[By Professor Kazhila Chinsembu, PhD]
Zambia has just witnessed the shifting sands of political fortunes. The hopes of this new Zambia cannot be built on the dreams of criminals. The life of this renewed nation cannot be built on the aspirations of political buccaneers seeking power and prestige.
Events of the past few weeks instruct all of us that a unitary Zambia cannot be founded on the divisive tribal rantings of unhinged politicians seeking to enter or to remain in the corridors of power in order to evade the wrath of the law.
Nay, in any competent court of law, tribe cannot buy one freedom; justice cannot be traded for toxic tribal grandiosity. Grandiose tribal narcissists are a threat to national peace, they are anathema to the enshrined constitutional ethos of One Zambia One Nation. Therefore, leaders should unite the people, they must never use the media to cause seismic ethnic tremors in the nation.
A good leader must build and recreate the future. But the future of a great nation cannot be envisioned and reimagined by a myopic leadership that is colour-blind to tribalism and corruption.
The recent UPND victory is bittersweet for many Zambians. Sweet, not because power is sweet. But sweet because the dark days of our jaundiced nation are now over. A new dawn and a new sun are shining a new light on a new government that wants to start anew.
But, it is also a bitter and painful day for many, because, why should it take a wanton and glutton regime to almost completely ruin a country, for the people to realise the significance of good national leadership?
It would seem, to me, that Zambians are genetically programmed and hard-wired to undertake periodic constitutional democratic change of government, through the ballot. With the benefit of hindsight, there comes a time when the people change the trajectory of their country. There comes a time when the tears of pain give way to the tears of joy.
Zambians can now celebrate people power. Our people should now shake the new government’s tree, to arouse into new action, the fruits of a new One Zambia One Nation.
Even as we celebrate, we need to view the deviant and dodgy activities of the previous administration in a very sombre light. No one, whatever their ethnic origins, should escape the full rigours of the law.
That being said, we should look deeper into the past, not to retrieve retribution, but to re-locate the historical turning point from which our new nation can leap forward to a new and a better future. Our nation’s past can provide the traction to our better future.
Where are we coming from?
Well, under the previous regime, preferential procurement for cadres turned into a special purpose vehicle for affirmative repositioning of predatory criminal entrepreneurship that birthed a violent reactionary posse of parasitic loyalist sleep-on-cash illiterate dilettantes and petty bourgeois elites characterised by conspicuous consumption and flaunting of expensive automobiles, bleached slay queens, and swanky mansions.
As copulation and extravagance became key ingredients in the reproduction of illicit power and wealth, violence and ruling party aligned charismatic Pentecostalism assumed an integral part of political euphoria and power-play.
The oozing of power and its symbolisms was clearly depicted by the mouth, praise worship, potbelly, fist and phallus.
At the peak of the regime’s ruthlessness, the gassing of citizens provided a sneak peek into their larger political macrocosm and best definition for the baseness of human nature. Constitutional power was implemented with a high degree of banality, banditry, looting of government coffers, domination, and naked exploitation of the masses.
Political decline was inevitable. Indeed, it was just a matter of time; they were feeding meat to the crocodile hoping to be eaten last. That this emergent exhibitionist class was inexpert was undeniably a fatal political accident waiting to happen.
Devoid of sound mental faculties and robust tools of analysis, it was just a matter of time that rich cadres would fail to comprehend the calamitous socioeconomic conditions in the nation. This was enough to author the voluntary political death certificate of their paymasters.
Economic cronyism (note: it was not nationalism) transformed itself into a self-serving chimaera for economic cannibalism that chipped away at every virtuous opportunity of trade and commerce in the country. These are glaring blunders that ought to re-educate the new government on how not to govern.
Beyond the veneer of tribal political orotundity, Zambians were united solely by their resolve to liberate themselves from the corrupt and violent regime. Anchored on a robust strand of organic freethinkers, the new government should therefore avoid restructuring public politico-economic policy in fits and starts.
The past will continue to haunt us, no doubt. But, we ought to start on a new page, a new page where we begin to erase the old footprint of pain, a new page where we start to write a new chapter of hope and prosperity.
We ought to look at Zambia from a different point of view, from a unique vantage point. We need to deconstruct the notion of poverty in Zambia. Why should Zambia remain an economic backwater? Why should our people live on the anthills of poverty in the Savannahs of plenty?
