Linda Kasonde
Linda Kasonde

WE ARE THE ONES WE ARE WAITING FOR: DEMOCRACY, GOOD GOVERNANCE AND THE RULE OF LAW IN ZAMBIA BY LINDA KASONDE

Several months ago I wrote an article entitled, ‘Just Another African Country: The Challenge of Leadership in Zambia and the Poverty of Ambition’. The article had arisen out of a conversation I had had with a South African friend of mine, Ntombenhle, during the initial parliamentary debates over the Nkandla scandal in South Africa about the excessive expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s residence. She had remarked to me that “we’re becoming just another African country”, somehow implying that they had been superior to that previously. So in my article I thought about what it meant to be “just another African country” and the words impoverished, disease-ridden and corrupt came to mind. My article had traced the history of some of the most prominent leaders in Zambia since Independence and concluded that we are only doomed to be “just another African country” if we the citizens of this country do not hold our leaders to account for ensuring adherence to democracy, the rule of law, good governance and development for our people.

A few weeks ago I had another discussion with my South African friend Ntombenhle. It was several months after the initial debate over the Nkandla scandal had began and she now expressed confidence in the strength of South African institutions such as the judiciary and the office of the Public Protector that had held President Zuma to account. I had expressed some cynicism at her positive outlook and told her, “just wait, people retire and contracts expire and the same politicians who are now being held to account will have to fill those vacancies”. A couple of weeks later, I changed my mind. I wrote to Ntombenhle and told her that I really hoped that she was right because I believe that it is only through strong institutions that we shall see our countries rise out of poverty and corruption. Strong institutions guarantee greater accountability and subsequently more prudent use of public resources. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, strong institutions on their own are not enough. We also need to see an active and vigilant citizenry who elect the right people into office, who ensure that their doing their job whilst in office or remove them if they are found wanting.

From a legal perspective, a strong judiciary is imperative to ensuring that constitutionalism, the rule of law and good governance are adhered to. We have many competent and courageous judges in the judiciary in Zambia. But unfortunately, we have also seen some instances of judges being intimidated by the party in power at different times in our history, instances of courts being unwilling to exercise judicial activism in upholding the rights of Zambians, and of course our judiciary is not financially autonomous. To have enhanced access to justice and delivery of justice, we need to see a fully independent judiciary that is impartial and progressive to get the kind of legal reform that we want in our country. But courts do not move themselves, we need to see bold and proactive lawyers take up challenging cases that touch on issues of the rule of law, constitutionalism and good governance. Indeed, we also need courageous citizens to give the lawyers instructions to take up these cases.

On democracy and an active citizenry, I have said on several occasions that our people do not know their own power. As the poet June Jordan put it, “we are the ones we have been waiting for”. In other words, if we do not effect the change we want to see, no one else will. For example, it would have been great to see more Zambians actively involved in the advocacy for a new people-driven constitution. It is not enough to identify a problem; we must be a part of the solution. Zambians do have a good history of effecting peaceful change through the ballot box. We can also be proud of the role we played in stopping President Chiluba from amending the Constitution to provide for a third term. But there are still numerous challenges, particularly those posed by the 2016 amendments to the Constitution. We must remain vigilant.

I watched President Barack Obama give a commencement speech to the 2016 graduating students of Howard University. In that speech he said many things about living in a democracy that are applicable to the Zambian situation:

“…democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right.  This is hard to explain sometimes.  You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you.  If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.  And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged.  And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair.  And that’s never been the source of our progress.  That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress”.

“[However], that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge [people with dissenting views].  Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position.  There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice.  But listen.  Engage.  If the other side has a point, learn from them.  If they’re wrong, rebut them.  Teach them.  Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.  And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you – you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks.  I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life.  That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair.  Nobody promised you a crystal stair.  And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is”.

So my challenge to all of us is: do not wait for democracy, the rule of law or good governance to happen; make it happen. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “do what you can, with what you have where you are”.

The author is the President of the Law Association of Zambia

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41 COMMENTS

    • We need a free and independent press that goes the extra mile to expose evil wherever it exists. In western countries the PRESS is like the fourth Arm of government that offers solid checks and balances. We need investigative journalism that will expose corruption. Let the media do their job of giving checks and balances to the other 3 arms of government and even the private sector for that matter. The law association of Zambia has been a failure for as long as I have known it. You guys always seem to side with the government of the day and most governments we have had in Zambia have been evil. I can’t believe that up to date nothing has been done about the young lady who was stripped naked by PF in full view of one Inonge Winna. It is shameful to be Zambian!!! Sha!!!

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    • These kind of leadership of gossiping about South African friends, and not Chawama friends will not help us stop prisoners from voting for PF. LAZ is now run in Saloon like Mumbi Phiri’s PF’s.

