Political deliberation as a new model for a more transparent and better Zambia

Some of the political party leaders captured during the gathering to demand for the release of the draft Zambian constitution
File:Some of the political party leaders captured during the gathering to demand for the release of the draft Zambian constitution


“Consolidating our Independence and national unity for a smart Zambia” was the theme under which this year’s independence was celebrated. I have, more so for the past few weeks, been reading and observing with keen interest on most online media platforms, stories on how many people believed there was no great cause for Zambians to take part in celebrating our independence when our economy is nothing to be proud of.

I have followed the political discourses given, and in this case by leaders from the opposition, stating reasons as to why they refused to join in the countrywide celebrations. I have as well noticed how reluctant our government has been to engage in political parley with the opposition who continual to accuse them of being responsible for the deterioration of our economy. This mainly results in one thing which I presume is visible to every attentive citizen: use of hate speech. There has been an excessive exchange of bad words, insults and name calling amongst our political leaders and we the citizens are tired of it. We need politicians who can learn to dialogue simply because they have at heart the welfare of the people. Many will find my article as only theoretically possible and nothing more, and my ideas of an ideal political sphere as only an Utopia. But as the saying goes, any man who publishes a book commits himself to the judgment of the public and anyone may comment upon his performance. Therefore, all comments are welcome.

Political deliberation

In the interest of the general public, I believe that it is high time we learnt to use less of feelings and more of reasoning in our political discourses, debates and decision making. We as Zambians have a need to employ a political model or instrument that will allow us to be able to lay out on the table important issues that are affecting our people, and come up with a concrete solution despite our differences in opinions, interests and political affiliations. We must therefore, and I cannot think of any better solution, adopt what is known as Political Deliberation as a model which is not only conceptual but practical as well.

This is the only foundation for a better Zambia. Political deliberation must play a pivotal role, especially for those in political administration in order for them to make sound decisions that will in turn help our citizens. As defined in political philosophy, political deliberation involves the use of logic and ratio (reason) as a means to weigh up every opinion given on matters that affect the people. This is what we are lacking in our country, a mutual respect of each other’s opinions and ideas over matters of public concern. It is only through political deliberation that political leaders can be able to inform and convince the general public, and thereby invigorate their decisions on different matters. Only in this way will we be able to wipe out the now so visible phenomenon of tribalism, and avoid the dangerously strong and blind adherence to tenets of one’s political party.

It’s time to go past our political affiliations and sort to discuss which opinions can be taken into consideration to serve and save our country. We need to break our geographical territories that confine our individual world-views and dictates our thinking. It’s time to put aside our own selfish perspectives and learn to dia-logue with others, not minding which political party one belongs to, his/her status in society or age. Each one of us has something to learn from the other. The rich from the poor and vice versa, the old from the youths and vice versa, and the weak from the strong and vice versa. Dialogue involves word and logic, and as long as a well meaning citizen is able to give an opinion and solution on public matters and has reason and logic to defend his/her views, we must not in any way look down on them, but must learn to listen and positively analyze their opinions. This is what political deliberation asks of us.

We have seen, heard and witnessed so many differences amongst our political leaders, differences in ideas, principles and perspectives, but for as long as they refuse to adopt and engage in a more dialogical and educative debate, acquainting the differences and problems with a view to unravel them and come up with solutions that will benefit every citizen, we will continue to witness what we have always been witnessing for 52 years: a nation characterized by an infinite gap between the poor and the rich, high levels of poverty, high levels of illiteracy, rise in levels of unemployment especially among the youths, and all problems associated with poor governance and lack of sound decisions. Political leaders should give hear to those with new ideas amongst themselves and the general public at large. There is need for the government to listen to the voice of the people in order for them to understand, interpret and transform it into tangible results. It’s not enough just having Members of Parliament who would sit and talk past each other, getting thousands of kwacha for every seat in the parliament at the expense of the poor citizens whom they pretend to represent.

And, just as a bemba saying goes, “ Apalwila insofu, ichani echichulilamo” (where elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers), so at the end of the day they go home with their pockets full of money, while kids of a poor voter in a far distant village go to bed on empty stomachs. We need political deliberation in our country, we need logical discussions between political leaders and the general public. The government has a mandate to create an environment that would make it possible for us citizens to cast our own arguments for or against the policies proposed, and to do so in terms of public reasoning, without fear of intimidation, and with confidence that our government would listen.

