By Henry Kyambalesa
While the debate relating to “tribe” or “tribalism” is a petty and irrelevant campaign issue in this year’s general elections, and in any future elections as a matter of fact, I have found it necessary to comment on the assertion by Patriotic Front (PF) Media Director, Sunday Chanda, that the United Party for National Development (UPND) was founded on what he has referred to as a “tribal cradle.”
One of the recurring requirements for the establishment of a political party in Zambia’s Republican constitutions has been that such an entity must “have a national character,” and that it should not “be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, tribal, gender, sectoral, or provincial basis, or engage in propaganda based on any of these factors.”
So, all registered political parties in Zambia today must have met this litmus test and, therefore, none can be said to be a “tribal” political party. Our brother Sunday Chanda should, therefore, refrain from making baseless assertions that are likely to promote tribalism and/or incite ethnic-related violence in our beloved country.
One of the other disturbing issues in Sunday Chanda’s Press Release is his endorsement of the following mantra by the late Samora Machel, former Mozambican President: “For the nation to survive, tribe must die.”
Is he suggesting that the abolition of tribes or ethnic groupings in Zambia is one of the ultimate goals of the PF party?
Samora Machel was a staunch believer in the utopian ideals of socialism and communism advocated by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto and the other literary pieces of work they singularly or jointly authored. One of such ideals includes their advocacy for the alteration of the perceptions and psyches (or psychological make-ups) of members of society “on a mass scale” through state-mandated indoctrination of citizens.
Another of the many ideals advocated by Marx and Engels was the abolition of countries and nationality, which they declared in the following words: “[Communists] … are … reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality [because the] … workers have no country.” And “National divisions and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing … [and the] supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster.”
Mr. Machel must have attempted to reveal his commitment to the realization of this particular ideal when he said, “For the nation to survive, tribe must die,” without even realizing that Marx and Engels actually desired to abolish “the nation” or “the country” that he would have wished to preserve if it were possible to abolish tribes in his country.
Clearly, he extended the advocacy for abolishing countries and nationality to include the “abolition of tribe,” which Marx and Engels did not include because there are, and were, no “tribes” in Western Europe.
If the abolition of tribes in Zambia is not one of PF’s goals, PF officials need to craft a Press Release and disseminate it through news outlets disassociating the party from the toxic opinion of their political party’s Media Director on this matter.
Our country needs a national government that is destined to earnestly spearhead the creation of a socioeconomic environment in which ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious diversities are appreciated, tolerated, and celebrated, and a government that cherishes and promotes the cultures, traditions and traditional ceremonies of its 73 tribes—tribes that, together, make up what is essentially “the Zambian family.”
In conclusion, the fact that the ruling political party’s Media Director can spend time and effort writing on issues that will not improve the livelihoods of the common people is enough proof that the party is not concerned about the bread-and-butter problems facing the people who granted it the mandate to form government 10 years ago.
What more proof do Zambians need to realize that the PF government is actually not interested in addressing the socioeconomic problems and crises facing our country—problems and crises which include high levels of poverty and inequality, declining gross domestic product (GDP), unsustainable levels of externally secured debts, and worsening corruption ranking by Transparency International?
Besides, there is a critical shortage of decent public housing in our country; a great number of our fellow citizens do not have access to electricity and clean water; education and training are still not adequately catered for; crime and unemployment are still rampant and pervasive; and public infrastructure and services are still deficient and are mainly dependent on donor-funding.
Moreover, civil servants are still not adequately compensated for their services, and a lot of civil service retirees cannot get their hard-earned benefits on time; and the healthcare system cannot meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens mainly due to inadequate medicines, healthcare facilities and healthcare personnel.
In addition to such evident incompetence, we currently have government officials who seem to treat non-governmental organizations and opposition political parties and their members as enemies rather than essential members of a pluralistic society—officials like Sunday Chanda who cannot devote their time and efforts to suggesting viable and practical solutions to the real issues and problems facing the country and its people, including hunger, malnutrition, poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, widespread unemployment, crime, corruption, unsustainable levels of external debt, moral decay, and a catalogue of other socioeconomic problems and crises.