By Elias C. Chipimo
Today marks the eighth day since 10 Opposition Parties came together to discuss ways in which our individual strengths and capabilities can be best coordinated and utilised to bring about a sense of hope in our citizens and a prosperous future for current and unborn generations.
We came together not to select a candidate for a future election but to fight for the ordinary lives that are being destroyed by the mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect that has beset our once vibrant nation. It is, of course, inevitable that the debate about a single candidate will emerge but if we occupy our minds worrying about that at this stage, we will miss the opportunity to find each others strengths and cover up for each others weaknesses as we forge a path that will re-define how we pursue our politics.
Alliances have come and gone. What will make this current desire for unity succeed will be more than the operational framework we adopt (i.e. the way we organise ourselves internally). While that is important, our success will be based primarily on the effort each of us puts into applying our talents for the common good of our nation, particularly the most vulnerable among us: those battling to put a meal on the family table each day; those struggling with serious health challenges with limited or no financial means to address their plight; those seeking employment or vending on the open streets as a means of survival; those whose twelve and thirteen year-old children are entering the commercial sex trade because it provides a way out of their financial misery; those battling with addiction and substance abuse brought on by the hopelessness of their poverty; those scratching out a pitiful existence in a neglected rural community, not because their land lacks the potential for abundance but because their potential has been endlessly stifled by politicians that long ceased to care for anything other than their vote. These concerns must lie at the heart of our unity.
As an alliance seeking unity on matters of common concern, it is not our place to consider that we have all the answers. We ought to be prepared to learn from one another and to grow through an understanding of the things we lack that can be complemented by the strengths of others. No political party in Zambia is complete in and of itself. Indeed, no individual can exist by themselves. We each require the effort and support of others to live and to thrive. In order to build the Zambia we all yearn for, we have to build the foundation of unity in the mould of our forebears who worked hard to see beyond tribe and helped us to see it too; who sought to live within their means and not make the pursuit of illicit wealth their sole ambition; who understood the enduring power of investing in our people. That is the Zambia we stand united to reclaim.
There will be naysayers and doubters and those that will make it their aim to bring an end to what we are trying to build together. Nothing worth fighting for ever came easy. But this is a fight that must be fought and won; a fight that will ultimately benefit even those who – out of fear that they will lose their grip on power – will use all the means at their disposal to attempt to discredit and destroy not only our aims but our very lives. Our goal must never be to harden our hearts against our detractors but to recognise that they too are part of the fabric that makes up the Zambia we live in today. We must engage with them, no matter how nasty they become, but not on their terms. We must define and hold fast to a new way of interacting with one another, one that builds trust and respect, never giving in to fear and intimidation but to a burning desire to make the life of every citizen better.
So how will we do this? By creating the level political playing field that will allow the best of our individual and collective leadership and political talent to come to the fore. We cannot do this without an independent, investigative, well trained and supported media accessible to all (media reform). We cannot do this without well run institutions that adhere to high governance standards and are independently accountable under the rule of law (governance and rule of law). We cannot do this without a competent judiciary that operates under the glare of full transparency (judicial reform). We cannot do this without a system of electing public officials that is open to full scrutiny and transparent dealings (electoral reform). We cannot do this without a constitution that serves to meet the aspirations of the entire body of citizens rather than the protection of a privileged few (constitutional reform). We cannot do this while there is a constant looming threat of political violence (addressing political violence). We cannot do this without the talent of ordinary citizens whose potential is locked away by joblessness and political exclusion (citizen participation and creation of employment and economic opportunities).
These are the issues that bring us together. These are the issues that as we unite to address, will bring hope to each and every Zambian that is tired of the corruption, plunder and impunity that characterises the present political leadership. It is time to unite around mutual concerns and to remove the real enemy of the people: complacency and the acceptance of the abnormal as normal.
As NAREP, we see our contribution to this undertaking as critical in the ideas we generate. We believe there are solutions to the joblessness affecting the youth and will seek to work with our Opposition and Independent-minded brothers and sisters in Parliament to present legislation that can give life to our visionary TiPanGeni plan within the next sitting of Parliament. We believe that our thoughts on judicial reform, corruption and governance will offer a vibrant approach to accountability and slaying the now accepted prevalence of corruption. Regardless of who comes to power, it will be important to have established a solid working relationship among the various political stakeholders around agreed approaches to these and the other matters on our common agenda. Our doors remain open to all that seek a better Zambia, including genuine Opposition parties that are yet to step into this partnership. Join us.
The Author is the President of the opposition National Restoration Party in Zambia