large extent determine how much and how far a country can go in as far as realizing development aspirations is concerned. Zambia has had three successive regimes from 1964 and a host of political parties, to what extent have these regimes helped in promoting national development? The UNIP regime obviously stands out among the MMD and PF both in terms of leadership style and ideology. How different is the PF different from the MMD? Have Zambians reaped satisfactory results from these regimes? The preference of the PF regime over the MMD was yet another expression of Zambians desire for a more progressive political regime, but is the PF an alternative to Zambia’s economic and social dilemma? Has the PF regime brought about a new political environment to facilitate national development?
The PF as a party was born after President Chiluba’s political engineering prowess failed him to dribble his way through the constitution and justify the third term. Mr. Sata, the general secretary for the MMD then passionately and vehemently supported the third term bid. His disappointment and frustration would only come later when Dr. Chiluba retreated from the third term bid, appointing Mr. Levy Mwanawasa as a presidential candidate much to the disappointment of Mr. Sata who was a very close alley and trusted lieutenant to Chiluba. With the blessing of President FTJ, Michael frustrated a number of Presidential hopefuls to pave way for his presidential ambitions but ended up so frustrated that he could no longer stay in the party that he passionately defended for ten solid years. This is why it is interesting when we hear people from the PF including the President castigating MMD policies and governance system. Would Mr. Sata have left MMD if President Chiluba had appointed him as a presidential candidate? Mr. Sata remained in the MMD till 2001 when he was dribbled by the master dribbler; at what point did Mr. Sata realize that MMD had actually very bad policies? Was the PF born out of ideological conviction or frustration?
Politics and the rule of law
The police have continued to be used as tools of suppression and repression. We have not forgotten how the police blocked the Kanyama UPND rally, how about the tear gassing of UPND cadres when they went to show solidarity with their leader during the time he was summoned to appear before the police? What about the storming of the UPND offices by the police with a defective search warranty? While the PF are busy preaching about the rule of law, its senior members are busy interfering with the operations of legitimate state agencies with the full blessing of the executive. It is very clear that it is not only the President who is untouchable within PF, but also some senior party and government officials. Is it right for the ACC to seek permission to investigate any minister if the agency has sufficient information to institute investigations? Is this the rule of law we wanted?
Intra Party Democracy
There is need for our political parties to deepen the level of democracy within political parties. In doing so, political parties need to institutionalize democratic practices and principles at all levels of party management. While we appreciate the diversity and peculiarities of the different environments and circumstances in which political parties operate which make it difficult for them to exercise high levels of democratic governance in Zambia, political party leaders need to judiciously consider the most practical ways of applying the minimum democratic principles. Political parties are a link between governors and development and also act as catalysts for development. The institutionalization of democracy is an investment that allows the political patrons to identify with the party and view it as important and integral part of their social-political life. The massive defections we see today from MMD are as a result of lack of ownership and solidarity with the parties. Many people join political parties for the benefits they intend to reap than for the conviction and belief in the ideologies and policies of the party. This is what will kill MMD, and this can kill any party outside government.
Politics and Democracy
While the MMD came into power using the platform of good governance including transparency, accountability and participation, the regime became embroiled into the worst forms of governance including harassment of political opponents and abuse of power in various forms. At one point, the MMD was determined to destroy the PF, looking for provisions within the law to block Mr. Sata from contesting the Presidency, this was wrong. Valuable time was lost on financing and fabricating worthless schemes to bring down political competitors rather than promoting and building institutions of good governance. Today, the PF is going exactly the same way at an alarming rate. The MMD should be held responsible for whatever is happening in the party today. The MMD leadership must rise to the occasion and demonstrate leadership on the crisis which has engulfed the party. The PF cannot be held responsible for internal cacophony in the former ruling party. What is disturbing though is that when it comes to developing a democratic society, the PF comes out more as a disincentive rather than an incentive in this quest. The MMD regime tried to weaken the PF by way of inciting and working with the “rebel MPs” including nominating them as parliamentary candidates without engaging with the PF leadership. Today, we see the same trend under the PF where, hiding behind the noble notion of national interest, the PF regime is systematically suffocating the development and growth of political entities. There is no proper justification and rationale for scheming clandestine alliances with MMD MPs without consulting with the MMD leadership. Any move which undermines the development of democracy can never be justified by the argument of national interest. What national interest is there in causing tension in the country? What national interest is there in causing unnecessary and costly by elections? The fact that MMD started the olive branch strategy does not make it justifiable for the PF to continue with the same
What we are seeing today in our political parties is a reflection of the caliber of leaders we have and have entrusted our lives with. Zambia cannot and shall never realize much development as long as there is no change in the configuration of our political leadership. Leaders who constantly change political parties without shame, leaders who betray their own parties for expedience, leaders who are arrogant should never be tolerated in our political system. Secondly, the electorate should take keen interest in analyzing our leaders objectively so that we can make informed decisions when the time to pass the verdict comes. We are accountable to posterity for the any action we take today including putting into leadership retrogressive elements. Let all join hand and help Zambia to become a better country for all.
Nicholas Phiri is a -Social and Political Development Analyst. For comments email firstname.lastname@example.org