By: Dr. Mbita Chitala
In endorsing and supporting the candidature of the ticket of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu/Mrs.Inonge Mutukwa Wina and the PF party to win the Presidential and General elections slated for August 11, 2016, it is important to appreciate that our country still has many challenges in advancing our democracy to deal with problems of national unity, the struggle against poverty, underdevelopment and inequality.
Our country is currently heaving with uncertainty and anxiety. The streets of Lusaka and the Copperbelt towns for instance are now theatres of needless political violence and terror among our citizens which all meaning citizens have condemned. The opposition UPND and FDD parties have been quarrelling with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) claiming that the ECZ have at the instigation of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) registered foreign nationals to vote, that the ECZ have connived with the PF to rig the elections by printing ballot papers in Dubai. Such claims by the opposition parties which are unsubstantiated, have been aimed to preparing the ground to not only discredit the ECZ but also to prepare ground to refute the results of the elections. This blatant insincerity is unacceptable political conduct. Social media is awash with hateful messaging that is aimed at breaking our nation. Hawkish politicians from mainly the opposition parties are spreading incendiary rhetoric aimed at radicalizing their supporters and priming them for confrontation. This is bad politics.
All this has been happening ahead of the Presidential and General elections set for August 11, 2016 which will, all things being equal, be a battle between President Lungu with his running mate Mrs. Inonge Mutukwa Wina with their allies the MMD and over twelve other political parties who will be pitted against Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and his running mate Mr. Godfrey Bwalya Mwamba (if it is confirmed he qualifies to stand as a running mate) together with a few nondescript entities who will be gunning to be President of Zambia for the fifth time – and some say- last time.
The two Presidential candidates Lungu and Hichilema are clearly the two front runners. They are both graduates from the University of Zambia. President Lungu is a Lawyer who has lived in Chawama compound among the people from where he practiced his law and began a political career that saw him rise from being a Member of Parliament for Chawama constituency to being a Deputy Minister and was later promoted by the Late President Sata to become a Minister of Home Affairs and later Minister of Defence. He was also appointed Secretary General of the PF after President Sata dismissed the arrogant and rude Winter Kabimba. Lungu soldiered on to be elected as President of the PF in spite of opposition from such colleagues as the then Acting President Dr. Guy Scott and his bunch of trouble makers who attempted to subvert the election of Lungu. At great odds, Lungu went on to be elected as President of the Republic in which capacity he has served for about year with great patriotism and excellence.
In the Presidential elections, President Lungu’s principal challenger will be President Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND who has lost four elections already and who some people consider the richest man in Zambia having amassed enormous wealth after working as a consultant and liquidator of privatized state companies such as the Luanshya Mine which he assisted sale to some failed Indian entity called Binani and other companies such as Inter Continental Hotel in Livingstone which he ended up being a shareholder and chairman. Mr. Hichilema carries himself as a smart businessman and hopes to bring this expertise to the governance of Zambia. And in this, he is supported by a political formation that Mr. V.J. Mwaanga once described as tribally based that draws much support from the Bantu Botatwe tribal grouping in Zambia. He has attempted but failed to build a national coalition by collecting a few nondescript characters from other regions albeit in a marginal way. Such is the case when he imposed discredited persons in his campaign team which saw the resignation of many of his original members from his party including his Vice President to join the PF party.
My considered view is that, the way things stand, regardless of the outcome of the elections, the challenges to defeat poverty, backwardness, inequality and social injustice will still be there in our country calling for more dedication to the struggle of our people against these vices. The performance of the government of President Lungu cannot be faulted having been in office for only twelve months. Its performance so far has in practice been excellent. Our country is now more united. They have delivered a new constitution as promised. There is equitable development everywhere. This is in spite of the challenges occasioned by the global economic crisis which has seen us get reduced earnings from our copper. This is why, it is advisable we continue for the next five years with this political formation. Many observers agree that electing the Lungu/Wina ticket will unite our country and continue a process of economic growth of our country. Any attempt to change now will destabilize our nation.
