[By Melvin Chisanga]
If current and recent events in this country are anything to rate Zambia’s adherence or compliance with good governance tenets from, I would say my country is a very strong contender for the worst position on the rating list.
This is how I am seeing things from where I stand. And for those who are of a different view, I challenge you to substantiate your claims as I show you who pays your bills. That is just how bad things have become in this country.
Since governance is merely a form of making decisions and implementing them, it goes without saying that what differentiates good from bad governance is the level of compliance or adherence to the fundamental principles of good governance. It is a government’s perception by its people that determines its position on the governance continuum, and not what those that are at the helm of it think.
For governance to be deemed as good, it ought to meet the following fundamental principles: it must be participatory, it must respect the rule of law, it must be equitable and it ought to be transparent. Furthermore, it must embrace consensus in decision making, it must be effective and efficient, it must be responsive and last, but by no means the least, it must be accountable enough.
In my view, it is from these very fundamental principles that the mandates of the three arms of government are drawn. In a tripartite governance system like ours, the level to which these arms are independent of each other determines the quality of governance. The more independent they are, the better, and the opposite is true.
The media comes in as the fourth estate of the State after the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive, which equally requires its freedom in order to thrive. Some government systems have up to five or more arms. And the more they get, the better the quality of governance, as their interaction will enhance the provision of checks and balances among themselves.
For governments that want to gravitate towards dictatorship, their efforts by the Executive are always to engulf the other arms so that it assumes their roles and manipulates them to its advantage at will. And this is the current situation that mother Zambia has found herself in.
Starting off as a multi-party state at independence, it only took eight years for those in power at that time to succumb to the ever-beckoning spirit of dictatorship, as Zambia would shamelessly be reduced to a single party state in 1972. For the 19 years leading up to the year 1991 when multipartism was reintroduced, Zambians were forced to believe and accept that the then ruling party, UNIP leadership was the best and only one there was to lead this great nation.
However, around 1990, people felt it was enough of being subjected to a mockery of elections which pitted a human being against a frog. It took a lot of effort to prod and titillate the then president, Kenneth Kaunda, to stand against a human rival to prove his “wamuyayaya (everlasting leader)” claims. This saw a revolution that showed the mighty United National Independence Party (UNIP) the exit door from power in 1991, after losing to the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
Though with a myriad of teething challenges, Zambia has held her own as a budding democracy, as can be seen from the accolades she has won herself, with many touting her as a beacon of regional peace amid changes of presidents and governments.
In a weird turn of events, however, there seems to be a serious effort on the part of those in power to take this country back to the one-party state that even some of them fought so hard against. Really? What has become bad about the democracy that some of our fellow citizens even laid down their lives for?
Looking at the way good governance variables have been deteriorating at the speed of knots under today’s PF government, while they show no qualms whatsoever about it but instead bubble with the confidence of winning future elections, the clear message they are sending is that winning an election no longer has anything to do with the number of votes one gets in an election. In their myopic minds, winning an election now has everything to do with flexing the government machinery muscle that is at their disposal. To that effect, we have both seen and heard them not only disregarding the supreme law of the land but also attempting to redesign it to conform to their own interests and wishes.
It is during this regime that we have witnessed the three organs of government not only fighting but also washing dirty linen in public. I wonder how leaders can become so selfish that they will not mind propagating an autoimmune situation in their own government. Have you seen how the Executive has disregarded the Judiciary over the judgement passed on the need for ministers to illegally continued to draw salaries after the expiration of their tenure at the direction of the president? How about the latest one where the Speaker of the National Assembly chose to disregard the ruling of the Constitutional Court on his nullification of Mr Chishimba Kimbwili’s Roan parliamentary seat?
Simple Civics puts it clearly that while the role of the Executive wing of government is to enforce the laws, the duty of the Judiciary is to interpret the laws made by the legislative branch of government. As for the media, its importance in the governance process cannot be overemphasised as it keeps the general populous informed about what the other three organs are doing.
The people of Zambia should know their leaders in government for who they really are from their appetite to close media houses like Prime TV; a group of grownups that do not want to be held accountable for their actions by blacking out the general public from their mostly clandestine activities. With impunity, our leaders have chosen to ignore the freedoms and rights that the Constitution grants every citizen.
Under the PF government, one’s rights and freedoms are determined by the extent to which they can play dull and forget their personal dream in order to help the master achieve his own. If our leaders cannot respect the Constitution that they were so excited to have drafted that they even bragged that they could even sign with their eyes closed, who will?
It is an open secret that all other wings of government are being held captive by the Executive, much to their loss of confidence from the citizens. They think we don’t know that they are making all these fake arrests and prosecutions in order to launder their images through acquittals to avoid being arrested by the next regime.
How ironical that a country being led by a lawyer president can become so lawless that we have become a true definition of each one for himself and God for us all. Why is it that the economy is busy misbehaving like it has a mind of its own in a country that is not short of people who are more than able to turn around its fortunes.
Against the uniting spirit of equal participation and consensus building, we have seen how a small group of people is determined to push Bill 10 down the throats of the Zambian people under the pretext of wanting to improve it, when the opposite is actually true.
Zambians, behold your leaders in government and their deeds and decide whether they deserve another mandate at the helm of the reigns of this country. If peradventure our most plausible option is change, which is increasingly becoming inevitable, let us for once be objective and not subjective in our choosing. Let as assess all the political vehicles promising to have the capacity to take us to where we deserve to be with minimal excuses. Together we can!