Now, therefore, we should all begin to author the great Zambian success story, a story that clean politics can be a liberating economic praxis for the poor. We should now all become lead authors of a refreshing chapter of Zambia’s economic reconstruction. Our renewed chapter should preface the history books of great nations.
History has taught us that Zambia cannot be built by thieves and lies. History has taught us that Zambia cannot be built by violence and pangas. Zambia cannot be built by corruption and gassing of citizens.
Our nation cannot be built by arresting young doctors and withdrawing meal allowances from penniless university students.
Our nation cannot be built by sowing seeds of division and tribal hatred. Zambia belongs to each and every Zambian. There is no first-class citizen. There is no second-class tribe. Zambia does not have two national languages.
Ours is a nation founded on the love for God, the love for peace, and the love for one another. We are one people, a people with one heritage of One Zambia, One Nation.
Our enemy is corruption, not a Zambian of a different tribe. Our enemy is the high cost of living, not a Zambian from a different political party. Our enemy is hunger and lack of drugs in hospitals, not that poor woman selling tomatoes by the roadside in Woodlands.
We know that many honest and hardworking Zambians find events of the past few years to be disgusting and flabbergasting. How can a regime be so carefree that it can be a tree of money for musicians out of tune with the suffering masses?
The past few years have been traumatic for many Zambians. The past few years have been hurtful on many fronts. We have all met the news of misappropriation of government funds with anguish and revulsion. Be that as it may, let us not turn hurt into hate.
Let us build Zambia on a foundation of love, hard work, by hand-holding each other, by uplifting each other, through empathy, sisterhood, and brotherhood. Every Zambian should come forward to help rebuild the country.
Having consolidated constitutional political power, the new government should now move quickly to recruit eminent high-level thinkers, at home and in the diaspora, rarely skilled individuals with acumen and lucidity, sages that will intellectually power government’s complex socioeconomic reforms.
By high-level thinkers, we mean scholars of international repute and stature, scientists with high h-index and i10-index, full professors, not opportunist activists and motivational speakers posting stuff on Facebook and Matero Times.
The Asian Tigers, and Rwanda, use this model. Government locks in those of its citizens highly endowed with cognitive functions, men and women with the medulla oblongata to support complex thought-leadership.
Our world is now complex. We can only view it clearly through complex thinking, and complex numbers. We have to code and decode algorithms, to do robotics, to subtract big numbers from small numbers. We can no longer say: it can’t.
Zambia should be run on the basis of merit, erudition and rigour. Government programmes and actions should be distilled by experts, think-tanks, due diligence, and correct policy planning. Our country will improve only when bold thinking is directed at our toughest problems.
No Zambian with avant-garde skills and impeccable qualifications should be segregated against the noble ideal to serve his or her country on account of flimsy grounds not least tribe or region.
No Zambian with the correct qualifications should be dismissed from their job on account of their political persuasion, tribe or region.
There is a genuine sense of anticipation that change is coming to Zambia, and Zambia is going to change. There is a genuine sense of expectation that corruption is leaving Zambia, and Zambia is leaving corruption.
Out of the smouldering embers of a sizzling tribal campaign has emerged a new leadership loved by all Zambian tribes.
This new government must now mark the end of the lost and wasted decade. This new government should mark the end of weird economic policies. It must mark the end of political violence.
The perils of our past should now birth the joys of our new future.
There are free things that our people cherish, that the new government can give to the people, without spending any government money. The first thing that our new government should give to our people is freedom, because freedom is free.
Freedom of expression is a constitutional right. Freedom of expression is the bedrock of democracy and cooperative governance, it is the foundation for creativity and innovation, it is the mandible for peace.
The problems we now face as a nation cannot be solved if our people are timid, if our people are fearful, and if our people are brutalised by the police. The challenges we face as a nation cannot be solubilised by a leadership with pale vision.
The Police State should now end. The Police Force should now end. The Police Service must start now.
It goes without saying that the Police Service should undergo a skills audit, it must undergo reforms. The police must protect life, police must protect innocent people, not criminals. The police should be strong and physically fit without beating citizens to pulp. The police can apprehend criminals without torturing them.
The police must not have wanton disregard of the law, they should treat suspects as innocent until proven guilty. The scars of police brutality should become the badges of personal freedom. Police should advance the rule of law, without advancing the rule of man, without waging war onto citizens.