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    • My dear Linda – institutions in Zambia are poorly because Zambia is poor and vice-versa. How do we break that cycle? Institutions in Zambia cannot be “independent” as long as they rely on the Executive to approve their budgets and fund their conditions of service.
      But overall, a very well articulated piece of writing.

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    • Ms Linda Kasonde, you are so right. I am looking for lawyers to help me bring a case of treason against Lungu. This will have to be 100% pro bono as I am broke. How can you help me?

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    • Make it happen, that is what she is saying, it’s not enough to spot the problem, become and formulate a strong press

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    • I Do not see the object and subject of this useless article.
      To build strong institutions require participation of the masses led by un-greedy but caring lawyers. The problem in Zambia is lawyers want to make money and be rich not only rich but super rich. Masses are there to take up the fight but can they do it without lawyers No. But when they involve lawyers, they end up with huge debts in form of legal fees for fighting a just cause from which even the very lawyer taking up the matter end benefiting. Look at the case of Nguni who invoked the case against Mutembo Nchito. How much money have they demanded from Nguni, over USD500,000 in legal fees. Can you imagine that. Yet Nguni was helping the public have Mutembo defend himself against allegations leveled about him. If Mutembo is…

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    • I Do not see the object and subject of this useless article.
      To build strong institutions require participation of the masses led by un-greedy but caring lawyers. The problem in Zambia is lawyers want to make money and be rich not only rich but super rich. Masses are there to take up the fight but can they do it without lawyers No. But when they involve lawyers, they end up with huge debts in form of legal fees for fighting a just cause from which even the very lawyer taking up the matter end benefiting. Look at the case of Nguni who invoked the case against Mutembo Nchito. How much money have they demanded from Nguni, over USD500,000 in legal fees. Can you imagine that. Yet Nguni was helping the public have Mutembo defend himself against allegations leveled about him. If Mutembo is…

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    • Nostradamus is right. Madam LAZ President, you are talking sense but you are too careful not to hurt the ruling PF and ECL. Be direct and call a spade what it is. Talking indirectly through talking about RSA issues without talking directly at our ruling PF and President shows some mediocrity for a person in your position. Please improve and be direct. You are LAZ.

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    • Madam LAZ President, your article, well written & including quotes from famous people – is a good piece.
      Well, it is also some departure from what we have seen with LAZ.

      My take though, is that am left quite disappointed with the whole effort.

      Zambia today is FACED WITH MANY LEGAL ISSUES – that THREATEN THE FORTH COMING ELECTION as well AS THE PEOPLES WISH!! We have a PRESIDENT , actually a CROOK, WHO HAS OPENLY & BRAZENLY FLOUTED THE CONSTITUTION – by imposing MINISTERS WHO ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO EXIST – THEY ARE DRAWING FROM THE PUBLIC PURSE FOLLOWING THIS CROOKED PRESIDENTIAL ACTION – All this under your watch, at the HELM OF LAZ – LAZ Should be of SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY – fair enough it is a PRESTIGIOUS CLUB, so whom am I or the rest of Zambians to be “barking on” about a…

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    • …..”barking on” about a “Private Club?”

      However, if you & your colleagues in LAZ want it to be RELEVANT IN THE WIDER COMMUNITY, we expect YOU ALL TO EXHIBIT SOME PROFESSIONALISM – LAZ should be there for wider society to INTERPRET & TAKE MORAL STANDS IN MAKING OUR COUNTRY A BETTER PLACE, Majority are POOR, barely eking a living to survive from day to day – with NO MEANS TO STAND UP TO EVIL MACHINATIONS SUCH AS this one driven by this president, I believe who is also a member of LAZ – How can he not be?????

      So please DO NOT CHASTISE US WITH YOUR ESSAY WRITING SKILLS, unless of course you are trying to emulate & cover the void left by “Kalaki!!”

      Vote WISELY 11/8/2016!! Vote for a UNITED ZAMBIA!! Vote Zambia FORWARD!! Vote UPND!!
      Abantu baya!!

      #chagwamustfall!!…

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    • By the way we expect more of LAZ positions and not your personal opinions although once in a while you may add your personal voice. A lot of legal things are just going wrong with this lawyer in state house.

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    • My dear Linda – further to my comment above, I wish to quote Greg Mills’ article “Zambia: Once a poster child for New Africa, now divided and broke” which appeared in UK courtesy of the Daily Maverick newspaper.

      Dr Mills observed that “Zambia perfectly illustrates the developing country conundrum. It is poor because it has weak governance (institutions), and it has weak governance (institutions) because it’s poor. Can one break this cycle through more aid, or aid better spent, or by removing altogether the prop that aid provides to (ineffective) government?” (Words in parenthesis mine.)

