We are just dancing akalela as a country

Dear Editor

I will be grateful if you can publish this article.


“Raised hopes, Shattered dreams” is the title of my forthcoming book on the democratic crisis in Southern Africa. The savagely beating United Party for National Development  supporters, the imprisonment of a citizen for “insulting” President Sata, the killing of the Chinese National over minimum wage riots, and the deportation of Fr. Banyangandora  create a sense of déjà vu in Zambian political history.

Of course, Zambia’s are frustrated over President Sata manner of governance. Aside from his constant reshuffles of cabinet ministers, the president seems to be taking us back to the years of colonial, UNIP and MMD administrations. Worse still, he seems to follow Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF tactics of intimidation and arrogance.

My friends, our frustration with PF should not be blind us to the fact that we have been there before. As early as 1964, people held higher hopes of Kaunda led self-rule but their dreams were shattered when the UNIP government turned out to be worse than colonial masters. 27 years later, people’s hopes were rekindled when the “hour” came for MMD to rule. Alas, our hopes were shattered by poverty, corruption and underdevelopment.

In 2011, donchi kubeba promised more money in our pockets within 90 days.

Eleven months later, our dreams are shattered.

Over the years, our presidents’ names have changed, but our economic conditions are unchanged. In most cases, they have even worsened. The results are self-evident: an ever growing gap between the rich and the poor, extreme poverty, the collapse of the health delivery sector and increased violence in our compounds. Friends, I come from Mansa. When I was a child, we had running water. Today, Mansa has no sewer system, and running water is luxury. One wonders whether we are  dancing our traditional dance akalela– whereby going forward means retreating backwards in the country today!

My friends, our politicians know that hurdling on our hopes is a good way to win elections. The UNIP, MMD and PF did so when they were in opposition. It is ironical that the MMD government now wants us to believe that it would address the plight of masses should we develop dementia and vote it back into office.

Let me make this clear. Zambia’s biggest problem is not the PF government but the structures under which it is governing.

The current government structures are founded on the oppressive configurations that once characterized colonial rule.

Just as the colonial governor was central to colonial power, our presidents have too much power over every aspect of our lives.

It is the president who interprets our constitution, controls the courts and who speaks and who is heard.

Democracy grants power to the people, but our current political organization is not democratic at all. Currently, the president can legally create new districts, provinces, change names of international airport and appoints or fire judges. Unless such powers drastically reduced, our democracy will remain a sung slogan rather than a lived reality.

Currently, all organs of democratic accountability aid the president cult. For example, just before the 2011 elections, many stakeholders called on the police to investigate the then ruling MMD abuse of public resources during the campaigns.

Since the police was unwilling to investigate, the PF sought court ruling on the matter but lost the case. Likewise, the then MMD Lusaka province Chairman, Mr. William Banda orchestrated violence against PF cadres in Chongwe constituency. Many calls were made to arrest him, but the police turned a blind eye. However, when the MMD lost power to PF, the same organs arrested some senior MMD officers and Banda for violence and abuse of public resources.

This state of affairs shows that Zambia will never be democratized as long as the powers of the president are not reduced. In addition, the army, the police, the judiciary, the Auditor General, the Electoral Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission should be independent from political manipulation. We need to realize that voting Alias Chipimo, Hakainde Hichilema, Nevers Mumba,Ng’andu Magande or even Edith Nawakwi into office under the current conditions is crafting another vicious dictator. Let us reduce the powers of the presidency, or else, elections come and new governments will be born, but our experiences will be the same: raised hopes, shattered dreams.

But the de-politicization of these agencies depends on how far we will go to reduce the powers of the presidency. We should not expect our politicians to resolve this mess; we should do it. Remember, politicians cry foul when they are in the opposition but once in power, they revert to the same systems they once faulted.

This was the case with all Zambian presidents. Sata blamed the MMD for oppressing the masses, abuse of powers and, in some cases, the arresting of political opponents. Today, he has turned out worse than the very system he fought.

The same can be said about Kaunda, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, and Banda.

President Sata and his cabinet should understand that events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Libya among many other African countries during 2010-11 uprising demonstrated that people cannot be tamed forever. Intimidation of political opponents through state sponsored violence, unequal access to government controlled media and politicization of the law enforcement agencies can hinder the realization of democracy for a while but we the people will always triumph.  I pray that the president is listening.

Rev. Canon Dr. Kapya John Kaoma (KK)

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