Until the cliff hanging exercise of the constitutional amendments was brought to fruition by Parliament’s approval by the mandatory two thirds majority last December the holding of the elections in 2016 under a new constitutional dispensation looked like a rather forlorn hope.
The constitution of Zambia, though not irreparably flawed in the sense that it has the basic tenets of human rights and institutions which entrench the rule of law, has undergone an exceedingly costly and lengthy convoluted process with constitutional commissions which culminated into a final Technical Committee that was a huge cost and some strange notions of governance that Parliament in its infinite wisdom sidelined.
A notable feature of the debate on the constitution was the way civil society organizations which cannot conceivably have a popular mandate arrogated to themselves the exclusivity to speak for the people they made themselves interchangeable with the people even when it was indisputably clear they were acting at the behest or bidding of the foreign financiers. With unfettered arrogance and impunity the NGO’s declared Parliament which has the mandate of the people who elect Parliamentarians an inappropriate platform to pass the requisite amendments to the fundamental law of the land, the constitution.
Well, so much water has gone under the bridge and voters must and will decide on 11th August, 2016 who will be their rulers from a motley collection of parties some of which are headed for oblivion.
The ruling Patriotic Front has a palpable edge in the electoral process not entirely due to the advantages that incumbency offers but because the five years of PF administration has ushered in a robust development agenda rather unprecedented in the five decades of Zambia’s independence.
That there still exist formidable development arrears is beyond doubt but then Patriotic Front has charted new initiatives which are transformative.
The global economy is frayed and has left in its trails exceptional challenges in all emerging economies.
In Zambia the collapse of copper prices has exerted a severe toll on the economy in terms of reduced foreign exchange earnings which constrain desirable levels of imports and therefore a non-salutation for those government revenues which have their origins in international trade.
The opposition and the media which support and sponsor some of the peripheral parties have had and will continue to have a field day fueling
public disenchantment and fury.
There is a misread and an obvious underestimate of the intelligence of the populace.
The rebellion and upheavals expected from a squeezed population could prove to be a miscalculation.
The idea of togetherness by Zambians even under severe difficulties as can be expected in a year when a terrible weather pattern has compounded matters is firmly embedded in the psyche of Zambians.
The Patriotic Front under late Michael Chilufya Sata and his humble successor Edgar Lungu has molded the nation to continue with the achievements of the founding fathers of Zambia of unity in diversity.
Political platforms that are blatantly adrift with this culture inevitably go against the tide and will not be embraced by the mainstream populace.
Lavish and reckless promises of delivering the impossible in the environment of resource scarcities only induce disbelief and lack of credibility. Production of wealth and subsequent redistribution in any nation cannot be a function of inventing new myths and slogans but meaningful and sustainable increases in production of goods and services at various levels of the economy.
Some parties promise to offer the voters the miracle cures implicit in Socialism which is out of vogue throughout the world.
Even the last bastions of socialism bar the North Koreans now only accept Socialism as some ethic of distribution, meaning as a moral imperative which rejects extreme imbalances in the distribution of wealth.
Inertly the existing communist parties have come to realise that Socialism as a strategy of development has deficiencies precisely on account of supplanting individual creativity and initiative and replacing those attributes with collective myth making – a recipe for fraudulence and acute difficulties in fostering and enforcing accountability.
The PF’s challenges are in the first place to wrongly respond to promises of ambitious programmes, for example roads in the prevailing conditions of acute resource constraints.
Provocations which will be numerous may also induce militant responses. A ruling party has obligation to be a good example of tolerance and accommodation which are not easy to cultivate and maintain against the ingrained habit and culture of zealous cadres intent to give opponents a bloody nose.
In a way it is expedient that the period of electoral campaigns is a very short one, albeit not too short to witness ugly events which conduce to instability so damaging to the country especially beyond the borders.
11th August, 2016 may go down in the annals of history as a moment that sealed the fate of moribund parties destined and organized to oblivion and obscurity.
It will also be a litmus test for the current ruling party to marshal more than 50 percent of the electorate because it adequately reflects and represents the hopes and aspirations of the Zambian people who cherish peace and stability but above all a quicker and more orderly improvement in their plight.
By Special Correspondent