Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Wednesday July 23, 2008 [04:00]
BRIGADIER General Godfrey Miyanda’s analysis on the procedure for appointing a medical board is legally and politically correct. We all must be careful not to create a crisis where there is none. It is very easy to create panic and anxiety in the nation, but very difficult to deal with the results.
The arguments by Brig Gen Miyanda are worth thinking about. Some politicians have, in what appears to be their haste for accessing power, started calling for a medical board to be created to facilitate the removal of President Levy Mwanawasa from office.
This is scandalous and immoral. How can we forget that the President has only been ill for three weeks and yet these friends of ours started calling for a medical board hardly two weeks after his hospitalisation. This insatiable appetite and grab for power is unfortunate. People are in such a hurry that they make pronouncements before they even read the Constitution.
If those calling for medical board to be set up had cared to read the Constitution they would have known as Brig Gen Miyanda says that their calls were baseless and outside the law. The Constitution is very clear. It provides a clear process through which a President who dies or becomes incapacitated in office is replaced without confusion.
We have tried to understand why these calls are being made so soon after the President fell ill. What is motivating them? Politicians like Patriotic Front president Michael Sata should know better. He was in hospital just the other day with a very serious heart condition. Did anyone call for him to be replaced? Sata is a seasoned politician who should know when it is time to talk and when to keep quiet. It is unfortunate that he, as one of the parties interested in the office of the Republican president, was amongst the first to call for the setting up of a medical board. This showed lack of sensitivity and poor political tact. No matter what the pressure was, Sata should have avoided calling for a medical board without having done his homework.
We are not surprised. This is what happens when individuals who aspire for public office are so intoxicated with the thought of becoming president that they even lose common sense and decency. They are bound to say and do things that are shameful, that don’t make sense. Instead of being public servants, they become public liabilities.
We have said before and probably should say it again, that politics and public service is not simply or exclusively about elective office – the office of Republican president. A true public servant should be able to serve without holding any office because his or her interest is about furthering the common good. What we see today is an excessive focus on State House. Some have already started even preparing for a presidential by-election under the guise of campaigning for 2011. But what they are forgetting is that, even in politics, decency is more important and can get one far than jumping the gun. The Bembas are not wrong when they say ukutangila tekufika. The excessive focus on the presidency has rendered a lot of our politicians totally ineffective. And what is more sad is that those who seek it most are the most ill-suited for the job.
The last two general elections have produced phenomenon which needs to be examined. Two political parties in the name of Sata’s PF and Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND have emerged with significant wins in some key parts of our country but remain virtually redundant and irrelevant to our national politics. Why? Why should politicians and political parties that win landslide victories in Lusaka, the Copperbelt and the Southern Province be moribund and irrelevant in resolving serious national issues? The behaviour that these politicians are showing over the illness of President Mwanawasa probably explains their irrelevance. They are very steeped in meaningless and cheap politics. Their vulture behaviour renders them of little use to society. We need to raise our political rhetoric to a level where it becomes a tool for political good and not just a means of getting to State House.
Sata and Hichilema should control huge parts of our country politically but how have they used the influence they have? How can a political party that controls the Lusaka City Council and all the councils on the Copperbelt be irrelevant? Without insulting anyone, we have to say it’s because of pettiness, opportunistic behaviour and a failure to rise above demagogue and narrow personal interests. A blind ambition for State House has robbed some of our politicians of the ability to appreciate the position they should hold in their country. Hichilema controls the whole Southern Province; what is he doing to engage the government in a meaningful, productive and respectful way in order to extract benefits for the area his party seems to represent? The single-minded focus on the Republican presidency is emasculating our young multi-party democracy. When people fail to make it to State House, they fail to find any other meaningful role to play and quickly become irrelevant and sometimes destructive.
If our multi-party democracy was functioning as it should, there would have been nothing stopping the government from consulting leaders of these significant opposition parties and deciding how to handle any important issues together. But how does one deal with politicians whose only discernible occupation is getting into State House at any cost – even on the back of national failure. Their colleague gets ill, instead of worrying about the nation and how it will get forward in the event of the worst happening, they seem to be posturing and feathering their nests for a presidential by-election. President Mwanawasa’s health is really not an issue for them. All they see in it is an opportunity to score political points of one kind or another; they see in it an opportunity to get to State House earlier than 2011.
One may have arguments against Brig Gen Miyanda’s analysis of the situation, but one thing is clear: that he has chosen a nationalistic view, a selfless approach to the politics of President Mwanawasa’s illness. There is no need to panic and cause alarm in the nation and this is not the time for political leaders of any hue to trade insults. We need to foster unity and calmness in the country and allow President Mwanawasa’s doctors to look after him in the best way they can and know.
This illness should not become a political football ground, a game for political opportunists.
Moreover, there is no need for panic because everything that is needed for continuity in the absence of the President is in place. We have a functioning Cabinet and a clear Constitution to guide Cabinet and the nation on how to proceed, whichever way things proceed. There is no lacuna in our Constitution. We hope, with Brig Gen Miyanda’s very timely and wise advice, this issue will be put to rest and allow those with responsibilities to perform them without undue interference and pressure.