Of course in the long term, we need to change our politics. We must break the cartels that have captured our state. We must reduce mass poverty and deep inequalities among our people. We must reject the neo-liberal capitalist policies that tend to suffocate our people. We must have zero tolerance policies against corruption. We must reject tribalism, provincialism and all manners of sectarianism. We should ensure that the next elections bring about popular change which Zambians have began to experience as evidenced by the unity of our nation and the massive investments in our road network, power generation, communications, agriculture, manufacturing, mines, tourism and the social sector.
We have so far had multi party elections in 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006,2008, 2011 and 2014. These coming elections on August 11,2016 will be our eighth Presidential elections. All the past elections were characterized by persistent concerns about fairness and credibility of the outcomes. Most of the political parties aspired to build a capitalist formation in Zambia. Their only differences were expressed in their ethnic bases, personalities and never on ideology. That is why their leaders easily entered into alliances with each other without any attempt to consult their members. And this was usually after money changed hands or the promise of lucrative government jobs. It did not matter who came to power. Politicians pursued power and not a national vision. This has been our poor heritage which our new political leaders must address and change so that politics is anchored on integrity and respect.
It is important we transform elections so that they become a catalyst for bringing about popular change. Elections should not be commercialized or transactional. The current unregulated campaigns means that whoever has money will win through massive bribery and vote buying. This must change. Currently, monies from all sorts of sources find their way in the election campaigns. Drug money, proceeds from criminal conduct, from poaching, from advance bribes from businessmen expecting to be rewarded government contracts, funds diverted from projects, money looted from public coffers and so on must never be allowed to make dirty our electoral process.
What is even more disheartening is that because of mass poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment and general hopelessness of many of our people, many of our citizens have no interest in politics, they are apathetic and do not critically examine the manifestos of political parties. Many of our people would rather receive bribes in form of T-shirts, Chitenge material or money to vote for certain candidates or join gangs to disrupt the campaigns of the opponents of their candidates.
The MMD vision in 1991 was the desire to claim rights to adequate food, shelter, water, land, education, health care and the rights to freedom of association, freedom of speech, movement, freedom from harassment and so on. After 52 years of our independence and 24 years of multi-partism, millions of Zambians still go to bed hungry and sickly children still learn under trees as we politicians still pursue power for personal glory. There is need that we address our politics and drive to change the status quo. The challenge for politicians is to bring food to the table.
It is gratifying that in the one year that President Lungu has been at the helm of the leadership of our country, some noticeable progress towards achieving self-sufficiency in human needs have began to be addressed. Many citizens are happy that President Lungu and the PF government have addressed the Mung’omba draft constitution and on 11 August, we will be voting in a peoples referendum to enhance our Bill of Rights. This enhanced Bill of Rights is quite revolutionary and all well meaning Zambians should vote affirmatively.
It is also gratifying that President Lungu and his government has embarked on extensive public works program which has seen the construction of massive infrastructure in the whole country.
It is also hoped that in the next government, President Lungu and his government will review and implement a taxation policy and system that will provide for price participation in mineral sales, reduce PAYE, abolish nuisance taxes, reduce production taxes – put money in people’s pockets; re-dedicate the government and the people to zero tolerance against corruption and re enact abuse of office as a corrupt offence under the ACC Act; institute indigenous empowerment measures; create a sovereign fund from excess earnings from minerals and support the creation of Zambian middle class; zero rate agriculture; continue investing in education, health and housing; implement a program to create a million jobs annually by implementing a state driven public works program to construct 2 million houses, road construction and other infrastructure; implement equitable and efficient implementation of government programs emphasizing “One Zambia One Nation” motto and doctrine that is against tribalism, nepotism, provincialism, sexism, racism and such a policy that appreciates excellence, performance, skills and fair play.
Such a minimum program in our view will provide a basis for national unity and make the next PF government provide useful public service. In the current political and economic atmosphere, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and the Patriotic Front party provide the best political formation and should be endorsed and supported to win the August, 11 Presidential and General Elections.