Thursday, May 19, 2011

MMD’s use of govt resources, facilities

MMD’s use of govt resources, facilities
By The Post
Thu 19 May 2011, 04:00 CAT

The MMD is trying very hard to reverse its declining political fortunes. A lot of work is being done by ministers and other top party leaders to halt the party’s declining popularity and improve their chances in this year’s elections. This is a good thing.

It is not good to deceive oneself that all is well even when things are clearly not what they should be. It is always good to accept reality, the situation on the ground as it stands and then work to make it what one wants. But to change things, one has to understand the reality and what has caused it.

Of course, one’s political opponents are always alert to know what those weaknesses are that have caused one’s problems. They will try to exploit them politically and otherwise. When those weaknesses are recognised and subjected to honest analysis, political opponents may still take advantage of them but in a different way, in a less crippling way.

When weaknesses are recognised and subjected to analysis and criticism, they may be used by political opponents, but in a very different way. This is so because when weaknesses are acknowledged, they stand a better chance of being corrected.

And when weaknesses are corrected, a party gains strength; where it was unpopular, it starts to become more popular. This is why we say the approach the MMD is taking to try and find out its weaknesses all over the country and correct them is good.

And we hope they will carry out this exercise with utmost honesty, at least to themselves. But there is a bad side to what they are trying to do and that is their use of public resources in this whole exercise.

Ministers who are part of the party’s leadership have been dispatched all over the country for an exercise that will last many days. They have left government work for which they are paid by the taxpayer to pursue personal party interests. Government automobiles, fuel and drivers employed by the government are being used in this exercise.

The government is being made to pay allowances to all these people and also pay for accommodation and food. And this is for an exercise that is purely an election matter for the MMD. This is not a government exercise; it is an MMD campaign issue. Why should the government be made to pay for this? Why should the taxpayer be overburdened with MMD campaign expenditure?

We know that the MMD will try to deny that this is a party issue and claim that the ministers are doing government work, inspecting government development projects. This will not be true. This will be a lie. We say this because of the nature of the work that these ministers are carrying.

They are there campaigning. None of them can deny that they are campaigning for the MMD and its candidates using government resources. And MMD deputy national secretary Chembe Nyangu let the cat out of the bag when he disclosed that the ministers who were part of the party’s supreme body had been sent across the country to re-organise the party grassroots.

According to Nyangu, “originally, it was supposed to be 15 days. They were supposed to have started on the 1st of May, 2011 but most of them travelled on the 3rd, 4th just like that. Ministers are NEC (National Executive Committee) members. There are other people who are NEC members like Maggie Musonda. She is not a minister but she is out there.

Mrs Katele Kalumba, she is in Central Province”. Nyangu said the organs would inform the party on the popularity of people in constituencies:

“This time we are not going to get it from the constituencies or the district, we want to get it from the grassroots. As a party, we are looking at the grassroots. We don’t want to impose.”

According to Nyangu, this is what this whole exercise is about. Clearly, this is not a government exercise or programme. It is an MMD one.

We do appreciate the fact that the party in power may enjoy the advantages of incumbency, but their use of government facilities and resources should be within the law. They should not in any way use government resources in a manner that is not legally permissible. And moreover, their use of government resources and facilities should not in any way disadvantage their opponents.

The conduct of the election contest must be fair. However, where government resources are abused by those in power, the contest cannot be said to be fair.

There is need to create a thick line marking the distinction between the government and the ruling MMD. Lack of distinction between the ruling party and the government creates a climate of abuse which will lead to difficulties in us having free and fair elections.

For these reasons, the leaders of the MMD should not use government resources in a manner that puts others in an unfair disadvantage. There ought to be transparency in the use of public resources and facilities.

And we make a special appeal to the MMD and its government to realise that they have a serious responsibility. As facilitators of the elections, they should ensure that they carry out their work in a manner that does not disadvantage their opponents. They should also ensure that the concerns of all key players are adequately addressed.

It is not in dispute that today’s government comprises elements who are MMD. But there is a distinction between MMD and government. There is also a distinction between the government work and MMD campaign efforts. It is very easy for one in power to be tempted to abuse public resources to keep oneself in office. The MMD is under pressure and the temptation for them to abuse public resources to win this year’s elections is very high.

But as we have stated before, the exercise of power must be the constant practice of self-limitation and modesty. They should not just think of themselves; they should also think about others, about their competitors. When people think only of themselves and their own group, then there is division and frustration.

There is need to focus on the common good. We say this because authentic democracy promotes the common good of all. And the common good of all requires that the MMD stops using or rather abusing public resources and facilities for its election campaigns.

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