For almost a year now I have written comments on the state of our governance and economic system in Zambia. A lot of change has occurred, voices have been raised, foes and friends created, and above all, debate, although sometimes degenerative has ensued. That said, however, with 50 years of Independence Celebrations in sight, I saw it fit that perhaps a general commentary, taking an eclectic approach from the roles of our leader to those of us, the masses, and especially the youths would put us in preparatory mood as we celebrate.

Role of Our Leaders

The main responsibility of any President must be to effectively preside over the affairs and administration of the country. In order to achieve that, the President appoints ministers who should be appointed on merit. Their responsibility is not only to ensure that government policy is effectively implemented, but to ensure that it is effectively administered and in line with the constitution and the laws of the country including adherence to the national budget, and in some cases, the party’s manifesto.

In addition, the President is provided with all the resources he needs to ensure that he is effective in carrying out his mandate according to the constitution. The President is even provided with high level security and all the necessary comforts to ensure that his decisions are objective and serve the interest of the country first. This is to ensure that he stems corruption, fights graft and is not easily influenced or swayed in making decisions that may disadvantage the interest of the country as a whole. However, we have seen a lot of rather unfortunate and blatant failures in our elected government. Over the past months, we have highlighted these; from failed economic management to failure to fight corruption and making the PF a safe haven for corrupt elements and convicts seeking to avoid jail, some affectionately referred to as the ‘darlings’ of the head of state.

President Sata should take full responsibility for the failure of public institutions to serve the needs of the country. Of course those he has deployed to manage our economy have failed in their duty but they should be answerable to him and him alone.

We have seen supposedly intelligent and mature people avoiding the discomfort of the truth and failing to challenge Sata’s leadership incompetence, despite everything showing that this country is facing catastrophic failure because of mismanagement from the top. Instead they must pretend that all is well, as long as they have their perks and keep their positions.

This is the culture that we are faced with; a culture that has nothing to do with performance but rather a culture of fear and always shifting the blame; a culture of avoiding the inconvenient truths. It’s comical because if you criticise PF you are an agent of the opposition, and if you criticise the opposition (UPND & MMD) you are an agent of PF. How ridiculous!

Unfortunately this culture has now permeated all sectors of our society including the private sector, where our executives earn huge packages, with some having failed in their private enterprises being called to run critical institutions, as we all saw with the recent appointments at ZDA where patronage was at work. At this rate, it will surely take donkey years for us to create a modern state in Zambia. It is true then that the people will always get the leadership they deserve. One would have imagined that we deserve better, but alas, our leadership is a true reflection of our society, for if it wasn’t, why would we have it?

Nature of Our Politics

What is the nature of our politics? The poor masses provide the numbers during voting time, and that’s where it ends. This explains why a bag of mealie meal can buy a politician unfettered five years in power. The masses seem easily swayed by the rhetoric of silly and foolish things like more money in your pockets, Donchi Kubeba and goodu mealilie, all of which have no clear vision for enhancing our society beyond a five year term. As a result, the quality and standards of our leaders are not really challenged; the masses will deliver the vote anyway, so why worry?

We have seen how, for the most of Africa as a continent, country after country, leader after leader have all failed to develop Africa and create better societies even where adequate financial, natural and human resources exist in abundance. Zambia needs to take a new development trajectory based on innovative leadership. We need to take a totally new approach divorced from the past if we are to create new results and invent a future characterised by a society that is empowered, motivated, productive and free – politically and economically free.

In mechanics and engineering, every system is designed to give you the results that you get. Change the system and you change behaviours and therefore you achieve different results. Until we change our political system whose main component parts are its leaders and their value system, we will continue to get the mediocre results and leadership outcomes we are faced with.

Constraints to Good Values in Politics

Someone argued, in a rather sad article (Lazy Intellectuals) describing Zambians, and Africans in general, that the fundamental reason for this failure in effective governance is that we have been too lazy to think. We have simply changed personalities or positions while leaving our political structures in place; no wonder we keep creating the same results! Of course our curse in Zambia has been the domination by the same political players for the last fifty years. We cannot expect new and different results if we rely on the same type of leaders for half a century.

