Governance and Institutions Part I
Last week, we briefly touched on lawlessness, as it is gripping Zambia and as it could, ONLY if permitted, wreck havoc. The world saw how terrorism caused fear, despondency and destruction in Kenya and Tanzania.
I am happy that the United States of America government, through its current Ambassador, has underlined the critical issue of security and I can only add that security threats come in many forms!
Kenya has had a double portion blow. The terrorists came back and raped a shopping mall, but for the swift and patriotic response of the Kenyan security. The rest is history but it is a history which offers many lessons for the international community and in particular the United Nations organization, (UN) whose primary mandate is to maintain world peace. I am willing to enter into a debate with anybody who feels that double standards as argued last week, in the context of the International Criminal Court (ICC), are part of a formula for maintaining world peace. We should not confuse the neutrality of law as a characteristic, with political expediency, which can be senseless.
Terrorism generally refers to the kind of terror associated with reckless and illegal burning, looting, car/plane hijack, bombing, maiming etc. Article 15 of the Zambian Constitution speaks loud on the categorical stance of the Zambian people on torture. Added to that, Zambia is a signatory to the UN international convention against torture and I am happy to have been part of a meticulous and well grounded campaign.
Torture occasioned by economic conditions, torture occasioned by political choices, torture occasioned by economic options, torture occasioned by threats of violence and many more, does undermine our governance institutions in a very significant manner.
Let’s just look at the scourge of copper theft or indeed the recent spate of Mukula Tree illegal trade (which almost caused another governance problem). We can also interrogate the money laundering incidents that are often captured on news networks in Zambia. These, have an impact on the Zambian economy and the fact that Zambia is part of the global economic order, is more reason why we expect a swift response from the government on behalf of the Zambian people. That is why governments exist!
With the above said, it is my considered view that our governance institutions face major challenges, some challenges, such as the rights to association, assembly, opinion, expression etc, being inherent with a democratic order. Just to emphasize the fact that human rights are universal and are indivisible, with no hierarchy of importance.
Many people will do whatever in the name of democracy. Terrorists have a right to associate but no authority will grant those that seek to commit a crime, permission to gather, because public policy, which is a rude horse, is generally a major determinant. Many disruptive things, such as picketing, violent criticism etc, may be happening in a democracy – all in the name of the people.
By way of example apartheid South Africa, held itself as a democracy where all blacks were excluded from participation. The same Apartheid South Africa, had courts, Magistrates and Judges – emphasizing the Law as it is and not what it ought to be. And, it was held as a democracy by many democratic countries in the world, but for the fearless and fervent campaign waged by the oppressed majority, who were supported by democratic forces around the world – black and white! (Remember the Southern African Development Conference?)
The fact that there were several reported alleged incidents of wrong doing, by nationalists, did not in any way sway the struggle by the international community. The focus was kept and therefore assured success.
I have belabored this point because; clearly some of our fellow citizens have a distorted view of governing and governance. This is why a person who was only a few months ago very pivotal in government can now turn around and accuse those working hard to correct his wrongs with impunity. Is it a claim or fact that the draft constitution was only released to the Public by Hon Edgar Lungu, Minister of Justice as he then was? Now, the same former Minister of Justice is Republican President, who has sworn to uphold our constitution? How can a reasonable person doubt the seriousness of President Edgar C. Lungu’s commitment to deliver a new constitution?
You see, if there is a planned meeting in Livingstone, some delegates travel by air and others drive, and all arrive in Livingstone, what will be the problem? Would it be productive and reasonable to make the mode of travel an issue?
I said earlier we are having challenges with our democracy, partly because the governance discourse has been callously maimed. The rights agenda in Zambia has almost been hijacked and new definitions introduced. Zambians have a duty to restore credibility to this important undertaking, which is neither for the undertakers nor the criminally minded.
Many may be familiar with the controversial landmark case of Nkumbula Vs Attorney General in which Mr Nkumbula sought to challenge the bill so presented in parliament. Unhappy as he may have been with the decision, Mr Nkumbula respected the verdict of the Court. Another top notch politician who left things to posterity and respected the Supreme Court, was captured in the case of Bush V Al Gore. In this case Mr George Bush, as he then was, argued that he was the rightful person elected as President of the USA and the Supreme Court agreed with him to the disappointment of Al Gore and his supporters, (He was a sitting Vice President of the USA) who joined the supreme Court to leave the matter for posterity!
Folks, if for narrow and petty reasons, we do not respect our governance institutions, in this case the Courts, no one will come to place respect on them. Civility demands that we fully embrace the common sense dictate of “give and take”. I say so because in the last few weeks sections of the media have not only been used to criticize Court decisions but actually mocked the decisions in order to gain political mileage. How cheap! Look, there is nothing wrong in criticizing a judgment but there is everything wrong in maliciously criticizing the Court and its officials. I certainly would not expect a competent Lawyer, or indeed State Counsel to recklessly and wantonly injure the Courts, all because of political expediency.
I am less critical of uninformed individuals, who have and will join the band wagon to attack an institution that cannot defend itself. Suffice to say, these are criticizing not necessary out of principle but because of other considerations to which lawyers would say, “taking into account irrelevant considerations”. It is possible many are unhappy with the decision the subordinate Court reached on former President Rupiah Banda’s matter. The point to note is that, there is a big difference between the Courts of Law, which are guided by rules and regulations and the Court of Public Opinion, which is largely guided by opinions and half truths circulating in the public domain. An appeal is always an option and I am certain, if it comes to that, legal reasoning and nothing else will prevail.
Our attitudes, our postures, our responses, our values, our sense of belonging, our hunger for peace, will determine the extent to which we shall and should pressurize our government to strengthen our institutions.
The late Denis Liwewe (MHSRIP) would say Go Zambia Go. I say, go Zambia and go responsibly. I think we have little choice but to campaign for a Zambian Brand of PEACE. Anybody to join me in this campaign? I request all those that seek and pray to have Zambia a peace haven, to get in touch with me so that together, we deliver a grand commodity by investing into the future.
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