CHIEF Cooma of Choma district in Southern Province has accused members of parliament of having turned the National Assembly into a political battleground.
He also says electoral bribes are taking away “our power to fight corruption because we also participate” in the corruption by accepting money and other materials politicians dish out during campaigns.
In an interview, Cooma said Zambians have been letdown by those they had put into office because majority of them used money to lure voters.
“There is need to strengthen laws that deter the habit of bribing voters with money and other materials like beer during election campaign periods before 2021 to enable citizens choose credible leaders of their choice,” he said.
Cooma said Zambians have learnt lessons about the type of leaders they voted into office. He said in 2021 laws deterring electoral bribes must be enforced to level the playing field.
“It’s very unfortunate that these people we vote to represent us, the moment they reach Parliament things change. What is the problem and where have things gone wrong that the opposition and those in the ruling party can’t work together?” Cooma asked.
“These are effects of having leaders who used bribes to ascend to power.”
He challenged Zambians not to vote for leaders that bribe them but consider those with workable promises.
“The political rivalry between the ruling party and the opposition is a manifestation of having leaders that have ascended to power through corrupt means. These are not leaders, they just bribed voters to vote for them and that’s why in 2021 we need laws to be strengthened so that politicians using money to lure voters instead of the message can face the wrath of the law,” Cooma said.
“We, as voters, don’t even have time to scrutinise these politicians because we have gone to bed with them in committing corruption and when they get into offices we start pointing fingers at them that they are corrupt forgetting that we started the process together with them. During campaigns we receive money from them and today how can we turn around and point fingers at them when we know them very well and how at short notice we decided to vote for them. These bribes are taking away our power to fight corruption because we also participate.”
He urged both parliamentarians from the ruling party and opposition to actualise people’s desire for unity and love for one another by working together for common good of the country.
Cooma said the much-talked about dialogue was only meant for MPs to work in harmony since they were the representatives of the people.
“We expected all parliamentarians to attend the National Dialogue Forum but because there is no harmony between these two camps, people’s desire to see them working together has not been fulfilled,” he said. “And these are cases where we start asking ourselves as voters that ‘what type of leaders are these that can’t find a solution for their misunderstandings’. The major problem is they are all a product of a corrupt system that bribes voters and not the type of leaders that are chosen by the people based on their credibility and message they tell voters.”
The traditional leader stressed that the country could only develop if leaders worked together and realised that they were in office to serve the people and not their political parties.
“This system of voting for people based on the political party ticket they are standing on has destroyed the spirit of genuineness and credibility in politics,” Cooma said. “Look now the type of parliament we have! Nothing can be achieved unanimously because they have turned the House into a political battleground. It’s where they are settling political grievances instead of coming up with laws that will help the country develop. We, citizens, are now lost on which direction to go and yet the five-year mandate we gave them is elapsing soon while their main preoccupation is settling political scores. Do these MPs go to Parliament to represent their political parties or us the people? What is happening is difficult to interpret. It’s like we are no longer being represented as citizens. The political parties have become more prominent no wonder there are these divisions but if these people realise that they are merely representatives of the people and not political parties, things will move.”
And Cooma said complaints by some people in Southern Province about the non-attendance of their lawmakers at the NDF were justified.
He explained that parliamentarians had a duty to engage the electorates who sent them to inform them of their challenges in fulfilling their duties unlike just deciding on their own.
“These UPND MPs who have shunned the NDF must come down to the people and explain why they have taken that stance so that everybody is aware and move with them. Those petitioning them are justified because one of the roles of the MP is to represent the people and if there is a national programme like NDF then people expect to see their parliamentarians in attendance,” Cooma said.
He said if UPND lawmakers had problems with representing their people they needed to liaise with the electorates so as to clear the doubts.
“As it is now all what is clear is that it’s the stance of the UPND not to attend the NDF and these are things we are talking about that matters of national importance people must put the country first before their political parties,” Cooma said. “We are still appealing to both the UPND and PF to prioritise the country first and not their political parties because Zambia is not for them alone but for everyone.”
He urged Zambians across the political divide to choose credible leaders in 2021 who are going to work for the country and not for political parties.
He said all the challenges the country was going through was as a result of putting political parties first instead of the country.