Monday, July 08, 2013

Everything has got a time!
By Editor
Fri 28 June 2013, 14:00 CAT

There is nothing wrong with George Mpombo forming his own political party and seeking to be president of the Republic of Zambia in 2016.

This is what a multiparty political dispensation entails.
Anyone - good or bad, wise or foolish - has the right to form a political party and contest for the highest political offices of our country.

In a dictatorship, this is not possible. The good and the bad, the wise and the foolish don't have this opportunity to set themselves a political agenda and to be heard the way our people are being heard. The other month Frank Bwalya formed his own party and announced his intention to seek election to the office of president of the Republic. Today it's Mpombo. Tomorrow it will be another citizen. We have had this scenario since the return to multiparty politics in December 1990. All sorts of people have formed political parties. Some have gone quiet and we don't hear about them anymore. Others have died together with their political parties.
This may seem a messy affair. That's how multiparty politics is, especially in a country that still has a low political culture. It is often an ugly affair with lots of shouting and wrangling, showing up the players at their worst.
A one party dictatorship may look better: a smooth fa├žade is allowed to hide all the pervasion and corruption. Which is precisely why multiparty democracy is so immeasurably preferable: even though there are plenty of crooks even in a multiparty democracy, at least we are told openly who they are, and can bring them to book. Which is the reason why multiparty democracy and a free media are twin sisters: you cannot have one without the other. You need a free media as a watchdog. You need such a watchdog to sniff out what has been buried and stick its nose under the carpet where the dirt has been swept. The men and women who do this professionally are at risk from an occupational hazard commonly known as cynicism. After a while, they assume that everyone is a crook; that no one tells the truth, that there is no such thing as truth and that nobody can be trusted. Not only do they suspect everyone to be totally immoral, they even doubt the existence of something like morality, that is, firm yardsticks by which to measure good and bad, all together.
They constantly move the goalposts: today they ridicule someone for being "strait-laced, puritanical" because he insists on certain moral standards only to expose him tomorrow as a lecher because he has been caught in a compromising situation. They apply whatever moral standard allows them to ridicule and mock someone "caught in the act" without really believing in any morality at all.
Any media affected by this cancer cannot in the long run contribute to good government. No nation can build a lasting system of good government if its basic philosophy is cynicism.
On the surface, politics in a multiparty political dispensation is about peacefully managing tensions, disappointments, strife, arguments and fights. It is war with other, non-military means. What, however, is often overlooked is that no multiparty democracy can function if the combatants do not have more in common than what is dividing them.
Every multiparty democracy, however chaotic it may appear, needs a common basis, needs a set of common convictions and procedures accepted by all. Otherwise chaos reigns supreme, and a dictator comes and takes over, puts an end to the wrangling of the politicians.
Some common convictions which are beyond dispute are expressed in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. On this, all parties in a multiparty democracy, however much they may fight each other otherwise, must agree.
But here it seems once a people in politics disagree on one thing, they disagree on everything. If today Mpombo is not happy with the position of deputy ambassador Michael Sata has appointed him to, he will not agree with him on everything else. He will form his own political party and challenge him on everything under the universe forgetting even certain things that made them friends in the first place, that enabled them to work together and accomplish certain things. It seems in our politics we have to agree on everything; a disagreement on one thing leads to a disagreement on everything else and one has to form his own political party. Even simple personal attention can lead to a big fallout on everything. Mpombo and Bwalya's reasons for turning their backs on Michael and forming their own political parties appear to be similar. Both of them claim they did not get the type of attention they felt they deserved from Michael and their colleagues in government.
And the difference on simple matters of personal attention has led them to part company with Michael and form their own political parties. But can political parties formed on this basis endure for long? For them to endure for long, they have to find many people with similar grievances against Michael and those serving with him in the Patriotic Front government. But what happens to their political agenda when these leave power?
Clearly, the right to form one's own political party and to be heard does not necessarily mean the right to be taken seriously. And because of this, every one of us - good or bad, wise or foolish - can form a political party and call himself president so and so. We hope one day we will get tired of this type of politics and grow out of it. But it seems it will take time to reach that stage in our political development as a nation. For now we will continue to have a president Bwalya, a president Mpombo, a president Sakala, a president this and that and so on and so forth. But time will come for growth and maturity, for patience and tolerance. Everything has got a time!


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