ZAMBIAN DEMOCRACY AND POLITICAL PARTIES
Although democracy in Zambia shares the same definition as everywhere else, it’s praxis is unique and deserves a scholarly interrogation. At the attempt to understand it, these questions emerge, who owns our democracy and on whose shoulders does it rest?
To some democracy is just an act of voting a leader into political power. To others it’s a complete appreciation of freedoms and privileges that are embodied in the concept of democracy. Some of these freedoms being the freedom to free expression, association, movement and of conscience. Democracy as a governance system promises even more to those without political positions. It guarantees power even to those without political positions. The freedom to elect people into positions of political power is not a complete expression of a democracy.
So who owns the Zambian democracy? I have been alive for some years now and old enough to claim that I witnessed the coming to the political table of the MMD with a properly branded claim of democracy. The MMD told the democracy story so well that even in my simplest form cognitively, I appreciated the idea. And the more I listened to individuals like Mr. Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika and his colleagues expressing their thoughts, I inclined my belief towards this democracy. I later learned that the MMD was not owned by an individual but by a collective of Zambians who adjudged themselves as fitting human beings deserving of more freedom to participate in the political life of their country. I may not say confidently that the MMD brought democracy in Zambia but I can say, they painted a better picture of it in my mind as a young boy. The belief of those that formed the MMD in democracy was evident when they decided to pick a leader of their party.
I don’t know who registered the party or in whose names the party is currently under but they were above that. They picked a Fredrick Chiluba and tasked him the responsibility to provide leadership to an idea they believed in. When the MMD formed government, some of these individuals were never even near cabinet positions. They fought and protected the idea from their private spaces. When President Chiluba attempted to violate the democratic demand to leave the presidency for another leader to take over, the same individuals who supported the MMD, stood up and stopped him. Who owns the MMD to this day has never been a point of any discussion even when their leaders fight.
Today Mr Harry Kaluba has resigned from the Democratic Party (DP) and has indicated that he will be registering his own party. This is a welcome move by many. The question arises, does one need to form and register their own political parties for them to be appointed leaders of those parties? Am sure we are familiar with the DP fights where Ms Kabemba has argued that Mr Harry Kalaba is not the legitimate leader of the DP simply because he did not register the party himself. These fights became very embarrassing and disturbing for many. It was just a question of time before Mr Harry Kalaba would leave to form his own party where his tenure of office would be guaranteed. Is this how we intend to grow and strengthen our democracy? Does one need to form, register and fund their own political parties for them to claim presidency of that party?
Often times we hear talks and sometimes even initiate talks on intra-party democracy but how does remain guaranteed when the ownership of a political party is a prerequisite for one to lead it? Do we as a country owe our democracy to the few individuals who have registered their own political parties and are actively running and funding these parties from their own means? What are the chances that they will at one time willingly leave their positions for other people to lead the same political parties?
Who owns our democracy and on whose shoulders does it rest?
In order to build a better and stronger democracy, we will need to ask ourselves critical questions around party ownership and political party funding. If a political party is owned by individuals that registers it and can only be led by those who can fund it, then we are risking too much.
I close by congratulating Mr Harry Kalaba and wish him the possible best in his new journey. He is a good man.
To the young people who believe in the best of our country, we have a responsibility to build a better Zambia and to do so, we will need to question every idea or suggestion that has a potential to compromise a better society for all.