The courts of law and the judiciary should also undergo prudent reforms, to make these institutions and judges accountable to the people, not to those with ties to the government. There should be no justice for hire or justice for sale. Everyone must be equal before the law.
People voted for change because they are hurting, the economy is biting. People voted for change because they need food, they need medicines, they need relief. People voted for change because they need a wholesome life.
The new government must make specific and urgent policy orders to give our people relief, to put food on the table, to bring medicines in our hospitals, to reduce the high cost of living.
Critics may say the UPND wants to create an au pair agency. Still, the new government must create an economy that is kind to the poor, an economy that works for vulnerable Zambians, an economy that responds to the needs of our people.
The economy must uplift the living standards of our people. The economy must put people first. Economic policy must put people at the centre.
Procurement should not be a field day for embezzlement. Yes, our people can transact with government, our people can supply goods and services to the State, and yes we all want a clean and honest business, but government tenders should no longer be a preserved cash cow for party cadres.
The UPND is in government to serve the people, not to purloin from the people. The UPND is in government to be servants of the people, not to lord it over citizens. Zambians expect the leaders to be their servants, not their kings.
The new government should listen to the people. Our leaders should be tolerant of citizens that do not agree with them. Our leaders must not be above the law.
UPND should lead a clean and lean government, anchored on performance indicators and lifestyle audits. Any corrupt official in the government will have to be relieved of his or her duties. Our new government must make every Zambian feel in their blood the rancour against corruption.
Corruption was done at an industrial scale. By eliminating grand corruption, the new government will raise funds to pay civil servants good salaries. By eliminating corruption, the new government will reduce the cost of building roads.
By being prudent in national expenditure, government will save and serve resources to public health and public education. The best economic policy is education, which education should now help the unemployed youth to retool.
The new government must commit to dismantling debt. We cannot be a proud nation with humongous debt around our necks.
Of course, the new government has committed to providing jobs. The new government has committed to providing opportunities to do business. The new government has committed to increasing agricultural production.
The UPND government should be in a hurry to make Zambia a socioeconomic paradise. The ruling party must be in a hurry to turn Zambia into an economic tiger. Our new leadership should be in a hurry to deliver to the youth, because the consequences of a youthquake are too ghastly to contemplate.
Our new leadership should be in a hurry to deliver not to the ultra-rich, but to the poor, to the aged, to the women, to the children, to the hungry, to the sick, to those with special needs, to those that are differently abled, and to the most vulnerable of our citizens.
The new leadership should be in a hurry to deliver to the people that voted for UPND, same way it should be in a hurry to deliver to those that did not vote for UPND.
In the fight against hunger, disease, political violence, corruption, plunder, destitution and poverty, the new government should deliver to our people long-lasting and cutting-edge solutions, not band-aid.
This new administration is for all Zambians, regardless of tribe. This new administration is for all Zambians, regardless of region. We demand as we now do that anyone that engages in tribalism, in regionalism, in hate speech, in any behaviour that rescinds the constitutional values of One Zambia One Nation should face the wrath of the law.
Chiefs must unite Zambians, not divide them. The church must promote truth and honesty, not lies and immorality. Ethics and integrity should be the guiding principles of the new government. Empathy should be at the heart of this new administration. Whatever the new government does should be in the best interest of our people.
Reforms to make Zambia boom are long overdue, but government should no longer be a money tap for corrupt tenderpreneurs.
The new government must create an open society. This new leadership must create a government of genuine professionals, honest experts that can engage in self-criticism. The new leadership should not work with sycophants and hero worshippers.
The new government should not serve the interests of a few. The new government should not serve the interests of one political party, it should not serve the interests of a clique, it should not serve the interests of foreigners, it should not serve the interests of hooligans and hoodlums.
We must build a nation of hard work, respect, responsibility, integrity and honour. Our politics should be free of violence, free of name-calling, free of insults, free of hate speech.
It must be clear that no one should require a permit to assemble or express their democratic opinions. No one should require a permit to conduct a peaceful demonstration in Zambia. All Zambians must enjoy equal rights.
Like in the Kaunda era, government should become you and me, government should be in our hands, and the civil service must become our humble, loyal and impartial servant.
