Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Wednesday June 20, 2007 [04:00]
We are aware that politics is an area of great importance for promoting justice, peace, development and community among all. We are also aware that politics can be an area for vices, confusion, selfishness, greed and vanity. Many have died for or in the name of politics; many have killed or maimed for or in the name of politics.
When people think only of themselves and their own particular tribal or social group, then there is the danger of division and frustration.
Good things don’t come easy; people have to work tirelessly to achieve them. The nation that we have today did not just come up like that, our forefathers spent sleepless nights and exerted tireless effort to establish it, to nurture or build it. We wish, above all, to recall the past, so as to foresee and plan the future better.
It takes time and a lot of effort to build a nation but it may be so easy to destroy it. Virtue must be nourished but vice springs up spontaneously like weeds and grows by itself. We must bear that in mind. If we do otherwise, while nourishing virtue, we are simultaneously paving way for vice. We must use uniting formulas and avoid at all costs divisive ones in all our political endeavours. That is a reality and we must not lose sight of it. We cannot on one hand claim to be working for national unity while on the other trying to undermine it.
We must give up the pernicious habit of identifying only with those who come from the same village, the same district, the same province and the same tribe as ourselves, who speak the same language and have the same culture and traditions. Those whom we must identify and see as our sisters and brothers, giving them our friendship and affection, our help, our support and fraternal warmth, should be all those who, like us, are exploited and want to see our country move forward, and who are with us in the great struggle for the development of our country and the betterment of all its people.
Politics should be a sacred undertaking because it is our politicians’ duty and responsibility to try and bring up the next generation of Zambians free from tribalism, regionalism and racism, and even free from the archaic attitude of oppressing and marginalising women or passively accepting marginalisation, free from superstition and imbued with a progressive attitude towards all issues affecting humanity.
In Zambian history, the fight for a progressive political line has been intrinsically bound up with the fight for national unity. The struggle to defend and consolidate unity, the driving force of our country’s independence struggle, demanded permanent vigilance and action to neutralise and eliminate the manoeuvres of tribal opportunists. This same struggle required a constant fight to clarify and develop our political line, especially as regards the nature, methods and objectives of our politics. By defining tribalism, regionalism and racism as enemies to be fought against, our forefathers deprived opportunists of their chief instruments of their anti-people manoeuvres.
We should always bear in mind that our people are not participating in politics just to usher in office an individual; they are not fighting for ideas or for things in one’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward and to guarantee the future of their children. This is what our people are looking for. And given a free choice they would choose any Zambian, regardless of his tribe or region where he hails from, who would move their lives forward and guarantee their children’s future.
Tribalism and regionalism are instruments used by political opportunists. And the best way to deal with such political opportunists is to deprive them of the use of these instruments.
We don’t think the type of leadership that this country requires to lead it in this complicated century can be constructed along tribal or regional lines. We agree with Dr Kenneth Kaunda that the current leadership search doesn’t require provincial approach; it requires a national approach. The unity of our people and the unity of our various tribes are the basic guarantees of the sure triumph of our efforts to conquer poverty, disease, ignorance or backwardness. It is only through the unity of all our people and of the whole nation that these things can be defeated and progress registered. It is therefore imperative to overcome anything that impairs this unity.
Siyoto Kunyanda is right in asserting his Lozi group’s right to exercise freedom of expression and freedom of association. No one can question or condemn them for exercising these rights. What is being condemned is not their exercise of freedom of speech and freedom of association. What is being condemned is what they are saying or are trying to do. In exercising these rights, one can be condemned for what they say or do without necessarily condemning them for exercising their freedom of expression and freedom of association. Kunyanda is right in saying that there is dishonesty and hypocrisy in those condemning them.
Yes, this is true because there are some people who rush to condemn others for the same things they themselves are doing in order to avoid being made to account for their own deeds. Experience has shown that in circumstances like these, it is necessary to avoid excessive zeal and watch out for those who are too demanding, the demagogic champions and tribal extremists who tend to crop up in situations like these in order to divert attention from their own faults and weaknesses and pretend to be demanding when they are really opportunists trying to avoid being called on to account for themselves.
As Kunyanda has pointed out, it’s true many of our politicians are organising on tribal lines, on regional lines. But there are serious dangers in this approach to politics, this approach is a danger to national unity and development and may trigger divisions that may lead to regional, tribal conflicts. It is not good to react to tribalists, to the political methods and practices of these divisive elements, by adopting equally tribal, regional and divisive methods and practices. What we should instead do is to denounce such methods and practices wherever we find them, whenever they surface. There are no benefits in tribal or regionally based politics.
Let’s learn to mobilise all our people without resorting to manipulating them on tribal lines. It is in this regard that we have denounced all tribal political opportunists in our country, regardless of which region or tribe they hail from. We have denounced Bemba tribalism. We have never hesitated to denounce Tonga tribalism. And we will never be intimidated in our denunciation of Lozi tribalism whatever its basis. Tribalism is tribalism – and there is no good or bad tribalism, all are bad and should be denounced.