By Henry Kyambalesa*
“[Muchinga Province] … is a bedroom for President Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Muchinga remains so. And we as his sons are always ready to take care of the bedroom, to even kill the cockroaches as well as the rats that enter our father’s bedroom. That is our responsibility.”—PF official warning UPND supporters and their president and, by extension, other political parties and their leaders and supporters. Accessed at the following Web link:
Well, there you have it, fellow Zambians!
As I have maintained before in one of my previous articles, an elected Republican President—currently our brother Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu—is given the mandate by the people to form government with the expectation that he or she has to serve and represent all citizens irrespective of their political views, political affiliations, ethnic extraction, and religious convictions.
He or she also has to diligently serve all citizens irrespective of the region of the country they hail from, and/or who or which political party they decide to support.
As such, the Zambian president needs to function as the glue that binds members of our beloved country’s 73 tribes together into one Zambian family—a family that includes our compatriots in Muchinga Province.
We must never attempt to mimic or exhibit the savage-like behavior of wild animals which demarcate or circumscribe their territories and earnestly protect the territories—even to the extent of killing or maiming other animals that dare to stride into the territories.
The following news headlines which have appeared in various news media outlets relating to our beloved country are a clear indication that political campaigns leading to the 2021 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections have actually started:
“Zambians Will Vote for Me Again In 2021 – President Lungu.”
“PF in Eastern Province Says It Is Mobilizing to Cancel out Southern Vote in 2021.”
“Vice President, Inonge Wina Is … Expected in Eastern Province for a Four-Day Working Visit.” And
“President Lungu Expected in Chilubi for Campaign Rallies.”
In this article, I wish to suggest viable ways and means by which we can hold fair, indisputable and violence-free elections in 2021 and beyond. Specifically, I have addressed the need for political leaders and their supporters to seriously consider issues and matters relating to “tribe,” “corruption,” “religion,” “role of the news media,” “the role of chieftains,” “role of the police,” “the role of ECZ,” “role of the citizenry,” regulated “political advertisements,” and the need to be “kind-hearted” before, during and after the forthcoming elections.
THE MATTER OF TRIBE
Although the majority of Zambian citizens today can identify themselves as belonging to one or two of our country’s 73 tribes, we are all essentially one and the same people. In short, we are all members of the Zambian family. And recognition of our oneness has, no doubt, been the linchpin of the enhanced and unmatched national unity which our country has enjoyed since independence in 1964.
Therefore, political parties and their leaders and supporters need to en-gage in political activities designed to bolster national unity. In this endeavours, we all need to make an effort to build on the UNIP and Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda’s timeless “One Zambia, One Nation” slogan and the electric “Tiyende Pamodzi” mantra in our quest to create a cohesive, unitary, compassionate, and peaceful country.
Dr. Kaunda reminded us of our civic and moral obligation in this regard in his message to Zambians in the Diaspora on October 24, 2020—Zambia’s 56th Independence Day—in the following words: “Let us love one another, and remember to maintain our Motto: One Zambia, One Nation.”
By this message, former President Dr. Kaunda has apparently granted us the authority to use the “One Zambia, One Nation” slogan and the Tiyende Pamodzi” mantra at the beginning of all our political rallies and campaigns. So, let us not hesitate to use them from now onwards.
An editorial comment that appeared in the now-defunct Post Newspaper of October 18, 2001 summed up the necessity for such an effort in the following words: “There is very little, if not nothing, that can be achieved in our country without a very high level of national unity.”
Incidentally, a caveat political leaders need to remember in this regard is the fact that, upon being afforded the opportunity to form government, they would actually be expected to seek viable ways and means of creating a socioeconomic setting in which diversity with respect to ethnicity, race, culture, and religion is both appreciated and celebrated. “How good and [how] pleasant it is for brethren to live together in unity,” the Holy Bible reminds us in Psalm 133:1.
THE ISSUE OF CORRUPTION
From now onwards, there is going to be a need for political leaders and their supporters to guard themselves against the temptation of accusing other citizens of having engaged in corrupt practices if such citizens have not been convicted of having committed such a crime.
As stipulated in Article 18 Clauses (1) and (2)(a) of the Constitution of Zambia (1996), every citizen is “presumed to be innocent until he” or she pleads guilty or he or she is proven to be guilty “by an independent and impartial court established by law.”
There is also a need for political leaders and their supporters to avoid seeking the involvement of the Anti-Corruption Commission or any other organ or agency of the government in politically motivated investigations of political opponents.
The Anti-Corruption Commission, for example, was established for the purposes of preventing, investigating and prosecuting cases of alleged corruption in public and private institutions.
