Friday, June 03, 2011

Zambia needs issue-based campaigns

Zambia needs issue-based campaigns
By The Post
Fri 03 June 2011, 04:10 CAT

It’s important for all our politicians to always bear in mind that what the people are looking for in the coming elections is not leader who can insult, scandalise, malign and abuse others the most.

What our people are looking for in these elections are leaders who can win material benefits; leaders who can help them live better and in peace; leaders who can help them see their lives go forward and guarantee the future of their children. And to realise all these things, our people know that they have to vote wisely and only for people who are known for their honesty, ability, dedication and concern for the welfare of all.

What our people are seeking is genuine democracy in which the leaders are servants of the electorate and not their masters. If this is so, it is difficult to see how malice, slander, calumny, lies about one’s political opponent can help one win an election. Politics should be honest and responsible.

It should be an effective way of serving others and working for the integral development of one’s country. And it is sad when elections are marred with unfairness, lies, slander and malice.

Election campaigns should not be a competition for slander but a competition to serve. Maligning political opponents is not service. Respect for the dignity of one’s political opponents requires that campaigns are conducted with honesty and dignity and not with lies and malice. Elections should never be a matter of character assassination, fraud or coercion since that would break the sacred character of democracy.

Election campaigns should be anchored on issues to enable our people to make correct political choices. We say this because election time is time to vote for honest, courageous, hardworking and selfless leaders. It is also an opportune time to review our past in order to prepare for better political choices for the future.

The electorate cannot do this well if all that they are fed by the politicians are lies, slander, malice and calumny about each other. Issue-based campaigns are therefore absolutely necessary in a democratic process. Good elections require intelligent and responsible participation of all.

And to perform this task well, voters need to get themselves informed of the manifestos from the various political parties. These manifestos are supposed to have the programme of action that the parties propose to follow in order to serve the good of all people. A sound manifesto should articulate achievable programmes that will enhance the development of our country and our own well-being.

Hence, we should be able to decide to vote for the party that has a programme we see as the best for us as a nation. We don’t think our people would vote for a party whose only discernible manifesto are insults, lies, slander and malice against political opponents.
As British High Commissioner to Zambia Carolyn Davidson has correctly observed, an issue-based campaign is what Zambia and Zambians need.

What our people want to see are candidates who are committed to the manifestos of their political parties as well as to their personal vision for their constituencies. Candidates should therefore be evaluated on their capacity to implement both their party’s manifesto and their personal vision. We say this because the very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.

You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. It is said that those who stand for nothing fall for anything. Therefore, leaders must stand for something. And insulting, maligning, scandalising and slandering political opponents is not standing for something. It’s only people who stand for nothing that avoid issue-based campaigns and opt for slander and malice.

As Henry Kissinger once observed, leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision. And this vision should be reflected in their manifesto and in what they say. The best vision is insight. A leader is said to be one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

Insults and slander of political opponents is not a sign of one knowing the way, going the way and showing the way. It is actually a sign that one does not know the way society wants to go. You can’t lead anyone farther than you have gone yourself.

If the furthest you have gone in articulating a vision is insults, slander, lies, calumny, there is no way you can lead others in a better direction. Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there. And surely, lies, slander and malice are not the way to get there.

In an election that is based on issues, those who offer themselves for re-election will be evaluated against the record of what they have or have not achieved. Did they fulfil their promises? Did they offer quality service to the people and not only to those who voted them into power? Were they available to listen to the concerns of all the people?

And were they selfless in responding to the needs of all, especially the poor? What is the quality of their judgment on many problems and challenges facing the country?

In an issue-based campaign, those who have not yet held office will be carefully evaluated in terms of their competence and their reputation for honesty and selfless dedication to the common good.

In an issue-based campaign, candidates will try to focus much on issues of competence, courage to speak out the truth, concern for social justice, desire to work for the common good instead of self-enrichment, disposition to use power for service, especially service of the poor and underprivileged, openness to dialogue, good moral standing, transparency and accountability to the electorate. And Christians will look for candidates who follow the example of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and who emptied himself for the good of everyone.

Clearly, election campaigns must be carried out in a peaceful and honest way, devoid of any slander of one’s political opponents. All candidates and their supporters must be guided by the truth, integrity and justice which are anchored on God’s Commandments.

It is necessary, once again, to remind all our politicians that the politics they are involved in should be for the good of all our people and our country, and not for the political survival of any individual or political party. They should never forget the noble goals of political activity, that is, the promotion of the common good and the service of all the people.

This being the case, their election campaigns should concentrate on how they intend to improve the life of the nation rather than on insulting, slandering, scandalising, maligning and dehumanising their political opponents. Good leadership will be achieved, not by the formality of structures, but by the integrity of our individual politicians and by their willingness to work together and be inspired by a larger vision.

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