The advantages of political deliberation is that it allows a person to express, cum ratio et logicae, his/her opinions, and not only that, but also helps transform those same opinion from mere words into what some sociologists would call social rituals, which basically is, I would say, a performative aspect of the reality of those involved in deliberation. Only in this way, will we be able to touch with our hands our own words, to feel with our own hands the ideas and opinions that we contribute. Only through political deliberation can our political leaders boast of having walked the talk. The social contract that we the people of Zambia made with our political leaders on the 11th of August 2016, should be based only and entirely on a shared reasoning and not on a command. This shared reason will serve as a foundation for national development and unity that has been so much talked about in the past few days. Unfortunately, this shared reasoning is not something we can attain all at once as many might think, instead it must come as a result of a vitality of the communicative process brought about by political deliberation. If we have well informed participants in the political sphere, we are assured that every decision, every public opinion and every political discourse will be rational and sound.


If we wish to see our beloved mother Zambia develop in its every aspect, we have to adopt a system of a more broader political participation. In this broader political participation, all the political decisions made by our leaders, concerning the constitution, law and justice should be as a result of a fruitful dialogue with the “Other”, with the “Different”. They should be as a result of dialectic method between those in the far distant villages and those in urban cities, between those in Mbala and those in Shangombo, between those in Ikelenge and those in Chilundu, and not only between two people with similar interests as is always the case. We must look to have a true dialogue that has as its sole purpose the so called Bonum honestum, an honest good that goes beyond every personal interests, and in turn constructs the fundamental characteristic of democracy: a common good. It is every citizen’s responsibility to promote justice, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and it is our Government’s responsibility to create an atmosphere for these factors, and to respect them.

Every citizen has the task to safeguard his/her own human dignity by making sure that none of his natural rights, that none of his/her own unalienable rights are violated, and that includes positive freedom of expression. And our government must be ready to uphold that.

Am sure most of the political theorists and analysts here would agree with me that, coming to think of it, the crises that have hit our country, ranging from the most visible and strongly felt; economical crisis, the social and moral crisis, through to the smallest but most significant of all, family crisis, basically have been caused by the agency of so many factors that will all bring us back to poor governance. And, these crises that I have mentioned above are all interconnected and occur one as a result of the other. Mainly in Zambia, it is because of the decadence, the loss of meaning that our democratic and human values have undergone since our independence. Today in Zambia, we seem to have acquired a all new meaning of Democracy. We think just because we are able to hold elections every five years then that means we live in a democratic country, but one thing that we forget is that Democracy is NOT equivalent to “free and fair” elections. Democracy is supposed to be a way of life, as a matter of fact, the ethos of democracy must to be characterized by three factors; freedom, equality and justice. We as Zambians are called to live in a democratic polis because we have what the Greek philosopher Aristotle would call the capacity for one to express his/her opinions freely. It is our democratic right to express ourselves freely with reason. We are not democratic if we cannot engage in a political deliberation. We cannot be democratic if citizens are not inspired, cultured, nurtured and motivated to engage in political deliberation and be able to express their opinions on matters that affect them. How can we be democratic and free if, as result of fear to speak out on important matters and give opinions in a public sphere, justice becomes a privilege for a few? How can we say we are a democratic nation and be proud of it when right in front of our eyes a poor man goes to jail for stealing food intended to feed his hungry children and yet a rich man who squanders public funds walks away as a free man? How can we call ourselves democratic when social inequality has become a normal aspect of our daily lives in our community?

I believe there’s need for us as Zambian to redefine our democracy, we need to redefine and give value to our own democratic rights by engaging in a more rational debate on matters that affect us. There is need for every Zambian to engage in a free, equal, and open minded dialogue if we wish to achieve the common good, the national development and a better Zambian that we have dreamt of for so long. Therefore, it is imperative that every well meaning Zambian citizen must participate in the political sphere, offering his/her own reasonable opinions concerning the different crises that our country is facing right now, bearing in mind that it is for the benefit of our future generations. If we are able to enjoy the so called “Peaceful atmosphere” in our country today, it is because 52 years ago, our forefathers were not afraid to stand up and defend their human rights. We don’t have to sit back and fold our arms when we know we could be part of the solution. “Man is a political animal” Aristotle would say, because we are social creatures with the power of speech and moral reasoning. Let us therefore speak out on matters that concern our general public, engage in a political deliberation and let our voices be heard. Some political theorists would say, in time of crisis the streets are more effective than the ballot paper, but I would rather say it with Sigmund Freud that, “Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock”. Be civilized fellow Zambians, cast as many words as you can, until change becomes inevitable.

