FORMER defence minister Richwell Siamunene says politicians must understand that the essence of democracy is coexistence and competing on ideologies.
Commenting on Monze residents’ booing of President Edgar Lungu recently when he visited the area to commission the Zambia Correctional Services housing units, Siamunene said such acts had potential to destroy the essence of democracy that the country was known for.
“We are calling on politicians to really know and understand that democracy entails the need to coexist. We should only compete in ideas. We should only differ either in ideologies outlined in manifestos, but not differing to an extent where we start drawing boundaries for each other and not accepting those that do not belong to our political parties,” he said. “Our democracy must be managed so that the nation does not reach a level where individuals started creating boundaries for each other because it had potential to cause civil war in the country. If you read the history of countries that have gone to war against itself, the causes were just small things but spread to the entire country. We don’t want that kind of thing to happen here.”
Siamunene said the country had invested a lot in the peace since independence.
“The country has invested a lot to have this peace being enjoyed today. There was a lot of effort and resources lost that our fore fathers spent for us to have reached this far. There is a lot of investment that we can’t lose,” he said. “So, we must not allow a situation where the peace we are enjoying today is lost. Kenneth Kaunda envisioned these things, no wonder he came up with the idea of sending people to work in areas they did not hail from just to keep the peace, to promote interaction across tribal divide so that no area will be dominantly saying this is a dominant area for this particular tribe.”
Siamunene said what happened in Monze was one of the demerits of democracy which had also bred regionalism in terms of voting patterns.
He said the country’s democracy required to be managed quickly before it became uncontrollable.
“As citizens we must ensure that only the merits of democracy which are freedom of association with whoever you want to associate with, freedom of speech and choice of belonging to a political party as well as coexistence are promoted,” said Siamunene. “So, we have to work on the demerits if we are to protect the peace we are enjoying today. Now the question is, are we really prepared to embrace democracy? We are talking about democracy but we don’t really understand it in real terms. It has not been understood by the ordinary man in the compound, to the ordinary man in the village, that in democracy we need to coexist. That we need to live the way churches do. You can have a Pilgrim Wesleyan Church member; you can have an SDA member or Catholic but they will not engage in a fight or booing each other because they understand that they only have one supreme father who is God.”