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Politics in Africa

Political leaders in Africa are reluctant to relinquish power through the medium of the ballot box.

 Africa is a vast continent comprised of nations which because of their colonial past have different histories, just as they have variegated geographical landmarks that distinguish them. Thus African nations do not share many things in common except the forcible grouping together of tribes regardless of the interaction that existed before colonialisation.

 In the attempt to create nations, different ethnic groups have been split between boundaries and the expression of nationalism has therefore not been through the medium of cultural or ethnic identity, but defined within the context of the country in which the language of the colonial master became the lingua franca.

 It is imperative to note, therefore, that such a situation in which countries find themselves has made nation building and African unity a difficult task.

 The political developments taking place in Zambia today are African in nature and therefore similar and comparable to political events taking place elsewhere. In Africa, parliamentary democracy defined through multi-party politics still remains a test case today. Political leaders in Africa are finding it hard to relinquish power through the medium of the ballot box. The current political scenario in Zambia may easily degenerate into political violence if left unabated. The Catholic church and some western NGOs have kept on to criticise the ruling MMD government both through the press and privately-owned radio stations. Radio ICENGELO – owned by the Catholic church has become the mouthpiece of the voiceless people on the Copperbelt.

 The widening gap between the rich and poor is something the ruling MMD government of President Rupiah Banda does not seem to be concerned about. Indeed, privatisation of the Zambian economic sector can only succeed by strengthening the private- and profit-making social sector, otherwise than defending and safeguarding the economic upkeep of the peasants and workers.

 Massive and periodic job losses in the formal and informal sectors of the economy have come to characterise the economic policy of Zambia’s economic liberation ever since the MMD came to power in 1991 to date.  During the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda education was subsidised by the state and every child had a right to free education from primary school to university level. Every year the UNIP government carried out massive recruitments of teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen and soldiers.

 The change from Kaunda’s “one-party participating democracy” to multi-party democracy saw the implementation of economic liberalism (defined as privatisation) under the MMD government of President Fredrick Chiluba. This entailed the liquidation of state-owned mining, industrial and financial companies. The privatisation of state-owned companies led to massive job losses – in most cases the retrenched workers have not yet received their retirement salaries.

 But we cannot mop up the fact that the UNIP government had experienced economic decline from 1980 to 1991 – the MMD inherited a bankrupt economy as the case may be. But it must be emphasised that the manner in which privatisation was carried out by the MMD was less than transparent.

 It was in an attempt to monopolise power that Kaunda introduced a one-party state in 1973 on the excuse that Zambia was facing tribalism under multi-party politics. He introduced the philosophy of humanism  in order to weld the different ethnic groups together under “One Zambia One Nation”. He declared a state of emergency – political detentions without trial (political criticism was banned). It is a fact that both the ruling MMD and political opposition have shown no restraint in manipulating the masses through feeding them with prejudices against other tribes in order to win their support. Thus tribalistic sentiments in Zambia originate from politicians or political parties. The voting patterns that emerged from the previous three general elections depict tribal and regional allegiances in the sense that people voted on the basis of ethnic patronage.

 Every economic gain achieved under the late President Levy Mwanawasa has been dissipated by the global economic downturn of 2009, making it possible for the PF leader Michael Sata to increase votes in the coming 2011 elections. General elections in urban areas of Zambia are determined by economic factors, especially for food prices, the cost of education and availability of employment. The ruling MMD has concentrated on building roads, hospitals, schools and subsiding peasant farmers in rural areas where the party received massive votes. Working class political consciousness is visibly absent in rural village communities. The failure of African leaders to relinquish power through the medium of the ballot box means that elections in Africa are conducted in a win-or-die situation. The experience of many African nations with regard to their armed forces have been sad in that they have stifled democracy with their intervention, purportedly in their attempt to correct the mistakes of  their political bosses also had failed to adhere to the principle of democracy through perceived violations of the constitution. When military leaders come into power, they not only breach the constitution, they become traitors to the oath of allegiance they swore to the nation.

The reluctance of the ruling MMD to accept the PF and UPND as viable future political options is a bad omen for multi-party politics in Zambia.

Socialism is the only practical political alternative to capitalism and our message to the workers of Zambia remains the same – the creation of a classless moneyless and stateless society.

KEPHAS MULENGA