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Alba Iulia
Friday, July 3, 2020

Zambia eroding: Four ongoing trends to be worried about

Feature Politics Zambia eroding: Four ongoing trends to be worried about

Zambia Police fighing Running Battles with UPND cadres
Zambia Police fighing Running Battles with UPND cadres

Many of Zambia’s structures and norms are being gradually undermined.

The release of Zambia’s main opposition leader in August was greeted by some observers as a sign that the country’s democratic spirit lives on. Zambia has long been considered a model of stability in a tumultuous region, and Hakainde Hichilema’s four-month detention could be seen as an anomaly that has now been dealt with.But the reality is that it is too early to draw a sigh of relief.

Long before Hichilema’s arrest on charges of treason (and since), Zambia has seen many of the structures, mechanisms, and norms that serve to uphold peace gradually undermined. Politics has become more polarised and exclusionary, frustrations have grown, and violence has increased.

Here are four particularly worrying trends witnessed over the past three years.

1) Intolerance of opposition and criticism

Since 2014, the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has demonstrated a growing intolerance of opposition and criticism, and has increasingly turned to the security apparatus to suppress it. With loyalists appointed to key positions, there has an uptick of police brutality, including the killing of an unarmed protester this April. The government has used the Public Order Act to limit protests and rallies, or at least give it an excuse to use force if its restrictions are not obeyed.

At the same time, the government has clamped down on the free and critical media. This has included the closure of the main independent newspaper, The Post, last year and the harassment of other media outlets such as The Mast, which replaced The Post.

Hichilema’s arrest in April was another example of this reduced tolerance. Charged for high treason for not giving way to the president’s motorcade, the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) was facing 15 years in prison or even the death penalty before he was released.

2) The tribalisation of politics

Over the past few years, political rhetoric has also begun to change. Following independence in 1964, Zambia’s motto quickly became “One Zambia, One Nation”. This was part of a strategy to bridge divides across the country’s 73 ethnic groups and foster national unity.

Recently, however, the main political parties have been using more divisive language, including a new emphasis on tribal-regional divisions. This is partly demonstrated by the strong ties today between the Tonga and UPND, and Bemba and PF respectively, as well as the appointment of tribal representatives to key positions.

This shift challenges the long-standing tradition of cross-ethnic parties and could transform Zambia into a more divided society in which political elites increasingly depend on tribal distinctions to harness support.

3) Breakdown of inter-party deliberation

Over the past few years, Zambia has seen very limited inter-party deliberation behind closed doors compared to previous eras. This mechanism is aimed at promoting inclusion of opposition parties, fostering compromise, and ensuring a degree of unity.

Such a meeting – between Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu – was part of the process that led to the former’s release, but it is worrying that it took almost a year from the August 2016 election before the two met for a formal discussion. This was in fact Lungu’s first official meeting with the opposition since he gained power at the start of 2015. This marks him out as unique in the history of Zambia since the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1991.

Given that Hichilema and the UPND won nearly 48% of the vote in 2016, the lack of talks has contributed to the exclusion of large parts of Zambian society and threatened further polarisation of politics.

Added to this is the fact that the ability of civil society to serve as a broker in times of crises has also been reduced. The process of registering NGOs has been made more complex, and leaders of civil society organisations have been arrested and harassed. The churches in Zambia have long served as the backbone of civil society engagement, but the government has tried to discredit some, while recent reports suggest that others, predominantly Pentecostal ones, are being coopted and rewarded for speaking out in support of the ruling party.

4) Militarisation of politics

Since 2011, the main political parties have – to a larger extent than in previous elections – begun to recruit cadres. These young people are often paid in food or alcohol to rally support or intimidate supporters of rival parties. This trend has coincided with an increase in youth unemployment.

The use of party cadres, particularly during the elections in 2015 and 2016, contributed to tensions and violence. These groups are officially tasked with promoting the major parties, but evidence indicates that they also engage in violence, looting, voter intimidation, and other illegal acts.

Sanctioned by the government, the political mobs supporting the ruling party are untouchable by law, and therefore not confronted by the police when committing crimes. According to reports by the Carter Centre, this has reduced the support for opposition parties as well as political participation in general.

Political cadres have also affected the political economy by being granted control over community institutions such as markets or gas stations. This awarding of control based on connections rather than merit is not only eroding democracy, but affecting the efficiency of basic societal functions.

Source:African arguments

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  1. Continue please……..
    5. The institionalisation of corruption .
    6. The commercialisation of parliament where people are only there to serve certain interests.
    7. The weakness of the presidency through people that have undue influence.
    8. The perpetuation of poverty in order to manipulate the masses.
    9. The looting of state resources through inflated tenders given to the FBI – freinds bululus and inlaws.
    10. The deliberate use of trabalism in most appointments disregarding professionalism and in favour of uneducated bootlikers!

    • @Mushota it appear you are really working on a new PhD watch this space folks! UPND has nothing new to offer but kuddos to ZP for allowing the rally! The way forward is to have smaller meetings and espouse their policies!

