Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Access to State House
By Editor
Wed 13 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

GARRY Nkombo, the opposition UPND member of parliament for Mazabuka, says State House needs to be accommodative to everyone. Garry says, "State House is supposed to bind us together; it must be magnetic rather than repulsive. Accessibility to State House should not just be there if a carrot is dangled".

Is Garry really serious about State House being accessible to every Zambian? We ask this question because the key leadership of his party, the UPND, does not tolerate such type of contacts with State House for its members. If Garry starts going to State House to have a chat with the President over a cup of munkoyo, tea or coffee or even some chibwantu if he takes some with him, there will be problems for him. He will be viewed by the key leadership of his party as being a sell-out, an agent.

But knowing what we know of Garry, we think he means what he is saying and is sincere about it. Garry is one of the most sensible, most reasonable, most accommodative of the UPND leaders. Garry has little difficulty straying out of the UPND laager to genuinely mix with non-members of the laager. So for him, he may see nothing wrong with having access to State House. But let him try to go to State House and see what will happen to him when he comes back to the laager.

Equally, knowing President Michael Sata, as we know him, we don't think he will refuse to welcome to State House Garry or any other Zambian who wants to see him if time permits. It is important to realise that a president of a country doesn't have much time, has very limited time because of the endless list of formal things to attend to. But we have no doubt that even with that, Michael will find time to allow Garry or any of his colleagues to have access to State House.

And moreover, for a member of parliament like him, he is part of government and the President has a duty to see him when he makes such an appointment. But we don't think that a person like Hakainde Hichilema can go to State House to see the President with the civility and humility of Garry. Just listening to the language the two speak, it is not difficult to discern the difference between them. Garry is decent to others in his language even when he is on the attack. Hakainde's language lacks civility. He is always trying to humiliate, demean or belittle others. Which independent person, other than those seeking favours from him, can entertain him? Hakainde doesn't know how to deal with political opponents, people who hold different views from his. To him, disagreement and holding a different outlook, among other things, amounts to enmity. How can such a person go to State House and visit the President? State House is not a kraal where any type of language or behaviour is permissible.

We don't think access to State House is restricted by the current principal occupant of that place. The inhibition lies in the hearts of those who don't want to go there, who can't stand the fact that today's principal occupant of State House is Michael. If someone else they accept, they like or who is probably a member of the laager occupies State House, they will have no problem going there.

If on Monday, you are denouncing someone, on Tuesday, you are insulting that same person and on Wednesday, you want to go where they reside, they will have difficulties accepting to host you. If all the time you are accusing someone of trying to kill you and then all of a sudden you start seeking an appointment to visit them, they will have difficulties opening the door for you.

The truth is the UPND leadership has engaged in the type of opposition politics that are extremely antagonistic. Hakainde himself has openly rejected the concept of a loyal opposition, misinterpreting it to mean accepting to be swallowed or to be controlled by those in the ruling party.
The truth is the majority of UPND leaders and members are afraid of being seen near State House because they will be in trouble; they will be questioned about what they were doing there. Any UPND member seen at State House risks being isolated and becoming a subject of suspicion.

If Garry really wants to see more of his colleagues in the UPND visiting State House, the starting point is to change the attitude of his party towards their members who are seen to be friendly towards Michael.

Truly, as Garry correctly observes, "State House is supposed to bind us together; it must be magnetic rather than repulsive" because State House belongs to all citizens and the President is the President of all Zambians regardless of their political affiliations. But do the key leaders of the UPND truly accept Michael as their President? We don't think they do. If they did, they would be treating him very differently from the way they do. They don't seem to have accepted him as their President despite him being very democratically elected. In a democracy, you have to accept and respect the winners. In a multi-party democracy, those in the opposition have to co-operate with the ruling party to solve problems of society. That's what loyal opposition means and demands.

We do appreciate that in the last elections, the UPND joined hands with the then ruling MMD to defeat the Patriotic Front and Michael. They failed individually and collectively to achieve that goal. The UPND was not treating Rupiah Banda the way they are treating Michael Sata, despite the fact that he led a clearly corrupt regime. Despite Hakainde accusing Rupiah of corruption, he had no difficulties embracing him and working with him. Even when Rupiah lost power, Hakainde and his party tried very hard to make sure that his presidential immunity was not removed so that he could be prosecuted for corruption. Instead, Hakainde and his party still extend solidarity to a man who clearly stole from the Zambian people. Where does that type of behaviour leave the UPND and its leaders? Are these the type of politicians one should befriend and support? Can such politicians be trusted? How does one deal with politicians who defend corruption and the corrupt the way Hakainde and his colleagues are doing?

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