Every person in Zambia today has heard the complaints and cries about the Grade 12 requirements, which has since been wrongly blamed on the Patriotic Front (PF) and the Republican President Edgar C. Lungu. I wonder why, but fortunately, understand.
I mention this sad reality of discourse doing the rounds not because I want to, but because it confirms the extent to which we want to distort and manipulate facts.
Even if one does not like to or is unable to read and comprehend, we all know about the Constitutional making process which has seen many legal dynamics. We are familiar with the national debates around the White paper, which responds to the inquiries Act and how previous administrations from 1972, have responded.
During the recent and failed National Constitutional Conference (NCC) several popular submissions, which included 50+1 (50% plus One); Presidential running mate, etc were discussed. The draft Constitutional bill capturing people’s wishes, as promised by the then Minister of Justice, released to the Public in order to broaden participation.
Unfortunately and probably regrettably, some of us did what we do best; taking into account irrelevant considerations, such as making insinuations to the effect that the process was a Patriotic Front (PF) one. Therefore, lacking in merit! How can a National Process of such importance and magnitude be reduced to a Political Party program?
Many known groups argued that they would ‘de-campaign’ the Patriotic Front (PF) if the Constitution was not passed into law. Others insisted that “Process protects Content” and as such the Executive must not in any way attempt to remove any part as submitted by citizens. Many focused on the process and ignored basics such as the civic duty and responsibility of reading and appreciating the contents of the document. This includes some of our gallant Members of Parliament that passed the bill into law. Technically therefore, all what President Lungu did was to give meaning and effect to what Zambians wanted – a New Constitution as assented. About 90% of the job is therefore done, remaining with the 10% which is contingent on the Zambian people’s verdict on August 11th 2016.
So, on August 11th 2016, we are not only electing our President but also determining the fate of our grand law – the Constitution. Should we, for whatever reason, fail to turn out in large numbers and vote in the referendum, we would have chosen a path that does no good to our constitutional order, but disaster! We would have neglected our civic duty to actualise a Constitution we desire, based on the rule of law.
There are a few things to be said and probably learnt about advocacy. First, every issue, no matter how complex, is like a coin. It has two sides. Generally, the side that makes better understanding and appeal takes the day.
For example, we go back to what I said last week about roads: some say, “but you cannot eat roads”. In the meantime, the same people are enjoying the benefits and trappings of the good road network. How then can their position be taken seriously by any serious entity? The argument that “you do not eat roads” is a political spin that can only qualify as a political ploy of extreme manipulation and dishonest.
But, common sense demands that one explains why they should manipulate others. Why, if I may ask? The answer is that reason rarely defeats emotions and the game of manipulation is firmly anchored on political blackmail because no Zambian will argue and justify that a good road network takes away from Zambia other than adding value. Put simply, we need a good road network to secure effective participation and such cannot come any cheaper!
For purposes of clarity and contrast, I also invite readers for their take on whether it is true or simply another gimmick to argue that in the last four or five years, nothing good has happened to Zambia? Do not close your mind. My eyes are seeing massive infrastructural developments as evidenced in new schools, new clinics/hospitals, new roads, new police stations, new markets, new primary health care facilities, new dipping facilities, new bridges, new hydro power stations, new laws etc. The list of what I have been seeing and verified, is long. I do not throw the baby with bath water and accept one of the fundamentals of life that, every coin has two sides.
So, this is the challenge (of half-truths) that any researcher or analyst would face. The scenario sketched above neither negates nor takes away the challenges that the Zambian economy faces in the midst of acknowledged local and global challenges. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently noted with great concern the fact that the Zambian economy is severely stressed, but was quick to also indicate that prospects for the future are good.
Let’s go back a few months ago when President Lungu held what I would call a defining Press Conference of his presidency. In there, mention and proposal for diversifying our economy was made. Major pronouncements that attract investments, say in the energy sector were in my view well-articulated and received by stock markets outside Zambia. Who tried to puncture holes? Zambian politicians! I must quickly add that in the context of opposition politics and in our kind of dispensation, relevance demands that “voices” that are ‘against’ are heard and this is one unique version of our politics. It is a normal expectation of our politics that even if it only means seeking relevance, some opposition politicians will hold contrary views, including absolute fabrications.
To take another bus ride of common sense though; – many will recall how the Patriotic Front (PF) in opposition politicised the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) initiative of mobile hospitals which now occupy a central position in managing our health challenges. If anything, the good road network embarked by our government clearly makes the “mobile hospital project” it very viable now more than at any time. So then we ask, how realistic and how reasonable is the view that nothing really is happening?
In my view, it is unreasonable and unrealistic. Something is happening, hard as the economic conditions may be. It is only a totally unreasonable and unrealistic individual, who will argue that the Zambian Kwacha is currently not performing well. On Friday last week, as a matter of FACT and not OPINION; Bloomberg News Agency reported that the Zambian Kwacha is the World’s best performing currency this year because of the 19.9% gain against the United States dollar!
Based on the many discussions I have had with readers of this column, it is clear to me that this our government faces a monumental challenge of dealing with mind sets, which include fixated positions of doom. We also face a serious challenge of dealing with our poor reading culture, which many times lead to poor decision making as seen in voting patterns.
The beginning point in addressing the above challenge in my view would be to depoliticise development, irrespective of one’s station in life. You may be a politician, but you are a Zambian. You may have two passports, but you are a Zambian. You may have another residence outside Zambia, but you are a Zambian. All in all, there is only one Zambia and those with the rare privilege to lead, must borrow from living examples. Let your works speak for themselves and do not allow magic to play a role in making an elastic projection for this our Zambia. The debate for national prayers is worthy interrogating surgically. What and why were there some pockets of resistance?
For purposes of emphasis, let it be known and without doubt or hesitation that Zambia, is for all Zambians and it is for Zambians not the British, not the Americans, not the Germans, not the Chinese, not the South Africans, not the Egyptians, not the Nigerians and others to take it to greater heights. In doing so, we must begin looking at things thoroughly, critically and better than a first year university student or in the most unacceptable scenario, one who found reason to “resist” school.
Ask fundamentals such as, how is it that some other Zambians are doing extremely well in the same environment that you and I leave in? What explains the widening gap between the rich and poor? In the most unlikely change of government this time around, who stands to benefit – the ordinary Zambian or politicians? And in any case, what really is in regime or policy change? In the typical manner of the neo-imperialism architecture, is it possible for outside forces to push for a regime change, without the tacit or direct cooperation of an agent or some “Zambian elite”?
I ask these questions to make sure that we are really talking about the same thing and not talking of similar things. Also, in a multi-party political dispensation as ours, lies, innuendos and negative propaganda will feed on the high levels of poverty, which defy a good decision such as investing in the future.
Promoting education is investing in the future and studies as indicated before show a correlation between development and education. It was unheard of for one to seek higher education in China but it is the in thing now. What has changed? Did Zambians or other nationals other than international capital go to China to develop that country? These and many more are the questions we should be asking ourselves. A smart Zambia will not happen as a miracle. No! It will take the collective effort of our people with the support of the international community, sometimes misunderstood as supporting questionable agendas, to get there. For instance, the posture by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is quite good, and so is that by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). I certainly do not take away the impressive support from all cooperating partners who are doing wonders in various sectors. But I still insist, it is a Zambian journey, one which faces the usual challenges of life.
I end by stating another fact. A few years ago, President Mwanawasa (MHSRIP) promoted winter maize. I ask: Can you imagine what would happen if the Zambian government, through the private sector invested heavily in both crop and livestock development, Energy and Tourism sectors?
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