Zambia Elections Expose Country’s Soft Underbelly

Published on 16th August 2016

The 2016 elections are over. These are elections that will be very difficult to forget because many things about them aren’t over.

These were elections that brought out not the best in us but the worst of our conduct. Winning was everything for some people in these elections and there is nothing they could not do to achieve that. Some of our fellow citizens have died at their hands. Those who are slightly lucky have been left maimed, scarred for life. Property that cost a lot of money and many years of sacrifice has been destroyed in a matter of minutes. Jobs have been lost and sources of livelihood destroyed over these elections. And what appears to be permanent enmity has been created over these elections. There are people whose actions and utterances will never be forgotten and forgiven. There are people who hunt each other, who will be on each other’s throats to the grave. Some may forgive, but they will not forget what has been done to them.

Just out of a desire to win an election, good democratic values and practices have been sacrificed; have been traded on the altar of political expediency. Family relations have been broken. Longstanding friendships have been repudiated. Suspicion, hatred and anger reign supreme. There are some people whose chests are aching with desires for vengeance.

There are also some who have lost confidence in any sense of fairness and justice as a result of what has happened to them, what they have seen happen. There are people who have totally lost confidence in our politics and the elections that accompany it. They have lost all the confidence in our leaders. This is not only in our political leaders, but in all our leaders – religious, traditional, political and otherwise. They have seen their religious leaders retreat from that which is right out of fear of losing favour with the powerful politicians. They have seen their traditional leaders’ judgment being undermined by gifts of cash or rather bribes from politicians and their agents.

We have also seen during these elections the worst out of our young people on whose shoulders the future of our country rests. With a bit of cash, alcohol, T-shirts, caps or hats, chitenge materials, their sense of independent reasoning disappeared, dried up. They could be hired or could hire themselves out to maim, kill and destroy the property of their neighbours.

And in the last few days, our country has witnessed people’s votes being bought and sold for K50, K100, K200, K300 and so on and so forth. It is no longer a question of voting for one with a vision for, or a commitment or dedication to the community, the nation. The future of our country has been sacrificed for the present.

A culture of political violence has been sown and we will continue to harvest its fruits for many years to come. This is not something that is going to disappear immediately after these elections. Many people will still have to die, to be maimed and lose their property before sanity is finally restored.  A lot of work will need to be done in terms of civic and political education for our people to change and acquire a more peaceful, tolerant, fair, just and humane attitude towards others. A lot also will need to be done to change the quality of leadership in our country.

Look at the type of councillors, mayors, members of parliament and even presidents these elections have produced! Are these really leaders?

Some of them are outright criminals who have never had any desire to serve anyone else other than themselves. Is this a type of leadership that can help turn this country around and provide the vision needed by our country to meet its gigantic social and economic problems and challenges? The answer is a categorical no. If that is the case, where does it leave this country? What does the future hold for us in this world that is increasingly becoming very difficult to live in?

Yes, there are celebrations; some people are drinking and dancing dununa. But what have they won that is worthy celebrating? Access to government resources and plunder! But even that will soon prove difficult because government coffers are drying up like some of our rivers. The last five years were easy because the government was borrowing millions and billions of dollars to spend on whatever they wanted and for the leaders and their associates to steal through all sorts of criminal business schemes and deals. 

Now, that is gone; that debt capacity has been exhausted. The country will now have to turn to the International Monetary Fund for help. This will mean surrendering itself and part of its sovereignty to the recipes of the International Monetary Fund programmes. They are celebrating, dancing ‘Dununa reverse’ thinking it will be business as usual, another period of endless self-enrichment. It won’t be so. There will be little to steal and they will fight each other over that little – it will be stealing by the toughest, survival of the toughest. This, as we have stated before, is a poisoned chalice.

This election has certainly brought the worst out of us. And we will continue to live with it. The political violence of the last one and half years will not suddenly stop. Intolerance will continue because like violence, it begets itself. Will our people, the best of our people, those with the noblest of sentiments, resign themselves to this fate and accept it as something ordained by God on our country?

We don’t know. But if that happens, then we are finished as a country and as a people. Therefore, the best of us in the moral, political and ethical sense must do everything possible to make this country what our liberators had intended it to be – a land of peace, prosperity and progress where equity, honesty, humility and solidarity reign supreme.

This is certainly not a period for celebration but for very deep meditation and reflection. We have a very serious leadership crisis in the country. And this crisis should generate ideas for the construction of a more just, fair and humane Zambia.

Courtesy: The Post, Zambia

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