By The Post
Mon 16 Apr. 2012, 13:30 CAT
THE issues about the organisation of our political parties being raised by Joseph Akafumba deserve special attention and consideration. It is an arduous task to ensure a better life for the 13 million people of Zambia and to build our economically backward country into a prosperous one with a high level of culture.
And it is precisely in order to shoulder this task more competently that our political parties should pay special attention to their work and organisation and make the necessary improvements both now and in the future, and constantly rid themselves of whatever is wrong.
Policy is the starting point of all the practical actions of a political party and manifests itself in the process and the end result of that party's actions. A political party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying out a correct policy, it is carrying out a wrong one; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly.
What we call experience is the process and the end result of carrying out a policy. Only through the practice of the people, that is, through experience, can we verify whether a policy is correct or wrong and determine to what extent it is correct or wrong.
But people's practice, especially the practice of a political party that wants to carry out fundamental changes in the way the country is governed and the way things are done, cannot be bound up with one policy or another.
Therefore before any action is taken, they must explain the policy, which they have formulated in the light of the given circumstances, to party members and to the masses. Otherwise, the party members and the masses will depart from the guidance of their policy, act blindly and carry out a wrong policy.
Policy and tactics are the life of the party; leading party leaders and members at all levels must give them full attention and must never on any account be negligent.
No political party can possibly make fundamental changes in the way a country is governed unless it possesses a good understanding of what needs to be done and has a profound grasp of the practical realities. Therefore, a well disciplined party, armed with the spirit of criticism and self-criticism and linked with the masses of the people is needed.
If there are to be fundamental changes in the way our country is governed and organised, there must be some political parties that are well-prepared to undertake such a task. Without such political parties, it will be impossible to lead the broad masses of our people in changing the way their country is governed and organised for them to carry out the needed development to improve their living conditions.
We today have all sorts of political parties in this country. The way they conduct their affairs may sometimes look silly. But their function is dead serious: to provide a peaceful and fair method by which the citizens of this country can select their leaders and have a meaningful role in determining their own destiny.
Joseph talks passionately about not making the ruling PF a dependent of the government, a parasite on government resources. This is very good. But developing the correct strategy for the PF in regard to the government depends centrally on how they now assess the actual and potential impact of the party's strategic perspectives and the mass-based mobilisation and organisation on the government.
If we were to review the last few months of the PF in government, there would be need to avoid two errors: an exaggerated optimism which leads to complacency; an equally exaggerated pessimism, a feeling that the party is totally detached from the government and has little control over what the government does with its many bureaucrats and non-party appointees.
This kind of pessimism can lead to a variety of strategic shortcuts that are bound to fail. They need to constantly examine themselves critically.
The PF needs to quickly realise that it is not immune to what is, perhaps, the principal cause of the downfall, weakening and disintegration of the MMD - careerism, patronage and business ambitions. For better or for worse, the PF is obviously not as reckless and corrupt as the MMD.
But they need to be extremely vigilant about the grave danger of abuse of the party for careerist and patronage purposes. The party should instead focus on advancing perspectives on the kind of leadership collective that it believes is required to take it forward in line with the strategic programmatic perspectives that it believes are essential.
To achieve these objectives, the PF needs to start building a party of activists and not merely members and supporters. The party needs to start focusing its campaigns on issues that affect women and that deal with poverty and unemployment.
Since winning the last elections, the PF is experiencing a growing membership with more and more people defecting to it. However, this growing membership and support base is not being reflected in the activities of the PF. Most members and some of the leadership are not involved in the daily life of the party.
The PF, and all our political parties, need to start focusing on the targeted recruitment of new members and ensure that they are properly inducted and educated on party policies. There should be continuous political education programmes for members. There is need to assess the members of PF and central committee members on the basis of their deployments and their work within the party.
We have witnessed the absence of political education and cadre development programmes in all our political parties, including in UNIP, which used to have them. Our political parties should improve and make visible the mass work of their cadres in mass formations and communities. In almost all our political parties, political agitation and propaganda seems to be very weak and needs some strengthening.
All these things, all these deficiencies call for the need to invest in cadre development programmes and ensure that their missions and objectives as political parties are deep-rooted among our people. The political education we are talking about should be based on the question of real life activism and linked to the campaigns of the party.
We need political parties that respond to the needs, aspirations and interests of the people they seek to represent. Our political parties should become organisations of power, influence and activism.
Power among the working people and their organisations, civic and all other areas of human endeavour is what we mean in terms of power. Influence means ensuring that the party's presence is felt and decisions and interests of the people they seek to represent are met or served.
Clearly, all our political parties need to continually make internal assessment of their strengths and weaknesses in the light of what type of political parties they want to be.
There is need for our political parties to decide on what kind of cadres they need or do not need. In stating this, we note the decline in political morality, ethics and values among political cadres and leaders of our political parties.
This has caused a considerable strain on the moral standing of our political parties, their leaders, cadres and members. We need to have cadres and leaders who conduct themselves in a manner that engenders confidence, respect and trust.
We need politicians who are selfless and are not taking or influencing decisions based on their own interests and who are willing and able to subordinate their interests to those of the broad masses of our people. We need party leaders and cadres who understand the broader national and international situation.
We also need political leaders and cadres who view accountability as an important duty of their work as politicians; political leaders and cadres who are rooted and grounded in society, and understand what their role is in transforming society.
To do all these things, our political parties need financial resources. And where is the money going to come from? This is not an easy question to answer. For the MMD, they did not hesitate to become parasitic on government resources.
This was an easy but extremely dangerous and corrupt way of meeting their financial requirements. This deepened corruption not only in the party but also in government and in the whole nation.
And it totally undermined the party's ability to seek more independent and long-lasting solutions to their financial challenges. The MMD, a political party that only a few months ago was awash with money and all sorts of things, is today penniless, broke, bankrupt.
It's easy for the PF to take a similar route out of a desire and need to meet the expediencies of the moment. And moreover, the corruption of the MMD era permeated all our institutions and all levels of government. The PF is today dealing with these same institutions and the same people.
And this makes the possibility of slipping into the practices of the MMD very easy. It requires awareness and vigilance to avoid this. This therefore makes Joseph's observations very relevant and deserving all the attention and consideration.