Saturday, September 15, 2007

Zambian democracy under scrutiny.

"I have read this to mean if 51% of the population elect a Member of Parliament, genuine democracy means that that person should reflect the will of the people, and not vote according to his will. Assuming my interpretation of your position is correct, then there are indeed areas of difference. The question of whether the electoral system is democratic is divorced from the question of whether that ‘democratic system’ correctly ensures that the person who is elected reflects the will of the majority." Cho

The way this scenario plays out in Zambia, evokes the most puzzling doubts about whether democracy is really still in play – I may be too simplistic but what would you think if –

You went to dinner in a group and after a discussion between the choices of a steak or seafood restaurant. The group finds that the majority prefers the steak restaurant; they then decide on a menu and choose a representative to make the order. But because the representative feels seafood may be a better diet for his health, he orders seafood for the group and brings the bill along for the group to settle.

Does the order still represent the will of the majority?

During general elections, candidates present themselves under one party and sign a social contract with the electorate to undertake specific development programs. However, after securing the initial votes, some MP's switch parties or deliver programs usually at the bottom of the electorate's priority list.
Results of by-elections show a much lower voter turn out even when the same candidate wins under a different party.
Besides the financial loss suffered by the electorate forced to fund another election, do low turn outs also convey a loss of the majority support or will?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Is Political freedom absolute?

My good Zambian blogger Cho raises an interesting point of view in his recent post discussing recent political vacillations in Zambia.

However, in reaching that conclusion, we also have to accept that Mr Msika actions are part and parcel of democracy - the ability to freely choose which organisation you wish to join and even the freedom to change your mind after 48 hours! The challenge for political parties, is how to build parties that are resilient in face of this politics of poverty. Cho

Rather than justify such behavior as a preserve of a democratic system, I think this presents an opportunity for Zambians to right the cause of this expensive practice- that is a gross misunderstanding of democracy and the subsequent failure to define a political ideology or position.

The word Democracy comes from two Greek words: demos, meaning "the people," and kratein, meaning "to rule." These two words are joined together to form democracy, literally meaning "rule by the people" (Pious). There are democratic systems around the world functioning satisfactorily without the multitude of political factions (I choose to not to call them parties) that we have in Zambia.

In most systems, representatives form an independent ruling body for an election period charged with the responsibility of acting in the people's interest, but not as their proxy representatives—i.e., not necessarily always according to their wishes, but with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances.

How diverse are the interests of the Zambian people, to justify so many political factions?

Not so diverse, I submit that, the average Zambian wants no more than two political entities. One to govern based on a popular vote the other to keep in check, the governing party to avoid excess and abuse of national resources.
In most developed democratic systems there are two political ideologies, conservative and liberal, Right and Left or like, I to put it - those that can govern and those that need to keep talking about how they would govern.
If Zambians demanded every politician or political party to define themselves in these more restrictive terms and not the current broad almost unlimited terms, we would as a nation save our meager financial resources been wasted on;
· The printing of multiple ballot papers representing each of the many political factions and candidates in general and by elections.
· Forced by- elections due to defections.
· The attendant high costs of running a parliament filled of several different political factions.
· And avoid the risk of violence having so many political factions generates.

The United States, a major driving force of the spread of democracy, did not start off with that many parties. Though composed of diverse immigrants from the beginning, the first two political parties in the United States were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. These later evolved into Democratic and Republican parties, the two major political ideologies. Further, in case one does not agree with either platform, there is the option of independent. However, there is only one independent senator in the US congress - Joe Lieberman, who was actually a democrat but was forced to run as an independent because of his support of the Bush position on the Iraq war.

Political freedom is not absolute, Mr. Msika or any other Zambian politician’ ability to freely choose which organization they wish to join and even the freedom to change their minds after 48 hours ends at the point where that freedom begins to cost Zambians tax money that could go towards national development projects instead of been wasted on unnecessary by - elections.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Witchcraft in Politics

Witchcraft is widely understood to encompass attempts to harm others, not only by magic but also by covert means of established efficacy such as poisons. Traditionally, witchcraft has been a common explanation for diseases of which the causes were unknown. Although traditional indigenous religions often include or accommodate belief in the efficacy of witchcraft, they generally approve of harmful witchcraft only for defensive or retaliatory purposes and purport to offer protection against it. US State Dept Report by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

There is a general belief that some of Africa’s long serving leaders, only manage to hold on to political power that long, on the sustenance of the magical powers of witchcraft. Examples of such leaders though few and rarely established include Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. The case of Zambia’s Katele Kalumba who hid in a rat size hole at his farm, while on the run from police is well documented in the press and police arrest records.

Katele Kalumba, former foreign minister, vanished for three months after his arrest was ordered on charges of plundering the nation's resources. Despite the best efforts of a large team of police and reported sightings from as far as Belgium, he was living undetected in a tent on his farm in north-western Zambia.
Police say witchcraft lay at the heart of his elusiveness and they displayed an assortment of "magical objects" found in his tent when they finally caught up with him.
UK Telegraph.

Katele Kalumba still faces, criminal charges of corruption and evading arrest. Do you believe President Mwanawasa’ patronage of Katele Kalumba and his continued active participation in politics may be rooted in witchcraft?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The high price of Dissent

Archbishop Pius Ncube's announcement of his resignation, which he made here today in Bulawayo at the Makokoba Cathedral, was one of the most bitter moments yet in our painful struggle for justice in Zimbabwe. We have lost a champion, and we are the poorer and weaker for it.
It was not an unexpected blow. Ncube broke his Roman Catholic vow of chastity with a married woman. When this became public he had no alternative but to go.
He was, of course, the victim of a government-inspired honey trap. Mugabe had grown impatient with him. Ncube had never minced his words when it came to denouncing the Zanu-PF regime for what it was. He bravely exposed its appalling record on human rights.
The First Post.

In Zambia, information Minister Mike Mulongoti recently warned public media journalists to avoid criticizing the government. The case of archbishop Ncube may be multi facted - however will governments in Africa ever face up to any criticism without exerting retribution on those that dare speak up?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Divorce and Child support

In Zambia, as in many other countries divorce is a difficult process, especially when there are children involved. In the west, the United States for example, the department of family and child protection services ensures that, the needs of the children involved are adequately met by both parents, especially the father. It is fairly common, for the department to seize the income of fathers that neglect to cater, for needs of their children. In Zambia, the judicial system provides the only platform for redress, when a father neglects to provide for his children. However the court system is not easily accessible, especially for rural women. It is also plagued by the following;
i) An overwhelming back log of criminal and non child related cases,
ii) Lack of institutional capacity to enforce and monitor its alimony decisions.
iii) Corruption

This desperate yet, unholy attempt by the woman in the story below to sell her child; is no option any mother should ever have recourse to. It is also, the most clear and urgent call to revamp a system that has so miserably failed to protect children.

A 23-year old woman of Kabanga village in Samfya has confessed to having attempted to sell her two-year-old son for K3 million to a businessman because of poverty.
Marjorie Nkandu said she decided to sell her two-year-old son because she was failing to provide for him and his other two siblings.
She said she started having problems to support her children after divorcing, her husband early this year. The single mother said does not receive any support from her former husband or family.