Saturday, 8 December 2012

Old Bad Politics, Making A Shock Comeback

Whither cometh this wrong concept of government threatening to withhold development from opposition held constituencies until the elected representatives in these areas agree to some political infidelity with the Patriotic Front government at the expense of royalty to their own parties?

Lately, the country is seeing the Patriotic Front leadership portraying insatiable appetite to poach Members of Parliament and councillors from the opposition parties, with the view of causing by-elections in provinces like Southern, North Western, Eastern and some parts of Western province where it does not command much support.

The motivation to materialise this agenda has been underpinned by a successful extortion of votes from electorates in the Mufumbwe parliamentary by-election when the ruling PF wrestled its first parliamentary seat from the opposition in the North Western Province of Zambia.

Stephen Masumba who won the seat for the PF was MMD parliamentarian for the same constituency. He was re-contesting the parliamentary seat after the opposition party ejected him for political infidelity.

Masumba and about eight other MMD MPs were given deputy ministerial positions in the PF government in the name of an inclusive government.

However, Masumba became too arrogant, choosing to start attacking the principles and beliefs of his own political party while showering praises on President Sata and the PF.

This unfortunate political infidelity in the MP raised anger within the ranks of MMD, annoying the leadership to the end of expelling him from the party.  

Fear and Extortion
While a similar by-election in Mufumbwe in 2010 was infamous for its blood violence, this time the election was bleeding with bad politics.

The PF campaign team (ministers and the President) wedged a political mind war against the people of Mufumbwe, with Jean Kapata, Sylvia Masebo, Emerin Kabanshi, Wynter Kabimba adulterating people’s rights to choose a representative of their choice by threatening that the PF government will not develop Mufumbwe if they voted for an opposition MP.

President Michael Sata was even more categorical in his analogy.

“If you are a father of two children—one your blood child and the other step child, and these children are thirsty. When you have one cup of water, who are you going to give that cup of water first? It is definitely your own child!”
The President did not just stop on that infamous parable, but threatened that if people voted for the opposition government was going to take its money for development to other areas where they needed it.

The message worked, people of Mufumbwe voted for Masumba by over 3,000 votes against the closest MMD rival Lucky Mulusa, who managed somewhere slightly above 5,000 votes. The infamous concept of ‘ditch-the opposition-MPs’ for you to get development was devised in Mufumbwe, tested there and approved.

Old Bad Politics
The Patriotic Front is prostrating itself to the citizens, including traditional leadership of the country, as good a government that means well—seeking to be inclusive by working with the opposition members of parliament to foster national development.

Surprising, this inclusiveness only seems to target the MMD which is still the biggest opposition in the country with a national face. To entice the MPs from the opposition, President Sata has created unnecessary deputy ministerial portfolios, in some cases three in one ministry, to accommodate opposition MMD MPs. The opposition MMD sees this as a manoeuvre to weaken it.

But President Sata says he will continue with his strategy of poaching MPs as a way to circumvent what he calls ‘injudicious opposition’ that wants to frustrate government development agenda.

Is this not old bad politics gone badly?

PF is skilfully abusing its development responsibility as government to extort support out of the hapless electorates.

Its gambit: to rush development to constituencies were it has MPs while deliberately withholding similar responsibility from opposition held areas. In this way it feels the people in the end will lose confidence in their opposition MPs that do not want to pay homage to the PF.

Once the people start feeling the effects of their areas being sidelined by government, the PF will pour blame on the opposition MPs. Those MPs who fear losing their seat at the next election may choose to cower before President Sata and choose to work with PF. When taunted by their political party leadership for the betrayal, these MPs may dare their party superiors to expel them or resign.

The ruthless, unfaithful, ambitious Masumba whom, with full knowledge that he did not pass two subjects in accountancy to deserve the qualification, chose to pocket and use for pecuniary gain a wrongly awarded college diploma from National Institute for Public Administration, opened the door for this political infidelity.

His other colleague Richard Taima, MMD MP for Solwezi East constituency, is also daring his party to expel him.

