Zambia is Marching Backwards with very long Steps

By Mainza Miyoba Sikana, Lusaka, Zambia

From the Newsletter of the ICP, 21st issue (14 February, 1995)

For the first time since November 1991, the movement for Multi-party Democracy, MMB, has become terrified of losing the elections. The Kaunda (former president) challenge is real and the MMB cannot effort to take chances. The threat is a democratic challenge and not one that should invoke political violence.

We have the right to disagree with Kenneth Kaunda on his political comeback, but we do not have the right to physically stop him from doing so. The only vehicle we can use to stop him is the ballot. We know some people in government today are former coup plotters, have flirted with political violence, or organised thugs for political missions, but such political practices are no longer acceptable or necessary.

After all it was this same violence that Kaunda used to justify the creation of a one party dictatorship. It was argued that multi-party politics undermined national unity as people become divided into tribal groups with violent inter-party clashes which left many Zambians dead or permanently maimed.

Very little meaningful effort was made by Kaunda and UNIP to encourage a culture of political tolerance. In various areas youth, UNIP, the ANC and to some extent Nalumino Mudia's UP and Simon Kapmepme's UPP fought running battles, with the state machinery clearly supporting UNIP youths.

To end violence and to encourage national unity Kaunda urged the destruction of plural politics and democracy.

It is here that the major explanation for the unsatisfactory performance of Kaunda and UNIP on the question of democracy lies. After independence in 1964, the pre-independence nationalist movement abandoned the goal of the desire for a legislated one-party state and thus the concentration - rather than the broadening - of power in the hands of a few people, or one single man.

Kaunda "ended" violence and obtained national "unity" with a merger of UNIP and Harry Nkumbula's ANC in 1972. While this was hailed as an achievement for national unity, the most honest fact is that the achievement was unity between two parties which although playing a decisive role in the struggle for the independence of Zambia, did not ipso facto represent everyone.

The political, cultural and economic interests of Zambians were too complex and much greater than similar interests in UNIP and the ANC combined.

Although it is impossible to imagine this country (Zambia) ever going back to a legislated one-party political system it is not difficult to see the desires of President Chiluba and the MMB to promote and maintain a de facto one-party state. Along with this, failure on the part of the MMB leadership to realise that this constitutes part of the explanation, as to why the party's performance in the last three years has been seen by some citizens to be unsatisfactory in that the ruling party has sought to restrict rather than broaden democracy.

It is negative conservatism to assume and believe that any one party or president can ever have the final and perpetual solution to all problems of this country. Such conservatism has no existential basis.

The political changes Zambians campaigned for in 1990/91 were not for merely putting Chiluba and the MMB in power. They were meant for broadening political liberties for all Zambians, including the enemies of democracy.

Kaunda may have perpetrated a one-party dictatorship but his rights to enjoy the fruits of democracy should never be less than those of any other Zambians, including president Chiluba. Let him carry out his political campaigns without undue hindrance. If more Zambians will support him to win the next elections, some of us who detest him may have to swallow the bitter pill and campaign very hard for his quick second exit - maybe even to pressurise him to call for elections before the end of his first year in office. There will be nothing wrong with this.

Democracy is about tolerance and respect for the rights of other citizens. Tolerance and respect for our fellow citizens make us allow our critics to express their opinion about our views without inhibition, whether these seem to be unpalatable or not. At the same time we should expect the same treatment when our turn comes. This is not something we achieve instinctively. Rather it requires a political leadership that works for its development - consciously and respectfully.

What is distinctly lacking in the political leadership of Zambia is a culture of tolerance and humility which places the humanity of others before oneself and accepts that citizens have a right to participate in the shaping of their destiny directly, without fear or reprisals from political thugs.

And until we and our politicians redress the imbalance between selfish pursuit of power and concern for the human lives, they are elected to protect, between arrogance and self respect and humility between intolerance and mutual tolerance, we will forever be marching backwards with very long steps.


Mainza Miyoba Sikana
15 Popular Street
Anvondale Township
Chelstone Post office
Lusaka, Zambia

tel.: (01)-283658

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