ZAMBIANS must demand mature and responsible politicians who will treat those who oppose them as mere opponents and not enemies, says Vernon Mwaanga.
The veteran diplomat said people want to see unconditional dialogue based on issues, respect, tolerance and love.
“Zambia belongs to all Zambians regardless of where they come from or status in society. Let the dialogue begin now. Do not just talk about it. Walk the talk. The country is waiting with bated breath,” he said.
“We live in an era of triumph and frustration. Sadly, a substantial proportion of the current crop of politicians have been brought up thinking that the quickest way to amass wealth and influence is by joining politics or acting as vuvuzelas of politicians who are perceived to be powerful.”
Mwaanga said the standards set by the founding fathers of selfless service to the country and people have been conveniently thrown to the wind.
He said politics and more politics have become the alpha and omega of everything they do.
Mwaanga said the louder they insult or speak, the more they satisfy their personal egos.
He said there was overwhelming evidence of intolerance to dissenting views in all political parties and an insatiable appetite to prioritise politics to the exclusion of everything else, including economic development for the country.
“This was happening at a time when GDP (gross domestic product) growth is slowing down, inflation is rising, effects of the devastating drought were being felt across the country, unemployment is on the rise especially among young people, money supply in the economy is rapidly retreating, the mining sector is experiencing a tsunami, a number of infrastructure projects have stalled due to funding problems and press freedom is experiencing a severe headwind,” he said. “This is the time when politics should be set aside and a clarion call made for Zambians to sit down together in a civil environment, regardless of their political beliefs, to address and find lasting solutions to these problems for the sake of mother Zambia.”
He said changing personnel alone was not a panacea to the country’s problems.
Mwaanga said a new and more radical approach was required, which would be more inclusively forward looking and developmental in nature.
“In the past, political dialogue among leaders of all political parties was regarded as indispensable. We had a culture of political tolerance which is an important ingredient into every multiparty society like ours. Even during the one party system between 1973 and 1991, there was constant dialogue with those who held different views,” he recalled.
“There was a recognition that political power is transitory and therefore not permanent. Those in power today will be out of power tomorrow and a new generation of leaders will emerge and take the country to the next level for better, for worse. The MMD will bear true testimony to this statement. Arrogance of power is a dangerous and suicidal phenomenon.”
Mwaanga said in every democratic country, leaders would also be changed – from presidents to councillors – from time to time and that was why Zambia now had a sixtth President since independence in October 1964.
He said leaders of governments and political parties should not fear change and should in fact be seen to be encouraging it.
Mwaanga said every country had everything to gain from a constant injection of fresh blood and new ideas.
He said no political party or leader knows everything.
Mwaanga said enlightened leadership benefits from a cross pollination of ideas of the citizenry.
He said it would be both wrong and unnecessary to wait for leaders to vacate office for them to be criticised.
Mwaanga said national elections from top to bottom enabled citizens to choose leaders they prefer and that was why the holding of regular genuinely free and fair elections was of vital importance to the oxygen of democracy.
He said it had become an unwelcome primitive habit for politicians and their minions to bad mouth each other without let or hindrance.
Mwaanga said this was immature and irresponsible.
“We want to see political leaders sit down, eat, drink and talk to each other with tolerance and respect, as they address the numerous problems facing our country. The people should be allowed to pass harsh judgment against politicians who run away from burning national issues, which have a direct bearing on their lives, by unleashing unprintable verbiage against their opponents,” said Mwaanga. “The era of cheap politics must be vehemently condemned and confined to the dustbin of our dark past.”