[By Prof Nyanga]
Rosenthal, A.M asserts that, ‘when something is going on, silence is a lie’.
I felt obliged to share my views on politics as a service. This article puts across issues that surround politics in Zambia and Africa generally.
Politics is defined as that which concerns the state. The state comprises the permanent institutions (Education, Police, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Health, et cetera) that provide public services, enforce laws, ensure security and thereby provide for the governance of persons and the administration of things. Government is composed of politicians who temporarily run the state because they are elected (at least in democracy) to do so. The politicians determine the public services the state should provide, the laws it ought to enforce, the form of security it should ensure and the purposes for which the state should govern people and administer things. In the words of Mickey Edwards (2010), politics include activities that either involve, or in some ways directly affect, the institutions of the state; individuals who are directly involved in the institutions of the state or governance; and places in which these activities and people are present. Examples of service providers are teachers/lecturers, doctors, ‘pastors’, pilots, and (at least not in Zambia) and the politician ensures that they work in harmony for the purpose of development and growth of a nation.
In the definition of politics above, there is nowhere where bonanza (jackpot) is mentioned. However, the current situation is that the politicians have taken politics as a way of accumulating riches beyond common expectation. We are privy to people that have become billionaires after joining politics and are dishing out free money to poor citizens (at least for a meal) wherever they go, the reason people are going into politics; to enrich themselves.
Political office is temporary, it’s not forever. On the contrary, many of our politicians would wish to remain in power for as long as they are able to breathe. This has been seen in Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, late Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and many heads of states. In Zambia, it took a revolutionary change to show the exit door for our former president Kenneth Kaunda (though he never accumulated any much riches). Frederick Chiluba attempted a third term despite him knowing the constitution, which he swore to defend and obey. The main reason is to continue to accumulate more wealth to themselves. In defending this, they are ready to suppress whoever is seen to be a threat in their way, even to the extent of killing the citizens whom they expect to protect. In Africa, we have seen how politicians are abusing the state institutions in order to champion their perpetuation of power and the natural man has nothing remaining for themselves hence jumping into the bandwagon in supporting, just to have a sound share of the accumulated riches from the politician’s BONANZA. One politician said that, “Keep your expertise while I keep the money (authority)”. One is nothing; no matter how educated they can be as a politician controls resources, therefore needs no advice from an expert.
It seems late Daniel Munkombwe (2018) nailed it that politics are for the belly, not a service, which is exactly the scenario in Zambia. In the language of accounts, there is one concept called the “going concern concept” which simply means that business should be there as long as the world exists; it should never die. In Africa, taking political office simply means that a political leader should continue to be in power indefinitely as if it’s not democracy, forgetting that it is temporary according to the constitution.
It’s high time we realised that holding political office does not mean ‘winning a jackpot’ to enrich oneself but a call to ensure that laws are made for the sake of people in the country. The world at present is looking for men and women who will solve the problems such as provision of clean water for everyone, equal opportunities for citizens, redeeming people from poverty.
Politicians need to think of how they are going to help the state in ensuring that the policies put across are beneficial to everyone, not manipulating the whole system to suit ourselves. Yes, we have to think about that person who is suffering in hospital where there is no medicine; that girl who has been given into marriage because parents have no money to pay for school fees, that prisoner who has been jailed for stealing a plate of nshima to survive, that young girl who has engaged into prostitution for food in her stomach. We need to consider how Zambia can improve economically from being one of the hungriest countries in Africa. It should also settle in our minds that serving humanity is sacrifice, which has no huge benefits. There is no need to acquire all the riches as a politician yet your people are dying because of your greediness. Better go into business where profits are championed. Plato avers that, “to do injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it”, translated as people that want to take advantage of others, suffer more than those that it is meant for. We have seen and heard politicians who had accumulated all sorts of riches to themselves but ended on the sad side of the story. We need to bring about justice to the state for us to remain relevant to humanity after our term of office is over and continue giving counsel to the next person who takes over the office. We should always remember that politics is a service and not winning a jackpot or BONANZA.