As long as this is the case, we are unlikely to see a vibrant democracy and a modern state where our leaders are accountable and do not always blame someone out there. We must break this pattern. The one solution we have is to establish a new democratic mass movement but the challenge will remain on how we get the masses, especially our high-spirited youths and rural folk, to understand their responsibility and the need to value leaders not because of their names or history, but on their competency and on what they can do for Zambia in the future.

It will take educating the masses and forcing them to realise that unless we change the game, they will continue to be taken for a ride as electoral fodder. Zambia needs new vision and a new ethos in politics that puts Zambia first and continually challenges our leaders to behave and be accountable.

The Role of Zambian Youths

For the youths and in most cases those that claim to be educated, we have reduced politics to folks we deem uneducated or not good enough in educational outcomes yet we live under their rule and leadership, and still complain. Just look at the PF’s candidate for Mangongo, one would ask, where are the PF youths to take on the mantle of leadership from our tired grandfather?

I find it very sad to see young energetic and educated PF youths singing and dancing in campaigns for our grandfather to be our MP, and yet, in the backyard, drown their sorrow in binge drinking. As Aristotle states: It is not the fastest nor the strongest that win in the Olympics, but ones that participate, for from among these, a judge will make his decision–Nicomachean Ethics. So if we all sit back and relax and binge drink beer in the comfort of our work or business and ‘not care’ when we could possibly initiate and instil change in the political system, if need be, why should we continuously complain about the poor state of Zambia? Or should those that seem to have had it all not care about the on-going state of our country?

Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police or a secretive cartel. All these are key ingredients to a better livelihood for people, and that’s what we all aim at. But then, from whom should the people choose? Some may belittle politics (claim it’s a dirty game), and belittle others with political intentions but we who hope to get actively engaged in it know that it is where people stand tall. It is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster and more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes. I think the masses of Zambian population (the youth by the way) have certain ideals, such ideals as simple as a better life for all—education, health and a decent employment. Such ideals survive through change if the incumbency does not deliver. They die, however, through inertia in the face of challenge.

Expectations of Youths from the Current and Future Leadership

For the most of the young people in our country, we wish for, among others, five things:

  1. We want a dynamic economy that generates the wealth to deliver rising living standards and better public services for all our people. Poverty levels in our country are unacceptable! The poverty gap that has continuously been sustained by previous and current regimes cannot be tolerated anymore.
  2. We want a decent society that gives people the freedom to live the lives they want, but which supports families and cares for the vulnerable. Injustices be they economic and legal cannot be ignored anymore nor should they be sustained. We want an active society where the freedoms and liberties of society are protected and allowed to flourish.
  3. We want to be part of a strong, self-confident and outward-looking country, a country we can be proud of. A Zambia that is proud, strong and free in a land of plenty work, joy and unity among its diverse people. For us, this is supreme. Unity in Diversity should be promoted, encouraged, for the benefit of all mankind in our society and beyond.
  4. We do believe in our country, Zambia and all its people. We firmly believe that Zambia has a particular place in the world and that our place is to be a force for good, standing up for emancipation, liberty, prosperity and the rule of law for the good of mankind now and beyond. These ideals are intricately linked in our world-view, the view of Young Lives in our society.
  5. And we don’t see people as a problem to be handled by government. We see people who have problems needing to be helped by government. Our farmers who face high input prices yet low product prices need to be helped by government. This is the role of government. However, we recognise that government doesn’t have all the answers, and we instinctively assume the best in people. We trust people. But government must be responsible for its people and their lives.

For all its worth, as we attain 50 years of self-rule, there is a lot we ought to be proud of, and deservedly so. When we criticise, we do so because we cannot accept mediocre, and have a strong belief and conviction that more and better could be done, and should be done. The people of our nation should come first.