THE circumstances and drama surrounding the failed August 2016 presidential election petition clearly demonstrates that the non-partisan Church, NGOs and the association of university scholars in Zambia must begin to play a pivotal role in the political, social and economic development of our country and not political party cadres. The nation must now be aware of the possible dangers and problems of allowing political party cadres to interpret the law, analyse national issues and set the agenda for the nation. The government of the day, political parties and ordinary Zambians must sincerely turn to the non-partisan Church, NGOs and the association of university scholars in Zambia for direction when the country reaches a deadlock or crossroads.
The Bible narrates a situation of what happened when the three wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem and created a crisis by asking, â€œWhere is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come
to worship him.â€ The Bible tells us that when King Herold heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him and in response King Herold assembled all the chief priests, record keepers, teachers of the law and scribes of the people, to find out where the Christ, the King of the Jews was to be born. The Bible says that they told him, â€œIn Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophets.â€ (Mathew 2:1-6)
King Herold and the people of Jerusalem did not gather and consult the palace cadres to find out where Christ the King was to be born but they wisely and intelligently opted to assemble the Church, NGOs and the University scholars of the day to find out the truth. This is also what the government of the day and political party leaders in Zambia must begin to do before making decisions on very serious national issues. The developed countries of Western Europe, East Asia and North America have not departed from this principle. The government of the day, political parties and their leaders, ordinary citizens, business organisations and media houses turn to scholars and think tanks in the Church, NGOâ€™s and universities for solutions when the nation, society and businesses reach a dead-end or crossroads and no wonder they are always making progress.
If we also want development and progress in Zambia, the non-partisan Church, NGOs and the association of university scholars in Zambia must take centre stage in the national decisions that are being made because these institutions are the depository of wisdom, knowledge and information on issues affecting the people. These institutions must be allowed to explain to the Zambian people in a non-partisan and impartial way what the Zambian constitution actually says when certain things happen and why political violence, regional and tribal voting is now taking place in the country.
In Africa, Zambia inclusive, the voice of wisdom from the non-partisan Church, NGOâ€™s and university scholars has been dwarfed by the loud and partisan voice of political cadres whose analysis and contribution to national issues is most of the time misleading and biased towards their political party. Even at Mulungushi International Conference Centre where all the drama started unfolding during the announcement of the August 11, 2016 presidential election results, it was political party cadres who spoke on top of their voices and began to steer the country in a very wrong and dangerous direction that left most Zambians dumbfounded.
Later on it had to take the President-elect Edgar Lungu, who was in a very awkward situation being at the centre of what was happening, to lead the way in assuring the nation that the opposition political parties had a constitutional right to seek redress in the Constitutional Court but in the end everything was going to be alright in the country as it has turned out. This assurance should have been coming from the non-partisan leaders of the Church, NGOâ€™s and scholars in Zambia. In this way ordinary Zambians would have understood very quickly what was going on and less tension would have prevailed in the nation.
In the same vein, the opposition political party that petitioned the presidential election should have consulted the non-partisan Church, NGOs and the association of university scholars in Zambia before going to the Constitutional Court instead of listening and being misled by their political party cadres. Even now, numerous losing parliamentary candidates are petitioning their loss of parliamentary elections in the courts of law. Have these petitioners consulted the non-partisan Church, NGOs and the university scholars to get an independent view of the right course of action or they have just relied on advice from their cadres. In the end, tension will persist in the communities, financial resources and time will be wasted in the courts of law at the expense of personal and national development.
The Church, NGOâ€™s and scholars must strengthen their internal operational capacity in order to be in a better position to give well-researched advice, reasons and causes of certain national events and to initiate political dialogue and transformation in the country. To speak with authority and regain the confidence of ordinary Zambians they must remove or put stringent measures in place to control the political party cadres that have infiltrated their leadership and general membership. It is political party cadres with ill intentions and negative influence that have caused these institutions to lose focus of their role in the nation.
The only hope for Zambians to live in sustained peace, love and unity is to demand for the non-partisan Church, NGOs and association of university scholars to be magnanimous and speak the truth over national affairs,for the political party cadres to concentrate on reorganising and modernising their political parties and all ordinary Zambians to work hard and tirelessly to achieve the dream of One Zambia one nation.
The author is an International Associate, African Centre for Disaster Studies.
Church, NGOs and scholars role in society