Like this, the PF is convinced it will be able to create more by-elections, confident that it will win them all, given the government resources at its exposal and the new found gambit: ‘no-development-threat-if-you-vote-opposition’ to extort votes from the masses.

At the same time there has been incessant attacks labelling the United Party for National Development that has a stronghold in Southern Province as a tribal party.

This uncouth political gimmick by PF is not good for Zambia’s democracy. Zambia is not new to this kind of politics. In fact what is emerging to the fore is that same old bad politics of greediness of UNIP days that tempt a sitting government to a bad ending.
“But the more we read of the history of the past politics, the more we observe the signs of our times, the more do we feel our hearts filled and swelled up by a good hope” for a day that Zambia shall find liberation from this bad politics.
During 27 years rule of UNIP under KK, as Zambia’s first President Dr Kenneth Kaunda is referred to—both in equal measure of worship as a hero of peace, and disdain as a political tyrant, the country went through bad political and economic times.

At that time, KK hatched wrong politics for the country aimed at consolidating his lust for power.

Taking advantage of the ill informed citizenry, KK systematically eliminated any political competition that challenged him. Propounding wrong notions, KK used every political opportunity to indoctrinate the masses to embrace him as their ‘messiah’ while traversing the nation sowing seeds of dislike for multiparty politics and for intelligent individuals who articulated the benefits of plural politics.

As a heretic of anti-plural-statehood, he skilfully crafted propaganda that multiparty politics were akin to national unity, development and were a recipe for tribal conflicts. The hapless Zambians, sedated with the euphoria of self governance from the British colonialists, sank into KK’s overtures with scarcely any hint of critical analysis of his political selfishness.

In the end, KK triumphed on a wrong conceived national agenda of development that excluded other independent minded political players and private enterprise, marking the birth of a one party state system that legalised UNIP as the sole official governing political institution in the country.

Even after achieving his ill conceived political intentions, for 27 years, KK presided over a country that was heavily divided, when it came to political opinion, and poorly managed, when it came to economic development.

The majority of citizens were left out in participating in national politics. He did not support individual innovation and enterprise—the two gears essential to creating wealth for any country.

Those who made their own money were seen to be the enemies of the state. He made the state to be exalted as the soul-provider. Jobs came from the state, the sugar in the cup of tea and porridge came from the state and, so did buttered bread.

Since the government did everything and paid for everything, while its source of revenue remained limited to the copper enclave, the country started to run out of hard cash. To offset the severe budget deficit, the country started borrowing heavily from the Breton wood Institutions.

Even the donor dole could not suffice for all the social economic needs of the people. At one time the country went to a point of printing more money to subsidise consumption. Government also issued free coupons through its political party functionaries for families to access essentials like staple mealie meal and cooking oil.

The political interference in the operations of state enterprises resulted into serious underperformance of these businesses. Production in those manufacturing goods slumped, while shortages of essential commodities were widespread. Empty shelves in major shops stared at desperate consumers like the ghostly sockets of a devil’s skull.

Services collapsed, the city councils around the country hardly managed to provide water, garbage piled on streets corners of residential areas, with dead dogs and cats killed by motorist decomposing on the roadsides. The stench from street to street hit you in the face like a wall. As a result, the country fell from riches to rags.

More problems of a mismanaged economy on the hands of the government led to more frustration on the part of the governed, while the government that had lost all its legitimacy to rule became more and more oppressive. Self expression was muzzled, with journalists from the foreign media like BBC being disparaged with insults at press conferences; donors like the World Bank and IMF were blamed for the social economic malaise in the country and denounced publicly.

A vigilante group, compromising youths who wore red shirts and trousers with a marching ballet, emerged. The group walked around wielding buttons, terrorising people who did not want to toe the line of UNIP. Shop owners and market traders were forced to close shop to go and see off the President or receive him at the airport. Those who refused to do so were taunted, sometimes beaten and denied trading licenses.

Similar punishment was executed for refusing to buy a UNIP green party card. Everyone, including civil servants and parastatal workers, were supposed to accept UNIP as a vanguard of the nation. Everyone was supposed to support government, even on views that one did not agree with, in the name of fostering national development.

It seems even when things were being wrongly done, it was all supposed to be seen as national development or national interest.

