You are currently viewing 2016 elections: The role of chiefs, artistes, religious leaders

2016 elections: The role of chiefs, artistes, religious leaders

Analysis: JOE KALUBA
IT IS said that in any democracy everyone regardless of sex, creed, status or race has a democratic right to state their opinion on matters affecting a country. However, depending on one’s position, line of work or responsibility others are urged to keep their opinions to themselves as this can affect others on the running of government or rather influence people they lead, work for or serve.
In Zambia, civil servants including those working in foreign missions, chiefs and religious leaders are not expected to take part in active politics. If they wish to do so they have to leave their positions and seek office or take part in party politics.
What is not clear however is if they can give or have political opinion on issues affecting the people they lead, serve or represent.
The other element is if they give political opinions how far can these opinions go before being dubbed active politicians. It is also not known what is active politics and what is not.
We all know how religious groups have played a part in our political and democratic development as part of the social movement, also as individual bodies.
It is, however, important to note that some religious institutions don’t allow minsters and leaders to take active roles in politics. For instance traditional churches like the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, Seventh Day Adventist and I think the United Church of Zambia once you show interests in active politics you are asked to take leave and venture in your new field of interest. We have seen a lot of people doing so.
I think women and men of God as they are called should stay away from politics and stick to pastoral work. With all the violence and the hate speech going on, especially in this year’s campaign their counsel and advice will be needed. You find that almost everyone involved in these vices goes to church. It is there where the message of peace should start from.
I somehow feel that our church leaders have concentrated too much on our political discourse than trying to help preach peace in their congregations. I also think the calling of political leaders for peace treaties, allegiance, meetings or commitment whatever you want to call them is sometimes just a waste of time. The real problems are in the middle or at the grass root. As I said this is where our pastors, priests, nuns and church elders come in.
Likewise, traditional leaders are also urged to sit and watch without taking part. They are however free to give counsel especially on matters affecting their subjects.
The augment is that chiefs taking position might affect or rather influence how people who are inclined to a given chiefdom or tribe will vote in an elections.
The golden question is. How about certain traditional leaders who back or who have backed a given candidate or political party? Does this affect our political landscape? What do other traditional leaders think. Do they do the same?
Imagine a situation where our traditional leadership especially the senior ones came out that they support a particular party in this year’s elections.
That will trigger a situation that might not go well for our politics. I think chiefs should also be very careful the way they make statements. Responsibility should also be seen in this regard,
And talking about responsibility I think just like chiefs or religious leaders’ artistes too must take responsibility in the way they take part in our national politics. Of course all minds and skills are needed for our democracy to grow. The real issue is how we bring out these issues.
I mean if you look at local and international artistes, it is their work or music that help (ed) to bring about peace, political stability or bring bad vices like apartheid or slave trade to an end. Songs and poems were composed to that end.
I think we all have noticed that this year’s elections have attracted a lot of musicians. Political parties both from the ruling and opposition have received direct and indirect support or endorsement from different musicians and bands.
The question though is. Is it in order for our musicians to take sides or compose songs for a given party? While, this is where it gets interesting, some people have argued that artistes should be neutral. They shouldn’t be seen to campaign for individuals or do political songs. Then who should do songs?
In any case, a few weeks ago I was listening to a programme on a local Lusaka radio station via internet. The guest of the day a musician told listeners that for him he will not do a song for anyone because he believes musicians should not be involved in politics.
Some callers supported him and pointed out that those who are doing political campaigns will buy or listen to their own music in the future. Interesting isn’t it? For me you can look at this in different ways. First there is a musician who has a talent which they think they can use to make money and pay bills.
Second there is that democratic right that I talked about earlier and last but not the least there are people who listen to these artist’s music. In my opinion artistes have a democratic right to choose who they want to support. Zambia is not the only country where musicians or personalties have supported a given party. Like I noted before, just like everyone who wants to use their skills in order to have a sound life musicians or bands have every right to work for their money.
I think the problem we have in our country is that we think our opinions are more important than others. Parties have to sell themselves and they do whatever it takes to attract everyone to be on their side. Which musician or personality you attract as a party depends on your ideals and the behaviour of your members. Unlike chiefs and religious leaders I think musicians cannot be restricted not to come out and throw their weight on a given party.
Despite this I think musicians have to be responsible about what they sing .Some songs have been controversial but this is politics and not a tickling competition.
Though politics not being a tickling competition I would like to see proper and educative songs being done.
Artistes should distinguish between entertainment and social commentary. Or provoking and putting across a message. Every musician should come to know that songs which insult others will be forgotten within days, weeks or months. I strongly think politicians too should give counsel in this regard.
I have said it before in my previous articles and analysis. I will say it again. politicians whether in the ruling or opposition who promote hate speech or violence have no place in our politics and democratic consolidation.
In this year’s elections everyone’s effort is needed for that peaceful election to come forth. Hence politicians, musicians, chiefs or religious leaders should help to stump out that hate and violence behaviour from political cadres.
The author is a PhD candidate at the International Postgraduate Centre at Goethe University, Frankfurt.