Our opposition parties are increasingly becoming irrelevant.
Public spirited Zambians and the media are doing much more to serve public interest than political parties that seem preoccupied with individual egos and internal power struggles. In normal democracies parties are supposed to question government and make it accountable to the public.
Our opposition parties have never been pro-active in challenging Government but are instead quite happy to remain as victims of Government wrong appointments and policies. None of the political parties has ever questioned the competence and abilities of the various heads of security wings. It has never struck them as strange that nearly all positions are held by women.
The Parliamentary select committees on which the opposition holds sway are as moribund as the parties that are not represented in Parliament, in failing to challenge policies and activities that are detrimental to national interests.
The same is not the case in South Africa where the vibrant opposition tackles Government in courts of law and other fora policies and wrong appointments in critical Government positions including Police, Anti Corruption, Drug Enforcement and other vehicles used by Government to harass opposition.
For example for the last two years we have repeatedly said that the Trafigura oil procurement deal was corrupt and an abuse of authority. Not a single party has taken upon itself to demand a thorough investigation either through the Auditor General, Investigator General or indeed through Parliament.
Similarly, it is common knowledge that single sourcing has become the norm rather than the exception. The Breton Woods organizations have even documented“deterioration” in single sourcing in major contracts.
It is common knowledge that road contracts, construction projects and material supply contracts have been single sourced. The companies involved are known and so are the individuals involved. Even where such projects fail and fall into dilapidation long before they are inaugurated, the opposition has remained silent.
A question or two may be raised in Parliament but the matter dies with the rising of the House.
In a democracy Government must remain answerable and accountable to the public through various fora, including the opposition which in our case is made up of Members of Parliament who hold a simple majorioty in Parliament. Of course numbers have been compromised by ministerial appointment but the opposition remain in preponderance in select committees of the House.
Unlike the Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD) which took matters to court in the run up to the 1991 elections, not a single party has dared challenge policy, appointments or decrees.
It is true the Judiciary is in crises, but there are good men and women who are easily manipulated.
A serious opposition should be able to isolate issues of contention and seek to have judicial review instead of waiting and hoping for the best.
Hellen Zille of the Democratic Alliance in South Africa went to court and challenged the appointment of a corrupt Director of Public Prosecutions and convinced the court to drop the appointment because the candidate had no integrity.
The same was true of an appointment in Kenya. An appointee to an integrity commission was dropped when issues of his own integrity were raised.
Where are our law makers in Zambia? Where is the opposition when clearly questionable appointments are being made?
Opposition parties are indeed handicapped by their lack of executive authority, but are equally richly endowed with numbers and influence on which they can always appeal.
Unless our opposition becomes relevant and begins to address day to day issues instead of looking to 2016, they will become irrelevant and a sheer waste of time.