By Mingeli Palata
As per custom, every Tuesday I make it a point to visit the local convenient store, that way I get myself an extra pizza: one for the evening and one for my breakfast the following day. The buy is awesome but for the wait. So just as well I bump into an old friend of mine who for purposes of this article I will call Tim.
I met Tim about 7 years ago, together we were very active youth advocates committing ourselves to various activates such as school debates, model united nations and the youth parliament. Between ourselves we represented the Zambian youth to the fullest both at home and abroad on various forums a time during we both gained respect for each others ability to analyze and articulate issues.
After exchanging courtesies we naturally dived into a chit chat about what is happening on the political scene. I asked him what he thought of the events that were unfolding then in the Zambian political arena. To set him in context I cited the alleged tribal remarks, violent threats, daylight bribery and corruption attributed to certain leaders in society.
To my disappointment, my colleague told me that there was nothing wrong with politicians engaging themselves in the aforementioned vices, in his own words he told me that ‘it’s just the way the game is played’. He further asked me not to be easily swayed with reports in the papers and mere street hearsay after which he added an invitation for me join the youth wing of a popular political party to which the same allegations were attributed to.
Naturally I turned down his offer, citing my beliefs in honesty and fairness, the list is endless. I recall my colleague’s last words of advice in which he asked me to become ‘exposed’ and to stop being naïve. By then my pizza was ready and so I excused myself promising to make some time for the two of us to continue our discussion. Of course I wasn’t going to see him again, I was only being courteous.
Walking home that Tuesday, I began to think about what my friend told me.I thought of one of my mentors who has held public political office for over 20 years now.He often gives me the same advise, telling me that if I want to make in the ‘game’ I should stop being naive and come to terms with the reality on the ground and not my text book politics.
What is disappointing is that politics of today’s Zambia has been reduced to the something more of the usual procedure. For instance you know that after every election, all those who campaigned for the President will be given ministerial posts, not because they are capable of delivering but because they are loyal. As to what positive impact such appointments bring to society only the President knows. Now just imagine if Ministerial posts were given to those deserving and qualified- purely on merit, it will mean that the best brains in the field will be called for national duty. Ministers will cease to be political appointees meant to appease the faithful but will be serious civil servants set to impact real change on people’s lives.
If I go on to suggest that perhaps the President should have picked someone from the opposition let’s say Given Lubinda to be Minister of Local Government and Housing, someone will call me naïve. But at the end of the day, UPND, MMD, PF , ULP, HP are all Zambians who want to serve their country, the only difference among them is that they plan on different routes of getting to the same destination- development.
Every time I read the news on LT, I become angry. I become angry with the way my fathers, mothers and uncles and aunties are toying with the governance of this country. You know it was funny the other day to see Mumbi Phiri a PF member of Parliament claiming that she made a mistake on voting for that controversial salary bill. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Now being a former African youth parliamentarian myself, I am aware that Parliamentary procedure can be complicated but the Zambian system is perhaps the easiest model in Africa.
If an urban member of parliament is lost then one wonders …perhaps she just has no idea what has been happening in Parliament since she took her oath. Driving to the point, UPND and PF voted for that bill and have no excuses. As I stated earlier and I will stick to my point; the constitutional office bearers don’t deserve a salary increment because the country’s economy is being affected negatively by the global economic crisis hence the people will be suffering. The salaries can only be justified if they will be increased across the board. But I know you may be thinking come on Mingeli, the reality is that the bill has already been passed.
But what reality is this? Perhaps they all mean to say that I should realize that politics is a dirty game in which one has to do what has to be done to gain political expediency regardless of whether it breaks the law or not and at the expense of the poor. Is it the reality of politics being a conveyer belt to personal gain and not public service- bringing about meaningful change in people’s lives? Comrades, I don’t think I can ever come to terms with politics being referred to as a game.
I don’t think it is a game, on the contrary it is an honorable course undertaken by those disposed to servitude and those motivated by sheer determination to improve the livelihood of the millions who look up to them. A game is a gamble; you can not gamble with people’s lives nor can you toy with the expectations people have from you once they cast that ballot in your favor.
Look, red is red, black is black. Difference should be appreciated and intimidation never a method to bring people to terms with your opinions. Rules of engagement should be followed by the letter and not meant to be broken. If that is not the reality, I would rather remain in my naivety.