VERNON Mwaanga says people must be patient and give President Hakainde Hichilema and his administration a bit of time to settle down and make rational decisions, which will pass the test of time.
The veteran politician said the country needs people who were qualified for the jobs available and who would help the UPND Alliance government to fulfill election promises they made to Zambians.
Mwaanga said democracy had rights and responsibilities.
He said Africa had gone through different phases before resorting to some forms of democracy.
“We have had autocratic regimes, military regimes, among others. It has been a long and frustrating journey. 45 out of the 55 African countries have held or committed to holding elections of some form or another. This is progress, modest as it may be,” he said. “Zambia has had a culture of holding elections to elect local and national leaders since independence in October 1964. We were a multiparty country from 1964 to 1973 and then we endured a one party system of governance from 1973 to 1991, when our country reverted to a multiparty system of governance, which is slowly developing and taking root.”
Mwaanga said the tripartite elections of August 12 testify to a growing culture of democracy, which has had hiccups in the recent past.
He said citizens turned up in large numbers – over 70 per cent voter turnout never seen before – to vote for political candidates of their choice.
“The election saw President Hakainde Hichilema elected by a margin of one million votes and a change in the composition of the National Assembly and local councils,” he said. “The UPND Alliance has promised a new dawn of zero tolerance to corruption which was eating up our moral fabric and had become a huge cost to our national economy. The massive victory of President HH and the UPND Alliance, has brought renewed hope that we shall finally have a functioning democracy.”
Mwaanga said expectations of citizens were high and so were those of people eager to be appointed to government or diplomatic positions to serve the people.
“This happens everywhere in the world when there is a change of government. People must be patient and give President Hichilema and his administration a bit of time to settle down and make rational decisions, which will pass the test of time. The country needs people who are qualified for the jobs available and who will help the UPND Alliance government to fulfill election promises they made to the people of Zambia,” he said. “Experience teaches us that democracy is a collective undertaking that involves duties and obligations; rights and responsibilities, that bring together the leaders and the led; the electors and the elected; representatives of civil society, political institutions, which must be involved in constant dialogue, consultation and national consensus building.”
Mwaanga said the fact that democracy means different things to different people should not be overlooked.
“This is reflected in in the Harare Declaration issued by Commonwealth Leaders in 1991, where they stated the following ‘… Democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances…’ The crucial point is that the true will of the people should be freely expressed, within a framework of respect for the rule of law, and respects the rights of others,” he said. “I would categorise these in a functioning democracy as follows; 1. The participation of the adult population in the election and removal of the government through free, fair, credible and democratic elections which meet international standards, 2. Freedom of association and expression, which must include freedom of a responsible press. 3. Transparency of the process of government and 4. The rule of law and guarantees for equality under the law.”
Mwaanga said there was great wisdom in the saying that democracy, like an army, cannot match on an empty stomach.
He said faith in democracy could easily be eroded and even rejected by failure to materially better the lives of people.
Mwaanga said experience had shown that democracy, could not possibly survive in conditions of abject poverty.
“It must be seen to be putting food on the table. I know of many African countries which have maintained impeccable democratic credentials, but which are still wrestling with crippling development and unsustainable national debt burden,” said Mwaanga. “I found very sobering a comment I once read many years ago by the famous German theologian Neibuhr, who said ‘man’s capacity for evil, makes democracy necessary; man’s capacity for good, makes democracy necessary’. Yes, it may be said that democracy is not cheap, but the alternative is worse and I mean far worse.”