Editor's Comment

Don’t point fingers anyhow

CIVIL society is ideally an essential building block of development and national cohesion.
In a country blessed with peace and stability like Zambia, civil society fills the space untouched by government and the private sector.
Civil society encompasses nongovernment organisations such as advocacy groups, professional associations, churches, and cultural institutions.
In a fragile and conflict-ridden country, the civil society plays an even more important role of providing essential services and commodities to those affected, thereby covering up the disruption.
Civil society is also an important source of information for both citizens and government. They monitor government policies and actions and
hold government accountable. They engage in advocacy and offer alternative policies for government, the private sector, and other institutions.
They also deliver services, especially to the poor and underserved. They defend citizens’ rights and work to change and uphold social norms and behaviours.
While it is good for democracy to have a civil society and an opposition with a strong voice, it is also true that criticism must be aimed at building and not destroying.
We are not saying those in government must not be criticised or held accountable by civil society organisations on matters of national
interest, but that in doing so the civil society should put a human face and treat those in authority with respect
by using the correct language and tone in delivering any message. Ultimately the message should also be correct and centred on helping Government to build a better Zambia for all citizens.
The observation by US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires David Young that people should criticise Government responsibly is indeed valid.
Mr Young is right in saying that fair and constructive criticism is necessary for any democracy to thrive.
Mr Young is also right when he says: “If you cannot criticise each other, including the governing party, then it is not good for democracy. But criticism must be fair and constructive. The right to dissent is one of the greatest strengths of democracy.”
Sadly over the years some civil society organisations and political parties have had members who have thrown decency to the winds.
Some civil society organisations, like some opposition political parties, seem bent on nothing but to oust the government of the day. Such do not see any good in anything Government does. Their criticism is not aimed at helping Government to improve in areas of concern but rather to discredit it as unfit to govern.
Surely this is not the role of the civil society, neither is it the role of the opposition. A civilised civil society or opposition worth its salt will embrace objectivity. It will not only criticise government but will praise it where such is due.
While there are some unprejudiced civil society organisations which criticise Government constructively and praise it where due, we know there are also others that have declared enmity against the government of the day.
Their agenda is no different from some political parties whose agenda is fault-finding and harping on this in the hope of discrediting the Government in the eyes of most citizens.
Such do not delight in bringing to the fore any good done by those in authority because, they contend, doing so would jeopardises their chances of ascending to power.
While such propensity for sloppy criticism may be expected from some political parties, the civil society is expected to be that neutral voice that as
truthful as would be expected of a group of thinkers who have the interest of the country at heart.
Unfortunately, many fall far short of the expectation that they provide credible criticism or advice. Such should just open up and join politics rather than guise themselves as neutral players in the socio-economic space.
We have seen some people leaving the civil society to join politics. This is what should happen to all those with strong political inclinations.
Let the civil service be left to the apolitical who view Government as a strategic partner in development.
Civil society organisations and opposition political parties can operate in the same space. There is more than enough room for everyone. But let there be decency.




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