Columnists

Zambia needs consensual politics, not adversarial

SHIMUNZA

Analysis: DANIEL SHIMUNZA
BI-PARTISANSHIP, or multi-partisanship, is required in our democracy going forward. Zambia needs unity, not division at all. This unity can only come from mature leaders who put the country first, not self-preservation.
The National Dialogue Forum (NDF) was very progressive in many respects, not without faults. To claim perfection from the imperfections of any human-project is an unrealistic expectation that is too much to ask for.
However, what is tenable is a possibility of a progressive effort in legal and democratic institutional reforms. Infallibility is divine, not human at all, but a possibility of change. The position taken by UPND around the NDF is speculative, arrogant, divisive, misrepresentative, and biased towards an immature self-preservation position, to say the least.
The new leadership for Zambia must be beyond such traits. Inclusiveness, tolerance, unity, peace, and regarding that “significant other” is critical for Zambia’s transformation.
Being an opposition does not imply opposing, or boycotting everything government is doing. Balance is the key to life. When it is wrong or right, it must be stated as such, regardless of whether it is from the left or right. Objectivity, rather than subjectivity, is required in our political discourse.
Being reasonable and rational, rather than being opinionated and sentimental, is the bliss of maturity for national unity and transformation.
The courage of a leader is known by how he interacts, not only with his allies, but more with his ‘perceived’ enemies. Wisdom is to respect your enemy, for him to see your wisdom, not foolishness.
Whereas in the NDF some controversies and possibilities exist, there is no doubt that its debates, differences, consensus, and outcomes have sparked a new political dispensation in Zambia. Before you criticise anything, you must first make your contribution. This is the philosophy of credible novel contribution in any field of life.
Those who never contributed to this dialogue, and are misrepresenting the facts of this legislative process, are mostly not being fair by their bias and speculative analysis of issues. The process is as important as the substantive reforms and outcomes of the NDF. Some of the controversies of the NDF include, among others:
Firstly, the United Party for National Development (UPND) critics of NDF from the Church-led failed national dialogue. Those from this group, the UPND are blinded by their own lack of objectivity, and absentia.
They profess an intent to unite the nation, but their practice is very divisive and arrogant. Zambia needs unity through mature, credible and transformative leadership.
The Church must understand the separation of Church and State. It is a functional separation, to avoid usurpation of functions of the State by the Church, and the likely abuses thereof.
Those of us who attended the Church-led dialogue, at both Kapingila in Kabulonga and at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, are objective, not subjective, in our debate over this matter.
UPND and the three church mother bodies leadership are divisive, and the nation does not need this anymore.
If the Patriotic Front (PF)-led government was the only one at fault, they should have acted better themselves as UPND and the Church, so that the whole nation could have judged them otherwise thus prudent.
Two wrongs never make a right. The objective and judgment of the UPND is impaired by pride and arrogance, sadly. The “I know it all” attitude is repugnant to human co-existence, collaboration, and cooperation.
The three church mother bodies, “especially its leaders”, failed the nation in the much-needed reconciliation dialogue, for over seven months, as all stakeholders agreed and looked to the Church for reconciliation.
Instead, the Church came up with an alternative road map of legal reforms, usurping the functions of legislative responsibilities of Government. The Church, in any nation, can only be the moral compass, apostolic, and prophetic voice to direct, counsel, and reconcile differing political parties.
Nowhere in the world today is the Church responsible for enacting laws, which is the function of Parliament, as in our democracy in practice. The church mother bodies over-exerted themselves, and zealously hijacked the roles of Government, which was a gross error, and a sad misdirection of its core functions.
Reconciliation dialogue by the Church cannot, could not, and will not enact laws of Zambia, but Parliament. Only recommendations from the Church, can be forwarded to law-makers.
The Church must remain relevant in its respective functions in our democracy. We shall all continue to respect the Church thereon, unequivocally, and unreservedly, except their over-zealous errors.
Secondly, to assert that all who were at the NDF are PF surrogates is insulting our collective intelligence. When we attended the Church-led dialogue, at Kapingila and Cathedral of the Holy Cross, did it mean we became UPND surrogates?
We must be given the benefit that we are intelligent, mature, and able to make wise decisions in national interest. We attended both the Church-led dialogue meetings because we want to unify Zambia, not further polarise the nation. But the UPND fails lamentably in this regard, as everything thus far only has to suit them selfishly, which is a childish, immature and sad approach to national development and progress.
That various leaders of political parties, NGOs, civil society organisations, and church leaders are all to be bundled as being ‘unwise’ and just being dragged by the PF into the NDF, is an absurd assertion of any sane man. The UPND must know that all these groups lead massive numbers of people, and it will backfire against them, by these uncivilised insinuations of PF surrogacy. In life, you can even learn from the unwise, how not to rule or behave.
