“So I am here to tell you that development will not be taken to areas that do not recognise President Lungu. You don’t recognise the President and you want development? How? So it is the government of Edgar Lungu that has money to take development. So work with President Lungu and see development,” Copperbelt minister Bowman Lusambo told chief Machiya of the Lamba people at his palace in Mpongwe district.
Is this the policy of Edgar’s Patriotic Front government? Or is this just a product of Bowman’s functional illiteracy, crass ignorance, misguided enthusiasm? If this is the undeclared policy of Edgar’s government, then we have a more serious problem and challenge than the state of emergency and other abuses of power. We seem to have a very strange breed of ‘democrats’ in government who don’t understand the tenets of democracy and may need a bit of civic education. Civic education is a vital component of any society, especially of a democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never shall be.” People may be born with an appetite for personal freedom, but they are not born with the knowledge about the social and economic arrangements that make freedom possible overtime for themselves and their children. Such things have to be learned.
In any true democracy, more is needed than political institutions and practices such as voting and representation in parliament. We must hold on to some values and norms, some expectations and aspirations. This is the environment, the atmosphere, that makes democracy work. This is the so-called “political culture” which we feel is so necessary in Zambia today if multiparty democracy is to succeed. The fundamental value we must have is a respect for diversity and acceptance of pluralism. Gone are the days when everyone was supposed to think the same way, belong to the same political party, support the same presidential candidate, and support the same programme. True believers in multiparty democracy welcome diversity, dialogue and debate over views contrary to their own because they realise that they themselves may not always be right. They recognise that there is a specific role to be played by each different organisation in a spirit of unity amidst diversity.
A fundamental condition for the establishment of democracy is, therefore, the recognition of the rights of the person and social groups. A real democracy has to be built on the basis of justice and moral values and has to look to the common good. Every citizen of this country has the right to a decent standard of living. And this implies that development should be free from discrimination. There should be equal access to public resources required or needed for development. Whatever the government does to improve the living standards of the people, it must do without discrimination. Any economic development must benefit all people, not just supporters of those in power or who recognise Edgar as president of the Republic.
Development is a process designed to progressively create conditions in which every individual can enjoy and exercise all human rights – whether political, civic, social, cultural or economic. The right to development therefore entails the right to participate in such a process and the right to benefit from it without discrimination. The right to development is an inalienable human right that cannot be taken away in the manner Bowman is advocating. Its violation should therefore be approached with the same sense of urgency, determination and commitment as any other human right. The realisation of development rights should proceed hand-in-hand with the realisation of civil and political rights.
Bowman needs to slow down and take things a bit easy. He is clearly at sea when it comes to governance issues and needs to humble himself and learn. But he is too talkative to learn. Bowman seems to have serious problems keeping his mouth shut. He behaves like someone suffering from diarrhoea of the mouth and constipation of the brain. Bowman can’t wait to exhibit his crass ignorance and functional illiteracy!