Let there be value adding politics!

02 Jun

MMD gets a new leader

The former ruling party, Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), ushered in its new leadership on May 25th 2012. The preacher cum politician Dr. Nevers Mumba is the new head.

Being a major political party, this development was always bound to invite reactions and comments. Key among these of course would be those from fellow politicians.

Dr. Mumba’s speech spelt out his intentions which chiefly are rebranding the MMD in light of its corruption tag and also to keep the ruling PF in sight so as to entrench checks and balances to avert excesses by government.

Reactions and opinions

What has followed since Dr. Mumba’s ascendancy to the MMD throne demands analysis. One notable reaction is the sharp statement from PF’s Secretary General, Wynter Kabimba. He has taken time to remind Zambians that Nevers is not a factor in politics and cannot be popular enough to challenge or dislodge the ruling party.

I have no issue with these opinions. My contention and concern remains one thing, of what value are such opinions? We can go down memory lane to cite questionable actions or words attributed to our political personalities and not lack in options to pick from. Therein is the biggest challenge our leadership and nation faces. Are we really focusing on the cardinal things that can shape our great country’s future?

Lost confidence and uninspiring leaders

Zambia’s politics have for a long time seen a brand that dwells on personality bashing, public trashing and sometimes shocking jibes at each other. This approach has only led to a deteriorating confidence in the so called leaders and the politics of the day.

Both the ruling party and opposition parties have not inspired in this area. It is rare to get a refreshing presentation from our politicians, breaking down issues of national interest with alternatives or action plans to steer the nation forward.

One only needs to listen to our leaders over the next few weeks, months and soon years to decipher a consistent pattern in their utterances. It is evident that each time they have something public to say, they will be having a go at each other.

I yearn for constructive politics and engagement in this country. When we can see our leaders on one platform, debating and discussing progressive issues. When our civil society can be objective enough not to be partisan in their approach. When the student populace will not be a compromised lot swayed by popular winds, media editorial policies or a few kwacha notes. When professionals, able leaders and ordinary folk alike will be eager to serve the country and not coil away because “politics is a dirty game”.

Dawn of new era or more of the same?

The September 20th elections were characterised by the voice and choice of the people. A cry for change and progress. The dawn of a new era and way of doing things.

Alas, months later, if we do not see things for what they are and demand more from our government and the opposition parties, we are bound to get more of the same.

My expectation has been and remains that we will have a blueprint on where the country is headed. Can we identify key priority areas and align them to public pronouncements and actions from our leaders? Are the policy decisions so far reflecting a coordinated strategy and development agenda? Do we see a viable opposition that offers hope for an alternative government?

Or can we safely say, the last few months have been lost in squabbles, conflicting policy statements and uncertain economic direction? Add on a disjointed, disgruntled and lost opposition followed in tow by a visionless and spineless civil society that has drowned in partisan positions taken before the elections?

For as long as we have a crop of leaders that does not think beyond their interests, egos and pockets, Zambia will be doomed. We need to challenge ourselves as a citizenry, hold our leaders accountable and demand even more than we do if this country is to be turned around.

Time to change is now

I would like to see monthly or even quarterly public sessions with all our leaders articulating not only their vision for the country but also the practical steps being taken daily to make that vision a reality. This is both the opposition and ruling parties for they are the key stakeholders. For instance, we should have by now seen debates and discussions around topical or technical issues in the Draft constitution. We should be having a state of the nation address to update us on where we are going, where we are and what is being done to bridge this gap.

We should at this stage have been seeing, assessing and questioning a shadow government in the opposition that challenges the government into executing policy for national good.

But what do we have instead? The squabbles have continued, name calling and political leaders or groups that are all legal experts. It seems the only thing worth pursuing and adding a voice on now is the tired theme of corruption. Anyone that uses the term and points a finger at the right target gets to be heard everywhere.

Corruption is an evil that must be fought vehemently. But it is not the only thing a nation can pursue. It is not the only matter we can be discussing each day. Let the accused be pursued by the appropriate authorities and caged without all this noise we are becoming accustomed to. It is for this reason that we find ourselves in a dilemma where investigative authorities move in the direction of popular opinion or leaders are perceived to have a verdict in mind as the investigative wings do their work. While at it, the opposition and civil society are also playing along for an appearance in the media with routine and uninspiring statements.

After all the noise, where is the plan?

While all this happens, no comprehensive plan has been laid out by either side on what this country needs and actions taken.

The hospitals remain without drugs. Prisons remain overcrowded. The local currency continues on a yo-yo path. The tax regime still overtaxes the underpaid while the mines mint both on the mineral resource and taxation sides. It all appears to be an uncoordinated journey we are on.

I still hold that one of our biggest failures is the lack of exhaustive planning and disciplined execution.
We are a talking nation and when we have done or set something in motion, we ignore the follow through. We need to track all we do, commit to or plan to do. I will hold this position until I am convinced otherwise.

I will cite two examples for stating this. Firstly, there has been a lot reported and said on the imminent sale of Zambia’s $700m eurobond. This is a progressive initiative that has been in the pipeline for some time now. But the only reference to accompanying plans that I have heard are mere statements along the lines of “infrastructure development”. Not as a detailed plan but stated as a possible use for the money to be realised from the sale.

This is not sufficient and to me poses a corruption threat as there seems to be no concrete plan underpinning the sale. There has to be a blueprint for the money. The sectors, projects and priorities must be explicit to all stakeholders such that when this money comes in, the high impact initiatives will commence. In the absence of this, this may yet be another opportunity to divert resources and in turn leave the country paying debts that have not benefited us.

Secondly, there has been a loud issue on judicial reforms. These are long overdue and necessary. The nation has been gripped with a heated debate and demands for arrests and resignations. Nothing wrong with that if the situation warrants that route.

The concern for me as shared in my recent blog “Of corrupt judges, noise and the bigger picture ( is that we are focusing on a narrower aspect of the whole matter.

We need to go beyond three judges, beyond one wing of government and also clean up the framework around all these lapses we know exist at almost all levels of governance. That is why it saddens me when there will be a competition on who shouts the loudest about what happens to be the popular theme at a particular moment.

Reason, objectivity and posterity must prevail over emotions and veiled interests, whatever they may be.

Can we see the light now?

These are but a few pointers of areas that need to improve for our politics to mature and radiate substance. To steer us away from the disgusting politics of patronage to impress the “boss”.

This is a possibility and reality that is not far fetched if the collective mindset is altered.

Politicians, civil society and we the ordinary folk are accountable for this. We must drive the change that will develop this country beyond rhetoric, empty populist slogans and a loosely planned approach to governance.

Only then can we experience and witness politics that add value than diminish it.

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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Opinion


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