The vigilantes were known to force people to confess God as their ruler in heaven, and KK as their sole supreme ruler on earth. ‘Kumulu ni Lesa, Pansh ni Kaunda!’ slogan was chanted on national media from the broader driveways in town to narrow paths of the countryside.

People did not like this, as they became sullen hearted over the stagnated economy and uncouth ruling party patriotism that shuttered all means of self expression and opportunities for enterprise. The ideas of a one party system did not suffice for different aspirations of the country’s free citizens. The people demanded a return to multiparty politics and KK could no longer fool all the people all the time. So in 1991 the bottom of his authority dropped out.

That year in October, he conceded power to Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy in the first democratically held elections in 27 years of the country’s Independence.
Unfortunately, this same politics of greed that held Zambia spellbound for close to a generation are stealthily making a comeback.

The desire to impose oneself as a national figure and PF ways as sole national purpose appears to run deep in the current leadership of Patriotic Front. It does so, especially in President Michael Sata who, apparently, has embraced Dr Kenneth Kaunda—the first President of Zambia and author of such bad politics that largely contributed to the destruction of the first 27 years of the country’s Independence.

It is no surprise that this is happening because President Sata shared part of the shaping of the Kaunda regime.

As Lusaka councillor, MP and governor, he stamped himself as a patriot of UNIP, until 1990 when he jumped out of the regime that was headed for defeat to join a new political movement, the MMD.

His choice to disjoin from Kaunda was not out of the hatred of those choices that made UNIP and Kaunda a bad thought in the minds of Zambians, but a fear of ending his political ambitions or maybe a betrayal. He did not choose democracy either, because at the end of Dr Chiluba’s term of office Mr Sata, as secretary general of the MMD, supported an unpopular bid to adulterate the country’s constitution to give Dr Chiluba a third term.

Ends Justify the Means

Despite that government has chosen [in its wrong perceptions of being a national wide accepted political party] to embark on ill conceived propaganda campaign aimed at making the electorate in rural Zambia to forsake their opposition representatives at national assembly and local council levels, some people feel President Sata and the PF are justified.

These people argue that the President has constitutional mandate to appoint ministers and deputy ministers from within parliament. As such, in short of people to get to work with government, he is constitutionally justified to use MPs from the opposition. Sadly, these cheerleaders even endorse the wanton creation of by-elections in opposition held constituencies, justifying it as democracy. They even ignore the cost of these by-elections by saying that democracy is not cheap.

However, what they are failing to see about all this is a-foot-in-the-door by President Sata and his PF government trying to patronise Zambians so that they are coerced to a surrogate democracy of one party state. It is even hard to see if President Sata is doing this for democracy or his interests for the PF.

If personal interest was not involved, arbitrary decisions were going to be minimised and we would have seen acceptance to sit down with top leadership of the affected opposition political parties to forge common ground. National priorities would have gone first, with President answering the first fundamental question of putting the country’s scarce resources to developing the country and not pursuing interests aimed at feathering the nests of his political party.

President Sata sees his idea of doing politics as the best, claiming that he has no other option in the face of the ‘injudicious’ opposition that only stands to frustrate his national development agenda.

For leaders to think their idea is the best and ignore the maxim of consulting others, while turning to rushed measures, kills the spirit of democracy. It is a source of political conflict, which negate all ‘common good’ and national interest one could be pursuing.

They may be seeing a win in Mufumbwe as start of a forgone war of decimating the opposition and PF gaining political ground in new areas, when in fact it is not. That victory in Mufumbwe was a result of fear and coercion:
“You vote for the opposition, you will not see development here in Mufumbwe. We will take the money to other places where they need it.”
Just to look back! What ended KK and UNIP’s reign in 1991 was the thinking that national development was about the personal interests of the President, notorious stand of ignoring others ideas and the notorious procedure of appointing and disappointing others.

KK saw every other new idea and advice from others as a mythical political enemy.  He saw presidency as an institution of instilling fear in others to gain support.

He was mistaken, even the hard love of tyranny can only hold thus far.
It is a short prayer that PF and President Sata will manage to steer clear of these pitfalls.

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