It is no secret that the general atmosphere in Zambia currently is political. Anything relating to the forthcoming August 11 elections is attracting more attention. Music, art, business and dressing have all gone political and it is no surprise for our local artistes and celebrities to discuss politics.
Last week on Thursday, B-Flow’s Music4Change in partnership with the United States of America took advantage of this political environment to engage several entertainers as well as media personnel in a panel discussion to tackle the issue of elections.
This rare but progressive and educative discussion took place at the American Embassy in Lusaka with a well-selected panel that included journalist and Muvi TV host Coaster Mwansa, musicians Cactus Agony, Pompi, B-Flow, Kachanana and Kan2.
Under the theme ‘The role of celebrities in elections’, the panelists were equal to the task and gave out points which will forever serve as a guide to a number of celebrities trading on political lines.
The audience was equally impressive and balanced giving the discussion which was anchored by radio and TV personality, Patience Chisenga credible. Several issues and comments came out from this important discussion and notable ones include the following:
Before one is a celebrity they are citizens
Zambian celebrities like any other human being are citizens of this country. To that respect, they are free to participate in politics and elections. However, because celebrities have a larger influence on their following, they must do everything they do with a great sense of responsibility. Cactus Agony argued that as citizens and people who have an influence, celebrities must not look at their needs but rather put the people they speak for first.
In an election celebrities must show responsibility, tolerance, maturity and unity.
Coaster Mwansa believes celebrities and the media have a duty to influence people by standing for what they believe in and not taking political sides because of money or what they are promised by politicians.
He notes that celebrities have that ability to influence choices and decisions and therefore they should use this gift responsibly.
“Musicians must not be allowed to be used by politicians,” he warns.
Party endorsements Vs Neutrality
With the recent growth in artistes or celebrities making public endorsements for their preferred candidates in the forthcoming elections, the panelists were tasked to give their stance on the subject.
The panelists except for one Kachanana felt, celebrities ought to stay neutral and avoid public endorsements. This they believe gives a celebrity that unifying role as opposed to being divisive.
B-Flow argues that celebrities can actively engage in politics and civic issues without necessarily taking sides.
“I feel our role is to promote peace, raise awareness on various matters relating to elections,” he says. In agreement, Kan2 contends that given the influence celebrities have, it can even be more rewarding for them to engage in ‘intellectual politics’ rather than cadre politics. Intellectual politics according to Kan2 would mean, disseminating information that would benefit the masses as opposed to a party of choice. It also means being well-informed about political issues which can be explained in various art forms by the celebrities.
Pompi also feels staying neutral for celebrities during an election is the best as he believes artistes should not be used to advance careers for politicians.
“Opinions and values are important and therefore, they should not be for sale,” Pompi says.
Neutrality is not Morality
On the contrary, Kachanana argues that whatever stance one takes in politics, there are consequences. She says, much as people think that those celebrities who have taken sides and gone public on their political stance are being paid, even those who have chosen to stay neutral are paid to do so.
She echoed the contribution from a member of the audience who said that ‘neutrality is not morality’.
“Staying neutral also has consequences, because you disappoint those who have taken sides,” she argues.
There is life after August 11
Despite the difference in opinions, there was an emphasis on artistes and celebrities playing that huge role of unifying the nation. There were calls from the audience for artistes not to focus on what they may be offered for them to take political sides but to look at the bigger picture because there is life beyond elections.
Allan Mvula aka DJ Life is one of Zambia’s first celebrities to do a praise song or campaign song for a political party during the 1991 elections. In his contribution from the audience, Allan warned celebrities to be careful with political endorsements based on his own experiences.
“We did a song for UNIP, but when the party lost elections, we were forced in exile. The money we were offered was nice, but it was not easy for us, “said Allan as he shared his experience.