Now is the time when the leader must be led by the people he leads. The masses should re-envision a brighter future, reimagine new freedoms, as long as these freedoms are enjoyed within the rule of law.
Our people should have freedom from want, they should have freedom from political violence. Our people should have the freedom to engage in mental fermentation, freedom to produce seminal scientific innovation. Our leadership should have scientific advisors, just as they should have economic advisors.
Our people should have the freedom to think freely without intimidation. They should have the freedom to engage in free-thought, and they should have the freedom to share their creative ideas, be it in business, in the arts, or in environmental and social entrepreneurship.
Never again should a Zambian be arrested or killed for simply having or sharing a different political viewpoint. Never again should a university threaten a lecturer for speaking their mind.
The recent election produced a sea change in the political and economic fortunes of our country. This is our people’s moment, our nation’s second independence.
When we look back, even if we fall asleep, never again shall we see Pharaoh and his army of Egyptians. They all drowned in the hubris of their corrupt and mediocre leadership.
Under the previous regime, Zambia had all the hallmarks of a failed State. Under the new leadership, the collective hands of a free people should now point to the collective dreams of a new nation. Let us dream anew. Let us all move Zambia to the cusp of a new era of economic fortunes.
Our destiny ought to beckon not a poisoned chalice of despair, but the unpoisonable cup of opportunity.
The government should not be a haven for self-aggrandizement and conspicuous consumption. The government should not be a casino for the quiet enjoyment of public money.
The theory of planned behaviour teaches us about our intentions, that we choose our comforts and hardships long before we experience them. We have now made our intentions crystal clear: We choose comfort over hardship.
We choose peace over violence. We choose accountability over corruption. We choose prosperity over poverty.
As the new government announces the names of men and women that will help steer our nation from the ashes of remarkable ineptitude, these men and women must reflect the geo-ethnic complexion of our country.
The new government must heal the deep scars and wounds of tribal hatred. Going forward, proponents of tribal hatred must be prosecuted under our current laws. If this is not possible, then new laws should be enacted to curb the scourge of inciting tribal hate.
Celebrating our cultural diversity must never become a vehicle for promoting tribalism. Our linguistic identity should not degenerate into ethnic bigotry, it should not lead to ethnic chauvinism.
If anything, our differences in language must promote cultural harmony, not ethnic hegemony. Cultural identity must never become a badge for political campaigns or economic opportunism.
Myopic and weird economic policies hurt all our people regardless of tribe or region. Ideas and policies should therefore be the only magnetic poles that should attract or repel voters.
Neither tribe nor region, nor differences in culture and language, shall be used as organisational principles for political formations, or fodder for election campaigns.
Traditional ceremonies should promote the constitutional cohesion of the State, they should advance the unity and co-existence of all our people. No politician, no traditional leader, not even a paramount or senior chief, should become a chaperone of ethnic jingoism.
Political, traditional, youth, civic and religious leaders must lead by example; those that propagate tribal hatred should be prosecuted, there should be no sacred cows.
The new government should strengthen measures to combat prejudice and bigotry. Tribalism, tribal bigotry in any shape or form, should not be allowed in any of our public and social spaces.
Chimbuya can advance light moments, it can advance community humour and volunteerism during funerals, but never should chimbuya become a vanguard and masquerade for political ideology or a vehicle for political mobilisation.
We cannot build the Zambia we all want if we embrace the rhetorical duplicity of tribal sycophants and totemic extremists.
The new government should create a policy environment to lower the high cost of living, to lower the escalating prices of fuel, food and other commodities.
The new government should invest in the social sector. The new government should buy drugs for our hospitals, it must support free education for the needy, it must support farmers, and it should work to eliminate poverty.
Like the Phoenix, Zambia shall rise from the ashes. Free at last, no longer at ease with cadres and kleptomaniacs beyond redemption, the centre can now hold a new Zambia in the sun. The new Zambia in the sun is a daunting reality as much as she is a beautiful prospect.
*Views in this article are personal opinions of Professor Chinsembu and do not represent the views of the University of Namibia where he works as a Full Professor.
Chinsembu is Full Professor of Molecular Biology and Drug Discovery at the University of Namibia; Advisor to Founding President of UPND, late Anderson Mazoka; former Lecturer at UNZA, and former Publicity Secretary of UNZALARU; former Researcher at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.