Life is not about selfish aggrandisement, but making a noble and novel contribution, considering others first. The UPND wants dialogue and unity their way, not by consensus or negotiation with others, or there is no way. If they do not get their way, no other way will do.
This is a very unprogressive and divisive approach in Zambian politics since 2016. That is why we are still polarised as a country, with such outdated political leadership.
Thirdly, unifying the nation is needed. The NDF was not about reconciliation dialogue, but legislative dialogue around, the constitutional reforms, Public Order Act reforms, electoral reforms, and Political Parties Bill reforms, which was withdrawn by consensus of the stakeholders. The nation still needs a unifier, not dividers from the PF or UPND, or any party for that matter.
However, the nation still needs to unite around a national cause that is greater than any political formation. This is only tenable if the leaders transform from adversarial politics, to consensual politics. We must find common ground.
Certainly, we do not agree with everything the PF has done; high inequalities, high taxes, high unemployment levels, high poverty levels in the nation, violence, and the worst of all corruption. The failures of PF are an opportunity for transformation of the nation, and a possible change of government in 2021.
This is a democracy, not autocracy. The PF must know that. The Zambian people are bound to react to injustice and any of these defaults in 2021, or before, as the electorate remain discontented, if not corrected early.
The UPND in its current political formation is unable to unify our nation, unless they transform their attitude towards co-existence, cooperation, and common interests of the nation beyond their ‘alliance’ formations.
Zambia is bigger than their alliance. The UPND, from the 2016 elections, constitutes less than 2 million votes, and PF less than 2 million votes. Zambia now 17 million people.
But we must still endeavour to find solutions around these problems. Insulting and name-calling will not unite Zambia. One of the UPND leaders, on Prime Television’s, Oxygen of Democracy programme called the NDF “the devil” because they refused the Church-led dialogue. Such tones infer misrepresentation, bias, arrogance and immaturity.
There is no unifying tone in that kind of leadership. We can objectively differ in opinion, which is our democratic right, but to insult others or attack their person is a gross misrepresentation of lack of virtuous leadership.
You cannot project division in your party and hope to bring unity in the nation. Charity begins at home. Democracy begins inter-party, and become a national character in inter-party political dialogue.
Fourthly, the NDF presented both controversies and possibilities. The controversies are also inherently with possibilities, for further discussion and debate in Parliament around the contentious issues in the interest of the people of Zambia and their supreme wishes. For instance, the issue of bringing back deputy ministers can still be looked at by parliament if the people do not want it. The issues around the coalition government can still be fine-tuned by Parliament in relation to proportionate representation, (PR), and how the Zambian context be set.
Clarity must be sought for matters related to permits and notices with police in the Public Order Act. What makes a democracy healthy and mature is the ability of the people to find the voice of consensus, through healthy debate and effective or constructive criticism.
Therefore, within each of the controversial issues from the NDF are seeds of further development or refinement by Parliament.
We as a nation must find that voice of consensus, not coercion. Boycotting everything, and throwing political tantrums, even when you can sit together with others is not unifying, but divisive.
All controversies of NDF are also loaded with possibilities for further discussions and debate. We must be a nation of positive possibility thinkers, not always championing selfish interests of self-preservation. Co-existence is a matter of give and take, win or lose realities daily, and a lot of tolerance, for others’ rights beyond your selfish pursuits.
Maturity is responding appropriately to life situations, with capacity that solves challenges beyond oneself. This is what transformative leadership does; to solve problems before they happen.
Fifthly, the possibility of transformation is in PF hands, as the party in power. The responsibility of national transformation is solely resting, between now and 2021, in the hands of the PF-led government.
Failing the Zambian people is not an option. A lot is at stake right now. The economy is not working, democratic institutions are needed. What will be the legacy of PF? That they promised lower taxes, only to increase them? That they promised more jobs, only to make our people casual workers to the Chinese? That they promised more money in our pockets, and gave us no disposable income? The days of complacency are now over, Zambians are crying, may the leadership of PF hear, or there will be another punishment in 2021.
Our controversies from the NDF are also possibilities. See beyond the problem and be part of the solution. Before you criticise, check your own contribution first to Zambia’s well-being, in the legislative reform process. Let us unify, not destroy our nation. Transformation cries out, be part of the change, not the problem!
The author is founder president, Movement for National Transformation.

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