By Hon Davies Mwila
The American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr made a heartfelt plea:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
I believe that Zambia is confronted with ‘the fierce urgency of now’, in which ‘apathy or complacency’ by any Zambian poses a serious danger to our democracy as well as to everything that defines the best of who we are as Zambians, including our values, our brotherhood, and sisterhood, our humanity, our nationhood. While the majority of us still profess and act in a manner that is consistent with our national creed of “One Zambia, One Nation” under God, there are some among us who make a living by driving a wedge between us along with tribal, regional, the opposition party and ruling party lines. These people who practice these politics forget the toxicity that their modus operandi bring to our politics, which in turn hamper poverty reduction and development efforts. These practitioners of toxic politics – who are still my brothers and sisters – forget or seem not to realize that we are Zambians first and foremost, and therefore, we must all focus on what is of benefit to all Zambians be they opposition, ruling or non-partisan, and regardless of tribe and region. It is with the above wider perspective, accompanied by a deep sense of the _‘fierce urgency of now’_, that we must work collectively as a people to move Zambia forward; first and foremost, by uprooting the ugly scourge of toxic politics, which hampers the achievement of unprecedented levels economic development anywhere in the world.
In view of the above, this deep sense of urgency should be focused and directed at addressing the faults lines which want to deeply engrave themselves in our body politic.
Chief among these faults is the unwelcome and dangerous indulgence in toxic politics by some politicians in Zambia. I brand them as ‘toxic politics’ because such politics are cancer that eats away societal values of humanity, unity, and solidarity; which in turn breeds apathy, instability, violence and hopelessness; and which ultimately breeds poverty and underdevelopment. As we know, poverty and politics again start feeding those earlier symptoms, resulting in a ‘vicious circle’. This cannot and should not be our society and destiny. Zambia deserves better.
Therefore, as Zambians, partisan or non-partisan, we all have a shared responsibility to actively participate in completely uprooting the scourge of toxic politics in Zambia which is manifested through fake news; exalting regionalism and tribalism; being violently disagreeable; agitating polarization (zero bipartisanship) and deliberately choosing to be blind to any good done by Government, as well as an acute case of being unable to offer any credible alternative national development policies but instead, they have majored in “NO” to anything and everything no matter how good it is for the citizens such as roads, schools, airports, hospitals.
Definitely, this is toxic politics and there is nothing noble in them at all. As a Christian Nation, Scripture categorically commands to forsake ill-will, toxicity and indecency in everything we do include politics, when it says: “with goodwill (not ill-will) doing service (doing everything), as to the LORD, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:7).
We must remove toxicity in our body politic which is manifested through violent conduct and language, and vain endeavors to paint development (roads, hospitals, schools, etc.) as corruption or something bad.
Doing so will bring about development-oriented politics and give Zambians the development promised to them in the Vision 2030. This development which is being ‘black’ or something akin to evil is not development for the PF Party, it is development FOR all Zambians – partisan and non-partisan, young and old, and Zambians everywhere.
This fight and commitment to completely uproot the scourge of toxicity out of our body politic involves every Zambian at every level and in every place. This is because, this will accelerate the attainment of Zambia’s inclusive development as espoused in the 7NDP and Vision 2030; but also, this will enable all of us – partisan, non-partisan, civil society, investors – to “live peaceful and quiet lives”, to borrow from scripture (1 Timothy 2:2). This is one important aspect of sustainable development, an environment that ensures peace, stability, harmony, unity, collective effort, honesty, decency in the practice of our politics.
Zambia has to do this now; it cannot wait for tomorrow. For, Zambia is now facing the fact that ‘tomorrow is now today’.
In this sense, ‘patriotism’ in present-day Zambia has taken a far deeper meaning, which among other things, should mean that all Zambians should not act indifferently to toxicity in our body politic which manifests itself through falsehoods, tribalism, regionalism, violence speech and conduct, and an acute failure of offering credible policy alternatives or commendation to Government where it is due by some in the opposition. No patriotic Zambia should indulge in apathy or complacency by tolerating and feeding on fake news which labels development as corruption, or the toxicity of politics which points our people to the dangerous trappings of regionalism and tribalism.
