Saturday, January 30, 2010

‘Paralysed and facing death’

‘Paralysed and facing death’
By Editor
Sat 30 Jan. 2010, 04:01 CAT

THE resignation of Professor Clive Chirwa from the ruling MMD may not be a big political loss. But the issues Prof Chirwa has raised are big, are very important and the MMD will ignore them at its own peril. The MMD has serious challenges and there is need for its membership and leadership to recognise the scale of their problems. Prof Chirwa is not exaggerating matters when he says the MMD is literary paralysed and facing death.

The MMD has become increasingly associated with the most disagreeable messages and thoughts. As Prof Chirwa observes, “the party that was once composed of comrades and best friends unified in the struggle for eradicating poverty, illiteracy and disease, while being the guardian for peace, has turned into a promoter of injustice, corruption, visionless and has become too narcissistic for a moderate to swallow”. This is a very serious indictment for the MMD.

But, justifiably or unjustifiably, this is what many people, not only Prof Chirwa, feel about the MMD and its leadership. And since it is what people feel it must be appreciated as a deeply-felt distaste, rather than a momentary irritation. They cannot dismiss it as a mere false perception. As Prof Chirwa has observed, the MMD is today linked to corruption, the promotion of injustice, crookedness, intolerance, harshness, brutality, violence and visionless. The MMD is today thought to be uncaring about poverty, unemployment, poor housing, health and education. It is also considered to be indifferent to the moral argument over their defence of Chiluba’s corruption, over his questionable acquittal and their refusal to appeal. They are seen and thought to favour corruption, greed and vanity with a ‘devil take the hindmost’ attitude.

Prof Chirwa says the MMD was once composed of comrades and best friends. This cannot be said to be the case today. They have abandoned almost completely the qualities of loyalty and the bonds of party without which party effectiveness ceases to exist. And this has been replaced by excessive patronage and concentration on discords. They are falling over each other to please whoever is in State House and in charge of appointments, the dispenser of government favours. And in the process they are assisting him to carve the party for himself and his friends. No one can today deny that the MMD of today is almost that of Rupiah Banda. And almost everyone who is functioning in the leadership of the party has turned himself or herself into a puppet, an agent, a servant of Rupiah. Those who have refused to do so are today on the fringes of the party, creating discord as they try to resist. But we know from experience that a party divided into hostile groups loses its militancy. Protracted inner-party strife inevitably results in party members’ concentration on discords. The party becomes distracted from political struggle and day-to-day work among the masses and loses its influence.

For the MMD to see a reversal of political fortunes, they must rediscover the old instincts that led them to support correct ideas and practices and oppose evil and wrongdoing. The impact of disunity upon the MMD is clear to see. The party must in the very near future learn again to display the camaraderie and common purpose that are fundamental to a party’s prospects. If they don’t do so, they stand no chance of being re-elected.

The MMD leadership today is thought to be arrogant and out of touch. And much of it can be attributed to personal mannerisms that grated on the public after years in office. Some of it is insensitivity – taking decisions that favour foreign investors when people’s jobs and self-esteem are at stake. Prof Chirwa says he disagrees “with the government and MMD’s policy on economy that is so backward-looking for the 21st Century, it makes our people far much worse off with increased poverty. Appeasing investors, who are contributing very little to our country, while without shame kneeling for aid from donors is tightening the shackles we rightly thought, were removed at independence”.

Prof Chirwa has got a point on this score because it doesn’t make sense not to want to meaningfully tax the mining sector that is dominated by transnational corporations but to be comfortable to go to the donors and ask for the same money they have collected from taxing these mining companies. Where do we think the donors we ask for money get that money from? It is from taxes; it is from taxing these same foreign investors we don’t want to tax; it is also from borrowings. It is very clear that the MMD fundraises from these foreign investors and in turn they give them unjustifiable investment conditions, all sorts of concessions that they don’t give to their own people, especially those who are not part of their corrupt league.

Prof Chirwa also says that he disagrees with MMD and its government’s approach to fighting corruption and that “the perception of many Zambians is that the party is corrupt to the core. The party does not protect human rights and has total disregard of the law”. It cannot be denied that the MMD is corrupt to the core. Just look at the corruption profile of each of its key leaders! Today State House is the citadel of all sorts of crooked and corrupt deals. The MMD can’t survive without corruption; it can’t continue in existence without crookedness. This is why all corrupt elements today have found a nest in the MMD. This is a party that is not even ashamed to declare a corrupt element like Frederick Chiluba innocent when they have a judgment in their hands that clearly shows how he was stealing public funds. State House has become the bastion for defending Chiluba’s corruption.

And when it comes to construction projects, look at who is getting the contracts, their connections with those in power and the quality of work they do and the price the Zambian taxpayer has to pay. Contracts are going to those who will give them something, who will aid their campaigns, who will give them a cut or a stake. Can a country really develop with such a leadership? A job that is supposed to cost the government K1 billion will be done for K10 billion or K20 billion and poorly so. Why? It’s simply because of corruption.

And when it comes to tolerance, to entertaining differences in opinion – the foundation of democracy – the MMD behaves like a party of savages. Unemployed youths of low literacy are mobilised to harass, intimidate and beat up those who oppose them, those who challenge them. And when this is done, Rupiah justifies it, saying they are merely responding to those who are insulting him. The MMD rewards brutish behaviour, thereby encouraging or promoting it. This is not a recipe for governing well. This is not the way to promote peace and stability in the nation. This is a recipe for anarchy and veritable chaos in the nation.

And when it comes to formulating or enacting laws, they are so shortsighted and narrow-minded. Their laws are targeted primarily at expediencies of the moment; at protecting or securing their hold on power; at sorting out their political opponents. This reminds us of what Nelson Mandela once said: “Of course you cannot know a man completely, his character, his principles, sense of judgment, not till he’s shown his colours, ruling the people, making laws. Experience, there’s the test.”

And Prof Chirwa concludes by observing that “those who remain in the MMD party face a hard uphill struggle to make the party credible in the eyes of its own supporters, Zambians and relevant to the needs of the 21st Century”. Truly, changing the image of the MMD will not be an easy undertaking because those in charge don’t seem to care much about this issue. The top leadership of the MMD today is dominated by elements of highly questionable credentials on issues of corruption and integrity.

As if this was not enough, they have even gone to recruit, co-opt a discredited person like Dora Siliya to be their spokesperson. One wonders if Rupiah and his friends have any idea of what is going on in the country, of what the Zambian people today think of them. Probably they are banking on the immense resources under their control to win the support and votes of the poor, of the people they have weakened with poverty and unemployment. But if they are betting on using money, then they will need a lot of it because small amounts won’t do.

However, the best thing is for them to mull over things and consider the feelings of the people, the things others are saying, and make urgent corrections where necessary. Stubbornness and denials won’t take them anywhere. The wheel of fortune turns and that which once appeared fresh, with the passing of time goes to seed.



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