This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Post Election Analysis -- two months later

Of all the Development Discussion Group (DDG) meetings this year, there was one that I was loathe to miss and it was the post-election meeting. As it happens, I did miss it and I was bitterly disappointed at being out of the country at the time. That said, I did manage to jot down my brief post-election thoughts on my BlackBerry and email them to the group. That was one week after the September 20th elections, on the 29th. This is what I wrote then:

1. One Zambia. One Nation! 

If I was there I would have insisted on a "Viva Zambia..." I expect someone to do it for me. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I have never felt prouder to be Zambian than I am now. 

2. This was the people's victory. They spoke and the system, plus our leaders had no choice but to listen. 

3. We got change, but the truth is our people wanted to give someone else the chance to eat. We are far from knowing what a different Zambia should look like. Nevertheless, we are well on our way because it had been 20 years since we last saw what the people could collectively do. Zambia and Zambians then and now are different. Though we inch forward slowly, some gains cannot be reversed.

4. We have many examples of what happens when leaders illegitimately hold on to power and how common this is in Africa. RB could have used state machinery to stay but he instead chose to graciously step aside. This is of HUGE significance to him as a person, to our way of doing things in Zambia (let us not forget that KK did it too, as did Chiluba when his 3rd term bid was rejected) and it sets our young democracy apart on this continent.

5. The true state of our young and weak democracy is seen in the defections that we are seeing en mass. Also, we may be sore losers, but we can be even worse winners.

6. Zambia has the opportunity to have our first real multi-party state and Parliament. A genuine opposition that stands for something. I hope the current opposition parties learn from Michael Sata's example. For ten long years, he was the ONLY credible and consistent opposition voice from election to election and not just in the run-up to campaigns.

7. I have some doubts about the future because I know my own people and how we worship whoever is in power and also how power changes people --even those with the best of intentions.

8. However, I remain optimistic that the future belongs to the younger generation of politicians. The performance of Elias Chipimo speaks volumes.  

9. PF ran one of the best political campaigns and showed how the rural vote still wins our elections. They have been campaigning since 2008. By building their gains there, they added to the urban vote to make the total tally insurmountable. Plus, as I have said in other fora, Don't Kubeba must go down in history as political marketing genius. One could write a PHD thesis on this. Nuff respect.

10. A recent DDG discussion on Zambia's democratic journey highlighted the weakness of our institutions. This was never more evident than in this election. The riots were because of people's lack of confidence in our institutions. They know they are vulnerable and that our officials are weak. That we still depend on the strength of individual integrity to fold or not to fold is risky and dangerous. The institution MUST be stronger than the people who run it. Otherwise we are back to depending on a benevolent dictator or in this case, a benevolent bureaucrat.

That was basically what I thought TWO MONTHS ago. This is what I think now:

1. Zambians are Political Prostitutes:
I laughed when I read the headline about Chongwe residents booing RB, just weeks after voting for an MMD MP. It is not just our politicians and chiefs who are political prostitutes, we the people are just as bad. Can we actually be trusted? I don't think so. We are opportunists and will side with whichever way the wind is blowing.

I have been encouraged by the PF party faithful who have spoken out against some of the defections from other parties to the ruling party. Why? Because they know how long the PF was in the political wilderness and are entitled to look down with righteousness indignation at those who now want to ride on the coattails of the success others spent ten years fighting for.

2. Public Media
As a communication specialist, I have been heartened by efforts of our new Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism to try to change the way our media does things. I say try, because some work cultures are so deeply entrenched it will take a very long time before our public media really understand what public interest broadcasting or communication really is. They simply do not know how to do it any other way. On the other hand, this is Africa. I imagine our journalists would rather err on the side of caution and continue with state propaganda as they have always done. After all, they know on which side their bread is buttered. Still, especially in the weeks after the election, it was refreshing to see, especially our national broadcaster, attempting balanced reporting.

3. A Man of Action
Our President remains a man of action. Recalling his maiden speech to parliament on 14th October, which was notable for some bold moves, the highlights for me were:
  • Proposed security of tenure on customary land. I would LOVE to be in that consultation meeting as this is such a difficult issue; 
  • A new constitution in 90 days, drawn up by a small technical committee. They should not fail the people, please. All we want is a constitution that will stand the test of time; that is not drawn up to eliminate certain people, but that is for generations to come; 
  • Decentralisation at last, with what looks like a decent intergovernmental fiscal relations policy. The budget did point to somewhat of a phased administrative decentralisation; 
  • Further chuffing of chiefs. It distresses me how little regard we have for our traditional leaders and it is about time the government gave them due attention and respect; 
  • A proper road network from district to district. This would really change things up for so many people. You can have decent public transport to everywhere. Telecommunications, electricity, water commerce and other developments will follow the roads. Could this lead to making it much easier for qualified staff to agree to be posted to rural areas once they know they will not be cut off for months at a time? I sure hope so; 
  • Splitting Northern Province in two. The province is huge and poverty is high. Perhaps this will lead to better use of resources to ensure they actually reach the people; 
  • Moving Southern Province HQ back to Choma. Hopefully, this will lead to a continued focus on tourism as a growth sector; 
  • Transforming Zambia National Service camps into youth training centres. As a youth worker by passion and practice, this was great news to me. Our youth are tired. They are not skilled or educated, they are unemployed and there are so many of them. We really needed this and I really hope that it works out well.


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