The current debate relating to the possibility of constituting a commission of inquiry on privatization should, therefore, have required the enlistment of the Commission’s involvement if it were to be both necessary and practical. In this regard, the use of the Inquiries Act should be reserved for issues which cannot be handled by existing executive or complementary agencies like the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The Commission is also responsible for assisting institutions (both private and public) in revising their methods and procedures of work in order to remove or reduce opportunities which are likely to facilitate corrupt practices.
THE MATTER OF RELIGION
The Preamble of our country’s current Constitution upholds “a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion.” With respect to religion, this implies that all citizens have the right to worship the “God” or “god” of their choice, whether it be through the Baha’i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Taoism, or through any of the minor vehicles of faith and worship.
In other words, Zambia genuinely recognizes and safeguards each and every societal member’s freedom of worship, the freedom to choose one’s religion, and the freedom to choose to be an atheist or a pagan.
Therefore, there is a need for political leaders and their supporters to refrain from making statements which violate their political opponents’ “right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion” that is enshrined in the Constitution.
In passing, there is a need for government officials, political leaders and other members of society to be mindful of the need to refrain from involvement in any of the following undertakings in order to prevent the potential disruption of public order and socioeconomic activities by cliques of fanatics from any of our country’s religious groupings:
1. The use of public funds by a local or the national government to set up a Church, Mosque, a Synagogue, or any other house of worship, and/or to provide any form of support to any given religious group, institution or activity;
2. Officially participating in the affairs of any given religious group or institution or providing for official participation by any given religious leader or group in political or governmental affairs.
3. The use of a religious platform by any individual or group of individuals to form a political party or alliance, or to seek a leadership position in any of the three branches of government—that is, the legislature, the judiciary or the executive;
4. Seeking the inclusion of denominational religious subjects in the curricula of schools funded by the government, except studies relating to world religions without delving into the content of their sacred books, because doing so is likely to create a hostile learning environment an environment where scholars from divergent religious groupings are likely to attempt to impose their religious ideals and doctrines on others;
5. Subjection of candidates for election or appointment to public office to a religious test expressly or otherwise requiring them to declare their religious affiliations.
6. Desecration of other people’s religious symbols or objects.
7. Involvement in religious sermons or uttering statements which are contemptuous to, or are designed to slight, other religious groupings or denominations; and/or
8. Involvement in religious sermons, ceremonies or singing at non-religious public arenas without a police officer permit or conducting such activities on public modes of transportation which are not chartered by groups involved.
In countries where government officials, political leaders and other members of society do not observe these kinds of safeguards, violent clashes between and/or among religious groups in their quest to dominate the political sphere, and to impose their religious ideals on the citizenry, have become exceedingly difficult to contain.
As it is often said, prevention is better than cure! Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad summed up the perilous nature of religious conflicts in his address to the World Evangelical Fellowship in May 2001 in the following words: “Once started, religious … [conflicts have] a tendency to go on and on, [and] to become permanent feuds.”
ROLE OF THE MEDIA
Firstly, members of the news media need to be professional and responsible if they are to play an important role in exposing abuses of power and deficiencies in governance. They, for example, need to avoid statements or actions that are demeaning, inflammatory and/or harmful to other members of society.
Press freedom carries with it a great deal of responsibility on the part of journalists; it is, therefore, important to remember that other societal members have fundamental and constitutional rights which need to be safeguarded, too. In shorthand, a journalist’s freedom to report on any given issue ends where societal members’ rights also come into play—such as the right to privacy.
It is also essential for journalists to guard themselves against the temptation of engaging in speculation and rumour-mongering while performing their formal or official duties.
Secondly, and as provided for in Article 50 of Zambia’s current Constitution, the ruling political party needs to enable opposition political par-ties and their leaders to gain some limited access to the public mass media to which it has free access—that is, ZNBC, ZANIS, Times of Zambia, and the Zambia Daily Mail.
The ruling political party should also avoid the temptation to muzzle news-media institutions. In this regard, there is a need for all political contestants to embrace and tolerate independent news media and local interest groups as important constituents of a functioning democratic and pluralistic society.
Besides, we expect both public and private mass-media institutions to engage in self-regulation in the performance of their functions—functions which, in a democratic society like Zambia, include the following:
1. Serving as watchdogs to the three organs of government—that is, the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive.
2. Informing the public about issues which are of national interest, serving as a medium of communication that guarantees free and open debate and discussion among members of society, and influencing public opinion through impartial, balanced and fair analysis of issues which are of national interest.
