Friday, October 18, 2013

Lunacy, lack of civility in PF
By Editor
Fri 27 Sep. 2013, 14:00 CAT

What is going on in the Patriotic Front and its government is pure lunacy. And lunacy is always distressing, but sometimes it is dangerous; and when you get it manifested in a political party and government's top or key leaders, it is about time it should be ruthlessly put away.

The confusion and anarchy that is going on in the Patriotic Front and its government is starting to have effect on the operations of government. Most of the operations are paralysed, ministers are not working as they should be working. But they are being paid salaries, they are driving government automobiles and burning government fuel; they are using government phones and talk time to fan anarchy, to quarrel among themselves.

And as if this was not enough, they are taking to the streets, to the central business district and are paralysing business. Traders have to close their shops in fear of looting. Vendors have to move their merchandise away. Of course, all this is at a cost. Production of economic goods and services is halted or disrupted. For what benefit?

If these squabbles, if this infighting in the Patriotic Front continues for a few more days or weeks in this way, the economic loss to the nation will be gigantic. And those responsible for this loss should be made to account to the Zambian people. Money, people's money cannot be lost in such a reckless way.

We are not saying Patriotic Front members should not quarrel, should not fight with each other or among themselves. What we are saying is that their internal party fights should not have such a cost on the nation, on the country. They should keep their fights among themselves in such a way that there is no spillover to the lives of others who have nothing to do with their problems.

It would be naïve and dishonest for anyone to expect a party of the size, diversity and complexity of the Patriotic Front to have no problems, no conflicts between or among its members. But if they want to remain in government and continue to be the country's ruling party, they have to behave differently and address their problems and challenges differently.

And in our view, there is no better way to solve problems or differences in a political party than the democratic way. Democracy is there for this sole purpose - resolving differences among people. This is so because as human beings, we possess a variety of sometimes contradictory desires. We want safety, yet we relish adventure; we aspire to individual freedom yet we demand social equality.

Democracy in any organisation or institution is no different. And it is important to recognise that many of the tensions, conflicts or even paradoxes that we see in the Patriotic Front today are present in many organisations and institutions. A central paradox exists between conflict and consensus. Democracy is in many ways nothing more than a set of rules for managing conflict or disagreements among people, organisations and institutions. At the same time, these disagreements or conflicts must be managed within certain limits and result in compromises, consensus or some other agreements that all sides accept as legitimate. An over-emphasis on one side of the equation can threaten the entire undertaking. If individuals or groups of individuals perceive democracy as nothing more than a forum in which they can press for their demands - as we have been hearing from the Patriotic Front in the last few days where it is being argued that those cadres being paid to go on the street and disrupt public business demanding the removal of the secretary general of their party are acting within their democratic right - their political party can shatter from within.

Democracy in any organisation or institution is not a machine that runs by itself once the proper principles and procedures are inserted. A democratic political party, like every other democratic institution or organisation, needs the commitment of its members and leaders who accept the inevitability of conflict as well as the necessity for tolerance, moderation and restraint.

It is for these reasons that the culture of democracy is so important to develop in our political parties and indeed in the management or administration of our national affairs. Individuals and groups must be willing, at a minimum, to tolerate each other's differences, recognising that the other side has valid rights and a legitimate point of view. And various sides to a dispute, disagreement or conflict can then meet in a spirit of compromise and seek a specific solution that builds on the general principle of majority rule and minority rights. This can be reached through debate and compromise.

In any organisation or institution, the essence of democratic action is coalition building. This is so because it teaches groups within an institution or organisation to compromise and work within the rules and procedures of the organisation or institution. In this way, those with differences, disagreements or conflicts learn how to argue peaceably, how to pursue their goals in a democratic manner, with civility and ultimately how to live in a world of diversity.

Clearly, democracy is not a set of revealed, unchanging truths, but the mechanism by which, through the clash and compromise of ideas, individuals and groups, the people can, however imperfectly, reach for truth. Democracy is pragmatic. Ideas and solutions to problems, differences or conflicts are not tested against a rigid ideology but tried in the real world where they can be argued over and changed, accepted or discarded.

And as we are starting to witness, democracy cannot protect against mistakes, end tribal strife or guarantee economic prosperity. It does, however, allow for debate and examination that can identify mistakes, permit groups to meet and resolve differences.

This is why we are insisting that the Patriotic Front leaders and members mull over things and look at their differences soberly and in a democratic way. There is no alternative to resolving their differences in a democratic way if they have to continue holding together. The alternative to this is a split, separation, expulsions or chasing of each other. Will this strengthen them or weaken them? Will this increase their capacity to deliver on the promises and pledges they made to the Zambian people in the run-up to the 2011 elections?

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