Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rupiah is not serious about unity

Rupiah is not serious about unity
Written by Editor

No one can deny that unity is important among the political forces in our country. And it cannot be denied that we have achieved a lot as a nation when we had very high levels of unity on or around an issue. It is also true that we have achieved very little, if not nothing, when disunited.

It is true that the MMD and its government is a force to reckon with in the politics of our country. But it is just one force. It is equally true that the Patriotic Front and Michael Sata are also very strong force in the politics of our country. But it is just one force. Other political and civic players are also forces that cannot be ignored. But they are just single forces.

What our country and our people need is a collective force of all these forces to be able to overcome the many problems, challenges and difficulties we today face as a nation.

Therefore, the importance of unity in our country cannot be overemphasised. We say this because unity is one of the universally recognised fundamental prerequisites for peace and development. Even when you look at our country's history during the struggle for independence and indeed our sacrifices in the liberation of other countries in Africa from colonial rule, successes were scored partly because of unity.

However, unity also thrives in favourable conditions. It does not fall like rain. We have to work and struggle for it. It has to be nurtured. There has to be a conducive environment for people to unite.

Rupiah Banda during the opening of Parliament last week called for unity in the country - a good thing in itself. But as Reverend Mwape Chilekwa has rightly observed, Rupiah's call for unity can only make sense if it recognises and is anchored on respect for diversity in opinions.

Reverend Chilekwa says the call for unity and reconciliation was positive but it does not mean that people should think alike. We agree with Reverend Chilekwa's comments and there is need for serious reflection and meditation on the matter because unity is not a principle but an expendiency.

Zambia is a multiparty political system and this means that whatever unity we seek has to recognise and respect diversity. This unity in diversity is a necessity because without it, it will not be possible to have a loyal opposition. By loyal opposition we don't mean loyalty to the specific policies of Rupiah and his friends in government but to the legitimacy of the state itself. There's need for the opposition and those in government to come together and address common problems that affect the nation.

But this, like all other forms of unity, is only possible if the causes of dissension among our political leaders, that is, between those in government and those in the opposition, are removed. For instance, you cannot on one hand call for unity while on the other, you issue threats of treason to the opposition for expressing their views on serious national matters. A few days ago, Sata expressed concern over the senior officers in our armed forces who had been put on contract.

Sata said the move would de-motivate the junior officers who looked forward to being promoted. The following day, Rupiah urged the opposition not to draw the military into politics. As if that was not enough, George Mpombo, Rupiah's Minister of Defence, described Sata's statement on the military as treasonable. Mpombo asked Sata not to spread his political tentacles to the military. Now, how does one call for unity when the people's constitutional right to free expression is being infringed?

It is important to note that for our country's multiparty democracy and unity to flourish, there is need for legally sanctioned pluralism, openness and free competition for hegemony between different political and social forces. Our people, no matter how united, cannot participate in our country's political and economic development in an environment devoid of legitimate channels for expression of thought and pursuit of political interests or otherwise.

Dissension among the people can only be removed if those involved are honest with themselves and with each other. Meaningful unity is only possible where there is a clear realisation that we all need each other and each one of us has a legitimate right to participate in the shaping of our own destiny.

Threatening and bullying those in the opposition or those with divergent views will not help Rupiah attain the unity he is calling for or seeking. There is need for Rupiah and his government to listen to divergent views because they do not have the sum total of knowledge. Our country needs more political players or participants. Zambia knows no single genius. There can only be a collective genius.

The current political and economic environment calls for concerted efforts for the country to find solutions to the many problems that threaten not only our future but also our present. There are serious job losses in the country, especially on the Copperbelt, which are now increasing the levels of unemployment and consequently poverty. And the threat of social and political instability these pose is well known.

These job losses will lead to an automatic reduction in government revenue as there will be a reduction in the number of people paying tax. This reduction in revenue will ultimately affect government spending on key sectors such as health and education. Plagued by a myriad of problems, the same government that is calling for unity is quick to threaten and dismiss people who speak about pressing issues in the country.

So how do you unite when you cannot even take time to listen to what others are saying? Surely, we cannot all have one opinion on various issues. It is an exercise in futility on the part of Rupiah to call for unity when he is not ready to listen and respect the views of others and their right to freely express themselves.

For there to be unity, there has to be a spirit of tolerance and mutual tolerance. There has to be respect and mutual respect. Trying to manipulate others will not do because unity can only be built on the basis of respect and love.

It will not be possible for Rupiah to call others to virtues which he himself is not ready to practice.

And Rupiah's words don't tie up with his actions. We actually don't believe that Rupiah is seeking unity in the nation. What we think Rupiah is seeking is submission, subordination of all others to him and his friends. But this is not tenable in today's Zambia. Rupiah will not be able to lord over all Zambians.

Therefore, before Rupiah starts talking about unity, threats from him should cease, intimidation from him should end. Dishonesty should be replaced by honesty and respect in his dealings with others. Deceit should also end on his part.

People can only unite with those who they think have respect for them, those with who they have common loyalty to something. Unity can only come if people start talking to each other respectfully without thinking they are the absolute owners of truth and wisdom.

There's truly a lot that Rupiah needs to do before he can start to seriously talk about unity and for people to listen to him and take his words seriously.



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