Edgar Lungu says Zambians must forget about the One Zambia, One Nation motto because the country is divided. And he says the country was no longer one and that the One Zambia, One Nation motto was only on the lips of others.
But why is the country divided? Who has divided it? What is Edgar doing as a leader to unite it?
We would say that politics has become the main cause of division among our people. The split is presently exemplified by our political affiliations. Dirty politics is the cause of division among our people. This vote-buying type of politics is the culprit. It maintains the status quo for our continued impoverishment.
The Zambian people, as such, are not really divided. Diversity, political choices and other practices are the freedoms they should enjoy under a vibrant democracy. It is our leaders who are divided and can’t put their acts together for selfish reasons in dirty politics at the expense of the people they were elected or appointed to serve.
Regional and ethnic diversities among our people are a given, which self-serving political leaders exploit to serve their agenda. At the beginning of his 2008 election campaign, Rupiah Banda told the people of Eastern Province to chase away politicians from other parts of the country and tell them to go and campaign where they came from. And Rupiah is Edgar’s local political godfather! In the run-up to last year’s elections, Edgar and the Patriotic Front made it impossible for the opposition, especially the UPND, to campaign in Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern, Muchinga, Eastern and most parts of Central provinces. The UPND was totally confined to Southern, Western and North Western provinces. And to this very day, Edgar has continued that very divisive approach to politics.
He is actually playing one humble part of this country against the other. Edgar doesn’t probably even know that in the very divisive 1967 UNIP elections, Simon Kapwepwe defeated Rueben Kamanga for party vice-president with the support of Southern Province delegates. In saying this, we are not in any way supporting the ethnic divisions that characterised that UNIP congress which made Dr Kenneth Kaunda resign from the party and the country’s leadership. You see what good leaders do in the face of national divisions! They don’t in public criticise it and then discreetly encourage it.
The absence of a true leader who will inspire us to national unity is the cause of the divisions Edgar is talking about.
It’s true, Zambians have close family and regional ties. If someone casts a negative light on one’s family or region, it will surely result in anger and resentment. If injustices are committed to their relatives, it will anger them and cause some dissension. Add to this the greed of power-hungry politicians whose sole consideration is winning. Instead of helping the people by balancing the negative with the positive, they are spending time wheeling and dealing and backstabbing others.
It’s not possible to have meaningful unity in a country whose government has adopted corruption as the main way of doing politics and business. They are nurturing corruption in all areas of human endeavour instead of stopping it.
With this type of leadership, we will soon get to a point where the Zambian people, by and large, will no longer subscribe to the saying “in unity, there is strength”. Beyond their fronts of “unity” and “service above self”, they will soon be singing to themselves the old tune, “To each his own” to build their personal fortunes up to enormous proportions through corruption. You can’t have meaningful national unity in a country where the gap between a few filthy rich and the many who go to sleep hungry is widening by the day.
Apart from being a corrupt one, this Patriotic Front government is short-sighted and incompetent, completely unable to measure up to the demands and challenges of a multiparty, multi-ethnic and plural society. And truly, if this poor, corrupt and divisive leadership continues unchecked, there will not only be no national cohesion, there will be no nation.
Clearly, the biggest single cause of national disunity today is bad politics by bad politicians. Ethnic diversity is a given in Zambia. Our demography guarantees diversity without our having to look far or search hard to find a name, face or tongue that is distinct from our own. But a plural society has more competing interests to manage than does a homogeneous society, and it needs a different style of handling from what we are today seeing from Edgar. That is another given. Zambians may have many bad habits, but as a society, we are not particularly predisposed to conflict or aggression. For that, we need a catalytic reagent. The stream of bad politicians and bad politics provides just that.
The ethnic diversity is today being managed for political gain rather than harmony. Though never totally well managed in the past, there was at least a sense that all the political juggling would be worthless if stability were lost and the nation fell off the edge.
What we are today seeing and hearing from Edgar is a reflection of our political set-up as a whole. This is what happens when you have small-minded politicians in big shoes. They will conveniently forget all this. It is all today being morphed into a system fraught with liability by those with far fewer scruples and no conception at all of restraint. Until our politicians cease to represent narrow corrupt interests and start to speak as Zambians for all Zambians, there will be no real national unity.