3. Facilitating the functioning of the economic system through sponsored advertisements designed to bring buyers and sellers into con tact with each other. And
4. Serving as a medium for entertaining the public through: (a) comics, humor columns, crossword puzzles, coverage of sporting events, and other forms of entertainment provided by the print media; (b) movies, comedy, music, sports commentaries, and other forms of entertainment provided through television; (c) music, comedy, sports commentaries, and other forms of entertainment provided through radio programming; and (d) video games, music, coverage of sporting events, and other forms of entertainment provided through the Inter-net.
THE ROLE OF CHIEFTAINS
Since independence in October 1964, there have been complaints and sentiments from some segments of Zambian society about the use of traditional leaders by ruling political parties to gain political advantage, particularly during political campaigns.
There is a need to put an end to the use of chieftains in this manner.
If we continue to use chieftains in political campaigns, we could be paving the way for anarchy in our 283 chiefdoms by pushing chieftains into the political arena. We could be planting the seeds of destruction for chiefdoms, the Zambian nation, and for our nascent democracy.
Specifically, chieftains are likely to abuse the absolute traditional authority they wield by imposing their political views and choices on their sub-jects if government officials and political leaders induce them to participate in partisan politics. Besides, traditional leaders’ participation in partisan politics has the potential to lead to tribal politics, and to disunity in, and disintegration of, their chiefdoms.
ROLE OF THE POLICE
Police officers can also contribute to our country’s quest to hold fair, in-disputable and violence-free elections in 2021 and beyond. They can do so by being non-partisan, although they can still exercise their right to register as voters, as well as vote in elections or referenda. They can also do so by refraining from furthering the interests or causes of any political party, or any other kind of Organisation.
Moreover, they can contribute to our country’s quest to hold fair, indisputable and violence-free elections by diligently performing the following functions stipulated in Article 193(2) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016: (a) protection of life and property; (b) preservation of peace, and maintenance of law and order; (c) detection and prevention of crime; (d) upholding the Bill of Rights; and (e) fostering and promoting good relationships with members of society and with the other units of the national security services.
The use of the Zambia Police Service by any ruling political party to silence political opponents, or for any other dubious activities, is, therefore, not only morally unacceptable, but it also constitutes an unconstitutional use of the Service.
THE ROLE OF ECZ
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should perform its functions without any undue influence or interference by government officials, political-party leaders, or any other members of society, let alone by foreign entities.
The functions alluded to, which we should expect ECZ to perform diligently, include the following: (a) supervising the registration of voters and reviewing voters’ registers; (b) conducting and supervising elections and referenda; (c) formulating and reviewing general electoral regulations, and performing any other statutory functions which the National Assembly may assign to it; and (d) reviewing the boundaries of the Constituencies into which the country is divided for the purposes of elections.
The essential role of ECZ in our country’s system of elections could have been enhanced greatly by the creation of an Electoral Complaints Authority a separate governmental watchdog which would have been de-signed to monitor the activities of officers of the ECZ, and the conduct of elections in the country.
This would have hopefully lessened the vulnerability of the ECZ and the electoral process to the influences, manipulation and/or machinations of unscrupulous politicians and political parties.
Specifically, the functions of the “Electoral Complaints Authority” would have included the following:
1. Consideration and determination of all issues and matters of malpractices relating to the ECZ and/or its officers occurring before, during and after elections or referenda.
2. Determination of all electoral disputes and issues of malpractices, occurring before or during an election within twenty-four hours of receiving a complaint with regard to the disputes or malpractices, and should have been granted the discretion to make an order –
(a) Prohibiting a person or political party or alliance from doing any act proscribed by or under an Act of Parliament.
(b) Excluding a person or any agent of a person or any candidate or agent of a political party or alliance from entering a polling station.
(c) Reducing or increasing the number of votes cast in favour of a candidate after a recount.
(d) Disqualifying the candidature of any person.
(e) Determining whether the votes cast at a particular polling station tally in whole or in part.
(f) Facilitating the filing of a complaint and making a report to a court or tribunal handling any electoral petition; or
(g) Cancelling an election or election result and calling for a fresh election, where the electoral malpractice is of a nature that would affect the final electoral results.
3. A decision of the “Electoral Complaints Authority” on any of the matters referred to in ‘Clause (2)’ above will be final only for purposes of proceeding with the elections at hand.
4. Any complaints connected to an election that would be raised after any given election would be dealt with under an election petition by an electoral tribunal.
ROLE OF THE CITIZENRY
Ordinary citizens in our beloved country can also play a vital role in the process of creating a stable and non-violent political atmosphere. During local and national elections, for example, they need to put religious, personal, ethnic, and partisan interests aside and reflect more seriously on the goals political contestants promise to pursue during their terms of office if they get elected.
