African democracy is in crisis – VJ


DEMOCRACY in Africa is in crisis, says Vernon Mwaanga.

The veteran politician said the new generation of African leaders had developed atrocious habits of treating national resources as personal and thereby lowering the bar of integrity.

Mwaanga said many of them use their offices to amass wealth for themselves, their families and friends.

“They use national wealth not for development or the banishment of poverty, but to satisfy their greed, power and prestige, then they cross the red line. It is immoral for wealth no matter how little, to tolerate poverty. The pattern we have been seeing in many African countries is ruthless competition between close subordinates of presidents, not to acquire money to feed, clothe or house themselves, but to give themselves more influence, power and prestige,” he said, in a statement. “Their bosses – namely the presidents – become paralysed to take any disciplinary action against their subordinates because of what they know about their bosses. Many African countries have over borrowed and are struggling even to pay interest on external loans, which were partly diverted to personal bank accounts locally or abroad. Some of this stolen money is then used to create spheres of influence, buy off and silence unprincipled opposition politicians, fund elections, buy properties locally and abroad, live ostentatious lives, among others.”

Mwaanga said nation building was about inclusiveness and not exclusiveness.

He said national building required that all citizens must enjoy the freedom to debate issues freely without fear of recriminations.

Mwaanga said political parties must be founded on democratic principles, which include intraparty freedom to discuss issues internally freely.

He said democracy demands that the minority must always be heard, but in the end, the majority must always have their way.

“In a democracy, those in government will be and must be replaced from time to time. Countries have everything to gain from an injection of new approaches and new ideas. Open discussions on major issues such as national constitutions are indispensably necessary for purposes of building consensus and not relying on the tyranny of the majority in their parliaments,” he said. “African leaders must be tolerant and accommodate differences of opinion in a democracy, which are vital. It would be wrong and unnecessary to feel that the people must wait for their leaders to die before they criticise them. Democracy in Africa is in crisis and it is up to the people of Africa – particularly the younger generation – to rescue it from those corrupt African tyrants who seek to undermine it for their own narrow selfish interests.”

And Mwaanga said many African countries went through a turbulent period of military coups and ethnic conflicts which set Africa back.

He said there was also a time when one party systems were considered the order of the day and prominent among the countries in that category were Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

“After some soul searching, African countries under the guidance of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and later the African Union (AU), they resolved to embrace the concept of democracy, holding of free and fair elections, respect for human rights, freedom of the press and multiparty rule. This wind of change was warmly welcomed by the people of Africa,” Mwaanga recalled.

He said it became apparent that democracy meant different things to different leaders.

“The universal and simple description is that it is a form of government, where the people – and I mean all the people – settle their affairs through free discussions. It became clear that Africa was carrying excess baggage of reluctant democrats, who had other ideas. In a typical African village community setting, elders would sit under a big tree and talk until they agree,” Mwaanga said.

“The world has undergone earth shattering changes in the last few decades and that system can only work in this century through elected representatives of the people – be it at the presidential, parliamentary or local government levels.”

He said the holding of free, fair, democratic and transparent elections provide a level campaign playing field for all participants.

Mwaanga said the purpose of holding elections was to elect people’s representatives who would represent and speak for them.

He said ideally, these were supposed to be people who understand that the privilege to serve the people entails selflessness and developing a huge appetite for service to the people.

“It is not about service to self, family and friends,” he said.

Mwaanga noted that democratic governance had resulted in regular changes of presidents, members of parliament and local councillors.

He said to guard against the insatiable appetite of leaders to overstay in office, term limits for the presidency were included in many national constitutions.

Mwaanga said presidents take an oath to protect and defend the constitution.

“[But] Once they have been in power for some time, they develop a pandemic to amend constitutions or look for loopholes in the constitutions to extend their stay in office beyond the two terms. The Constitution of Zambia clearly states that no person who has twice been elected President shall be eligible to stand for another term of office,” said Mwaanga.


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