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  1. The impotence of democracy is demonstrated in many a poor nation. Poverty which is perpetuated by the very people elected to end it is in fact huge business. Patronage which unfortunately is a systematic problem in African culture tends to lend its ugly face among the political elite.
    Therefore the genuine fight to end poverty will mark the start of true democracy for success and civil liberties are intricably linked. Unfortunately we are slowly seeing South Africa join the real Africa!

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  2. Very long passage but makes sense. Tell the lawlessness ECL about it. ECL is worse than the devil in a cage.

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  3. Madam LAZ President that is a great piece you have just written. The people that know and understand what needs to be done to transform ourselves and our country must stand up and be heard instead of leaving the affairs of our country to people we know have no clue about what it takes to bring us to greatness.

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    • I Do not see the object and subject of this useless article.
      To build strong institutions require participation of the masses led by un-greedy but caring lawyers. The problem in Zambia is lawyers want to make money and be rich not only rich but super rich. Masses are there to take up the fight but can they do it without lawyers No. But when they involve lawyers, they end up with huge debts in form of legal fees for fighting a just cause from which even the very lawyer taking up the matter end benefiting. Look at the case of Nguni who invoked the case against Mutembo Nchito. How much money have they demanded from Nguni, over USD500,000 in legal fees. Can you imagine that. Yet Nguni was helping the public have Mutembo defend himself against allegations leveled about him. If Mutembo is…

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  4. Now here is something worth reading. Very factual and to the point writing, full of important points that all of us Zambians can learn from. General Miyanda might learn something from this article. Thanks Madam Kasonde.

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    • I Do not see the object and subject of this useless article.
      To build strong institutions require participation of the masses led by un-greedy but caring lawyers. The problem in Zambia is lawyers want to make money and be rich not only rich but super rich. Masses are there to take up the fight but can they do it without lawyers No. But when they involve lawyers, they end up with huge debts in form of legal fees for fighting a just cause from which even the very lawyer taking up the matter end benefiting. Look at the case of Nguni who invoked the case against Mutembo Nchito. How much money have they demanded from Nguni, over USD500,000 in legal fees. Can you imagine that. Yet Nguni was helping the public have Mutembo defend himself against allegations leveled about him. If Mutembo is…

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  5. The few Good people of Zambia have stood-by doing nothing and watched as the rot took root in our politics of patronage. A freedom struggle has become necessary again.

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  6. The mere fact that we are writing, criticizing, calling each other names without being sent to
    prison, or disappearing (like the unexplained murders in SA) shows that our democracy in Zambia
    is superior.
    It is unheard off in our country for mps to heckle the speaker of parliament, box each other and
    throw missiles and each other in such a dignified house. its unheard off for our people to burn 23
    primary schools, damage universities in riots. Lt us give ourselves credit, our democracy is
    evolving in the right direction. in SA, im not sure there will be anything left in the name
    of democracy going by the rate at which they are tearing each other apart.

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    • But we are being sent to prison by PF. Our kids who have opposing views from PF are being slaughtered in broad daylight. Some are being stripped naked in front of vice presidents. Advertisements are being set ablaze by known PF thugs. PF thugs are wielding machetes and are not being brought to Justice. Zambians have no idea what real freedom looks like. Zambia is an uncivilized country. we are still in the stone age. Thats a Fact!!

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  7. Very good article Kasonde. We will do as you have said: Hold our leaders accountable, send them packing if they don’t deliver and demand strong institutions!

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  8. LAZ needs to focus on both the positives & negatives. Misplaced negativisim is what costs Africa progress. We need to celebrate our achievements as we are also criticising our failures. In Zambia LAZ is busy frustrating progressive Constitution & Bill of Rights process yet condemning our institutions that these 2 instruments seek to strengthen in the interests of all Zambians. Why do we like promoting this cycle of sadism that promotes failure so that we can continue having something bad to talk about ourselves? Let’s change our attitudes & be positive about our selves that we can be successful & celebrate success & progress much as we learn from our mistakes. Sadism should not be a fuel of our lives. God Bless Zambia

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    • I Do not see the object and subject of this useless article.
      To build strong institutions require participation of the masses led by un-greedy but caring lawyers. The problem in Zambia is lawyers want to make money and be rich not only rich but super rich. Masses are there to take up the fight but can they do it without lawyers No. But when they involve lawyers, they end up with huge debts in form of legal fees for fighting a just cause from which even the very lawyer taking up the matter end benefiting. Look at the case of Nguni who invoked the case against Mutembo Nchito. How much money have they demanded from Nguni, over USD500,000 in legal fees. Can you imagine that. Yet Nguni was helping the public have Mutembo defend himself against allegations leveled about him. If Mutembo is…

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  9. Great and intelligent article, Linda. Now how about a drink with you at Manda Hill.
    Keep up the good works and the good looks too.