Several goals should be expected to be on the agenda of each and every aspirant for political office and should constitute the bottom line for assessing the quality, vision, and patriotism of all candidates. They are as follows:
1. Provision of accessible and quality education, vocational training, and healthcare.
2. Creation of an innovative and competitive economy.
3. Generation of programs intended to benefit children, elderly citizens, and the handicapper.
4. Creation of a free and just legal system that is committed to the preservation and protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms.
5. Provision of essential services and facilities, including an efficient transportation system and adequate public safety and security.
6. Promotion and preservation of cherished traditional and cultural values.
7. Promotion and consolidation of national unity.
8. Protection and conservation of natural resources.
9. Restructuring of the government machinery so that it can be more responsive to the needs of the masses; and
10. Generation of a foreign policy whose overall goal is to work hand in hand with other peace-loving nations worldwide in creating a more compassionate global community.
How a political party or candidate for a high-level position intends to achieve these goals, considering our country’s limited financial and other critical resources, should be the overriding reason to align oneself with a particular political party or political candidate.
A patriotic citizen—one who has the interest of his or her country at heart—would be at pains to succumb to personal, ethnic, partisan, and/or other parochial interests.
Besides, it is important for a country’s citizenry to understand that elections are not an end in themselves; they are essentially intended to afford individuals the opportunity they deserve as citizens to choose those who are adjudged to be both competent and willing to lead them in their quest for a more democratic, more peaceful, more affluent, and more egalitarian society.
And, after elections, winners and losers need to “bury” their political differences, embrace each other’s useful development-related ideas, and briskly move on to the noble tasks of nation-building and socioeconomic progress, with a renewed sense of purpose and determination never relenting in their individual and collective efforts to improve the quality of life of the majority of people in our beloved country.
In general, citizenship in Zambia imposes certain duties and responsibilities upon individuals involved. As stipulated in Article 43 (1) and (2) of our country’s current Constitution, each and every bona fide citizen has a responsibility and moral obligation to:
1. Be patriotic to Zambia and promote its development and good image.
2. Pay taxes and duties lawfully due and owing to the State.
3. Protect and conserve the environment and utilised natural resources in a sustainable manner.
4. Maintain a clean and healthy environment.
5. Provide national, defence and military service when called upon by the State.
6. Cooperate with law enforcement agencies for the maintenance and enforcement of law and order.
7. Acquire basic understanding of this Constitution and promote its ideals and objectives.
8. Register and vote, if eligible, in national and local government elections and referenda.
9. Develop one’s abilities to the greatest possible extent through acquisition of knowledge, continuous learning, and the development of skills.
10. Foster national unity and live in harmony with others; and
11. Understand and enhance Zambia’s place in the international community.
There is a need to dissuade political leaders, their supporters and third parties from making dubious, misleading, or false statements during political campaigns about other individuals seeking to be elected to public positions.
Civic leaders, political leaders, media personnel, and any other individuals and entities will, therefore, do well to refrain from publishing or circulating information or messages designed to promote a political party, a political alliance or a political candidate without having such information or messages ratified in person by the candidate or political party’s representative at the beginning or end of the messages as follows: “My name is …, and I approve this message.”
Also, third parties wishing to sponsor political advertisements and/or publicity messages against an individual or political party or political alliance will need to have their advertisements and/or messages endorsed by their preferred individual or political party.
There is a need for each and every Zambian to refrain from rhetoric that is likely to foment intra-party and/or inter-party bickering, hostility, and rivalry. Our beloved country is better served if we all make an earnest effort to develop a spirit of compassion, kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness.
We should remember that anger, hatred, vengeance, arrogance, and stubbornness are noxious and a blemish to the soul and are counterproductive to our quest for a conducive environment for holding fair, indisputable, and violence-free elections in 2021 and beyond.
I will now go into hibernation until after the general election scheduled to be held on the second Thursday of August 2021, according to Article 56(1) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016.
*Henry Kyambalesa is a retired academic. He has pursued studies in Business Administration and Management at the University of Zambia and Oklahoma City University, Mineral Economics at Colorado School of Mines, and International Studies (including the fields of International Business, International Economics, International Relations, and International Technology Analysis and Management) at the University of Denver.
He has served as adjunct Assistant Dean and tenured lecturer in Business Administration in the School of Business at the Copperbelt University, and on the MBA Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, USA. He has also served an Instructor in Economics, Marketing and Statistics at the former Zambia Institute of Technology, and as a Guest Lecturer in Supervision, Production Management and Management Development at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Zambia.