  2. Simply put HH is tired of waiting for the Republican presidency so he turns to proactive activities so as to attract international attention. In end we have chaos. Bemba people have never been tribal and will never be.

  3. 1. Intolerance of opposition and criticism: When your main oppsition is drilling thugs, you expext to tackle such a problem with kids gloves?? After 2016 elections, non tonga residents of Namwala, a tonga area were beaten and displaced and this is conveniently left out and all the blame goes to PF??? Clamping down on free media?? Zambia has over 80 radio stations, 15 tv stations, Daily Nation is and independent and best selling newspaper; SO WAS THE POST “FREE MEDIA” IN ZAMBIA???
    2. Tribalisation of Politics: since Anderson Kambela Mazoka, a tonga formed upnd, southern province has never voted for any other party!! Luapula, Nothern and Eastern has seen a change of parties between MMD, PF and an increasing vote for upnd. who is tribalist????

    • 4. Militarisation of politics: Since 2011, the main political parties have – to a larger extent than in previous elections – begun to recruit cadres??? Intercity and other markets have since 1996 been run by the ruling party cadres, even Mwanawasa used these cadres in his campaigns heavily in 2001 and 2006; HOW IS IT SOLELY A PF PROBLEM TODAY???

    • Corrupt Zambian

      Can you tell us of the GBM court case of drilling militia to use golf clubs to take on the Zambia defence forces

    • Be very truthful and factul with your information ? Are you sure when Anderson formed upnd thst tongas have never supported any other party? Look at the data available when sata was voted into office. It’s only when ecl came on the scene that we have seen the wako ni wako come in. So in my opinion it’s not pf or upnd to blame but just certain individuals in these same parties who have a hidden agend of dividing the country so they can loot properly.

  4. Writer ask yourfoolishself why North Western, Western and Southern provinces fielded only one candidate while the rest of provinces fielded more than 12 candidates. Simply put, the 3 provinces connived so as to end the Bemba domination of the presidency. Only vengeful GBM could not realize that there was a conspiracy.

  5. Mr Writer your provinces NW, Western and Southern fielded only one candidate because they conspired to put an end to their perceived Bemba domination of the presidency. Only vengeful GBM could not see this.

  6. Mr writer if you were born last year better take time and study HISTORY,from times of colonialism ,history repeats itself. Don’t think too low Mr unknown .. THE PROBLEM ZAMBIA is facing (politically )started with OUR colonial Government which served with OTHER TRIBES for long time and MAKING them believing that they are learned societies and DESERVE LEADERSHIP at ALL costs.history tells us that during independence blacks society rose against each other, lives were lost. The visit of KK on political stage was a big SHOCK to people like Harray mwanga nkumbula, Mainza Chona,Mundia malumina and the mudendas.Although KK formed a CABINET with them history tells us that they weren’t happy.MUCH of HISTORY can reveal deeper breaths BUT the bottom line is TRIBALISM planted 5 decades ago NOW…

    • Tell him him that due to violence by Tonga lead ANC, KK had no option but to ban political parties and introduce the one party system. In fact what this under 5 writer is calling violence is chicken feed compared to the 1960s & 70s. Let him admit that parties of the trianvrate have always been violent.

  7. I can’t agree with this article. The things the author addresses have surrounded governance in Zambia since it was a republic. These challenges are normal in any African country and are not stringent indications of an erosion of norms and structures.

    In my view, there are far more elementary issues that indicate a negative trend: selling out of tradition and culture, land, natural wealth and even identity, moral decadence, religious extremism, disregard for matrimony and family, etc. these are things that should really get us worried.

    • What has Amnesty done about blacks being butchered in the USA. They are lucky we can allow them to come here and defacte nonsense. Uganda has told them not to even try. Also what do you call the killing of Bemba speaking people in Namwala? Was that a fashion show or genocide against innocent people? Just one billionaires misbehaving put in a correctional facility, his shareholders come in the name of Amnesty.

    • Maybe you were born in 1990, let me tell you where the name Nkoloma stadium comes from. Mr Nkoloma was butchered by members of the Tonga lead ANC who later bombed the Lubengele hall in Chililabombwe killing dozens of disco goers.

  8. The bombing of Lubengele hall bombing was sad I remember in Mufulira one of my senior at Chankwa primary school lost his life in that incidence. Some politics practised by certain sectors of society is backward.

  9. James bugs is right, they forgot a few.
    11. Rampant deception and manipulation as method of litigation, unprofessionalism by Zambian lawyers, and them manufacturing vexatious suits for economic means. LAZ and ZIALE arming and offloading bandits onto the Zambian population, without teaching them that a UN benefit entitlement cNnot be extorted from a female Diplomat in a national state lacking jurisdiction in UN money. Police aiding illegality.
    12, abuse of the justice system as a method of gender violence, torture, enslavement and extortion from a female Diplomat
    13. State sponsored banditry, by those who come from the same province with the President.
    15. Incompetence of IG and his inability to improve his academic qualification resulting in him illegally with holding a female…

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