By Aubrey Chikonde


  1. When PF is stifling press freedom and independence of media houses, what deliberation can you have? please do not be naive and insult our intelligence. the only solution is to get rid of pf or wait for nature to do its job and get rid of some of these undesirables. that is why we have death

    • Mr Chikonde since you are Bemba you should go and talk to your relatives running PF and beg them from using hate speech as a tool of domination against other Zambians. Sata started this trend with insults against NWPers, which Chimbwili picked up and continues with up to today. Lungu got on the bandwagon with calling Tongas as bakachema and Mumbwe Phiri, Davies Chama and his minions took up the clarion call. Don’t spread the blame. We all know who started this hate speech and why they are trying to deflect blame and call others tribal. Just talk to your tribesmen in your language that they understand, instead of writing lengthy waffling articles.

    • When a Tonga discriminates against a Bemba, it’s not tribalism. Why do you have to sink so low. Your utterances just confirm that had HH won bembas were going to suffer and that including GBM.


  2. Utopia, as your earlier mentioned is what your article belongs to. Maybe in the next generation of leaders it will be possible. Do not get me wrong, as you have raised a lot of good points & i applaud you. But, unfortunately freedom of expression in Zambia is almost Zero. A lot of us are willing to freely come out & express ourselves, but we fear state brutality, victimization & even possibly jail terms. What happens to your growing up lovely children, when you find yourself incarcerated?

  3. @Zamani Boza
    Thank you for stating the obvious. Mr Chikonde seems not to appreciate that discourse can only happen when citizens listen so as to understand and not to be understood and stilling of freedom is not celebrated. Here in Zambia we had Kambwili as former information minister who believes that censorship is a great thing. PF came to power and gained popularity by insulting the late Mwanawasa and calling him all sorts of names. Once they were in power they made every effort to criminalize dissent and holding of divergent views. To expect dialoguing in a country liKe Zambia in its current configuration is like expecting a 2-year old boy to sire a child. It is biologically and socially an impossibility. WE ARE NOT THAT NAIVE!

  4. Dear Mr. Chikonde, While we appreciate your views, it pains to say that our political leaders do not have at heart the welfare of our people. This is Zambia, it will take a miracle for our leaders -both in government and in opposition – to engage in a dialogical debate as you have put. They are only after personal gain.

    • Leaders in opposition can not compel those in power to talk to them,look at Lungus insults when HH suggested a meeting,PF from the time they took power have been in a one party mindset and they said it openly.Our democracy is in danger with PF.This is not quite surprising because most PF followers are have become achievers for the first time using GRZ machinery,how can they allow democracy which can undermine their newly discovered success.

  5. Excellent essay. If the writer wrote everything with “United States” instead of Zambia, this would be excellent. Americans need to read this after the awful election of a horrible man as our President. Zambian friends: Believe me, this is a problem in every country. Especially the biggest ones. You are a smart country, and Democracy is not easy. Please listen to this most excellent writer.

  6. cry my beloved country, which is now only in the handles of one grouping of people. Regionalism has set foot into our land and now praised as a strategy to win elections championed by people like Fr Bwalya and his team.

  7. Comment: I totally agree with the views presented in this article nonetheless, we are co authors of this problem because we were asked to vote as the way of deliberating or participating in our democracy what happened? people voted in numbers did the results reflect our ballots decisions the answer is a Big No. we have kept quiet as though everything is okay if given an opportunity to advise democracy Can Not Work for us especially in Africa our voting patterns are more less the same we do not need freedom of speech in Zambia as time in memorial has proved it today we have A Humble Christian leader as he proclaims himself to be what’s happening? media houses are being closed down, people being locked up will democracy Work for Zambia the answer is a Big No. standing to be corrected what…

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