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  10. when your finance minister alleges that people in the system have sent out an elimination order
    on him, when you have crime, corruption and whealer dealing institutionalized to levels where
    human life and morality do not count, then you will understand what democracy is all about,
    Please watch ENCA news or channel AAN 7. its all there for you to see.

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  11. Excellent article madam Linda, objective, unbiased and straight-up legal sense that an ordinary person can relate to. We expect nothing but absolute brilliance in your leadership and team. Your ascending into office will most likely correspond with a new regime this August. Thank you for taking time to write:)

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  12. Dear Linda
    You article is shallow, scholarly weak. Your choice of words unintelligible. You are using words you cannot define, such as ”good governance”. Your constant reference to the American system of governance is an indication you are suffering from inferiority complex. Can you read Pan-Africanism or books written De Sardan a French scholar, Kwame Nkrumah or Ali Mazrui as scholars to beef up your scope and repertoire of knowledge on governance.
    Where you elected or selected to be the president of LAZ? Was it to do with your disposition or intellect?
    President Obama’s words are always crafted for specific audience. You should be a bit original than copy and paste.

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  13. Good article indeed .I want to appreciate your efforts that you are making so far since you became the LAZ president .I totally agree with you on this article .I personally feel our politicians in general have let us down in this country . I mean just look at the interpretation regarding the stay of MPs in office once parliament is dissolved .If we had leaders who were concerned about respecting the constitution or upholding the rule of law then this was not going to be a problem .

    Secondly this issue of politicians tendency of hiding information from the public and just telling the to do us they [politicians ] is doing more damage to the country than they realize .For example just a few weeks ago the president when he was launching a rally at Heroes Stadium urged people to vote or…

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  14. Thank you Kasonde.
    This what we call timely ‘Civic Education’
    Please reproduce this article in all the papers. Kindly have it translated into major languages and air it on all radio stations…
    Let the people debate…

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  15. Follow it up with actions! Lets fight rigging of Lungu before it happens! Lungu has nothing to offer and our beloved country with so much resources is on its knees coz he has allowed and participates in stealing public funds!

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  16. To simply point to halting the third term as an example of democracy is in itself flawed and perhaps reads to selective justice within the judiciary. Democracy is people power. you should have used the ’91 revolution as poignant in introducing (social) democracy and then treating it as a base to build institutional democracy, which is what we’re struggling with as a country.

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  17. Good article ba Linda but you needed not to mention the name of your friend ntombendle whatever. I almost read it like your friend did you.

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  18. U need exemplary leadership to promote Good Governance and Constitutionalism. ECL does not respect these and does not to be held accountable. We cannot have a leader promoting lawlessness and thuggish behaviour.ECL must be held accountable for disrespecting our Constitution and promoting thuggery and lawlessness in our country.

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  19. Excellent article. I look forward to Citizens suing the state for Road Accidents that result in loss of life of loved ones because of RDA, ZP and Council carelessness. Also for a citizen to sue Government when they fall in a ditch! A pedestraian suing Government for lack of a pedestrian crossing. A bicycle owner suing for lack of bicycle track. A citizen suing Airtel and ZICTA for subscribing on a wrong bandle only to be told it is not refundable and cannot be changed. A citizen suing when a relative dies of cholera. Someone suing for a patient who dies due to lack of emergency medical care. Another suing Government for buying contaminated food stuffs which Government does not control. There are many examples one can go on and on. Indeed the judiciary needs to help all these poor people…

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  20. Stop the corruption in the legal profession, and that will be your great start. Right there.

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  21. What certain moral purity Obama has? No wonder he has made guys rights legal in almost all the states because he had to compromise on Biblical principles. The guy is not a Christian.

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  22. So bane is this how LAZ is going to run?Just writing silly articles in public newspapers,newspapers themselves have a column known as “Editor’s note or column”this is their job,not LAZ’s.Am afraid LAZ is falling into just another banana.She is supposed to be writing these letters directly to Lungu,his illegally ministers,to corrupt individuals,following up cases in courts and suing wrong doers and offering legal representation for poor Zambians.Thats what LAZ is there for.Not these stupid articles.She has jst showed us how she is going to run LAZ,she ll run it like a woman married by polygamist an cannot talk directly to her husband but through a microphone.Just look at how she is beating about the bush in her article above!

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  23. For me i have lost faith in our lawyers. At the end of the day we end up with huge legal fees. How do we push this crusade minus legal backing?

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