Part of patriotism in today’s Zambia also means the citizen should understand the roles and responsibilities of leaders of political parties, and demand that from them. Part of patriotism should also mean the citizen remains aware that ‘leadership is not merely positional’, but more about ‘influence’. Therefore, the patriotic citizen ought to ask him/herself what norms, ideas, vision, behavior, worldview is a particular leader ‘influencing’ or ‘inspiring’ in our body politic? Is sh/e inspiring peace, stability, unity, collectiveness, and development?
A patriotic citizen must understand that a leader can positively influence, which I call ‘positive leadership’. Also, leaders can negatively influence, “negative leadership” also known us reactionary leadership and negative forces. Much of our current opposition find unanimity in the class of reactionary and negative forces; a gang of reactionary forces who, like Frantz Fanon said, belief in “using the people against the people” to achieve their selfish, narrow-minded goals. These opposition leaders who practice and bring toxicity in our body politic are those the Holy Scriptures describe as, “having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? (Mark 8:18)”. These opposition leaders have forgotten or turned a blind eye to the terrible outcomes of bringing toxicity in a body politic in any country, as it brings about stunted development, poverty, instability, violence and misery. But does toxicity care if this were to happen? Or, is this the outcome which toxicity of the larger part of Zambia’s opposition wishes upon the Zambian head? Preaching and practicing toxicity by the opposition is not punishing PF, it is punishing the decent Zambian father and mother, and the child.
Just as leaders have responsibilities, so does the ‘followers’. As patriotic citizens first and foremost, followers should look at what and who benefits Zambia as a whole – not their party, region or tribe. Zambia First and Only. For a follower; it starts with knowing and understanding his/her society and where his/her society is headed based on concrete programs clearly espoused in a Party Manifesto, which large opposition parties such as the UPND has not managed to put together until now. The follower as a patriotic citizen should seriously ask, if not by mere rhetoric, what guides the UPND’s agenda? How do they hope to “develop” Zambia without an articulate plan through a UPND Manifesto? How does their so-called “fix-it” plan lookout without a plan defined in a UPND Manifesto? Without saying much, it has been said that “failing to plan (a Manifesto), is planning to fail”. In this sense, UPND failing to put up a party manifesto means they are planning to fail Zambia! That is not the alternative any follower as a patriotic Zambia should support regardless of tribe or region!
Yet, these reactionary forces and toxic politicians would still dare trivialize the relevance of a Party Manifesto. But, this follower as a patriotic citizen must by right expect his/her opposition leader to bring about the best of who we are as a people – ‘One Zambia, One Nation, under God’. A society that does not glorify negative and reactionary forces and leaders. A society that collectively has no stomach for tribalism, regionalism, violence, hate speech and painting development as evil and corrupt. If the follower as a patriotic citizen finds that his/her opposition leader stubbornly continues to indulge in toxic politics of divisions, fake news and violence; then the follower has a responsibility to act against such negative opposition leaders and forces, and heed the Scriptural admonition and “leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, NIV).
*When Development Is Called An Evil: The Destructive Effect of Toxic Politics and Intransigent Forces*
Although unconscionable, toxic opposition politicians and other intransigent forcers hope for and at times, actively campaign for, the entrenchment of poverty, misery, hopelessness, violence, tribalism and divisions in Zambia. These negative forces in opposition have an unconscionable narrow-minded goal to cause and/or hope for mass suffering and stalled development, then use that as stepping stones to attain their self-centered ambitions: power for the sake of power. This raises serious ethical questions because humanity demands that no human being should hope or work to see poverty, stalled development and divisions in society just to score cheap political points. It is this same power-hungry and a reactionary lot that has formed an unholy alliance to relentless a crusade of lies and antonyms, where development means underdevelopment, and good becomes bad. Such cannot be called an opposition especially if they consistently fail to offer any objective criticism by offering credible development policy alternatives. Yet, our opposition fails in this and instead start dealing in antonyms of calling development as underdevelopment, and progress as retrogressive. By so doing, Zambia’s opposition has succumbed to toxic politics, and failed to heed Jorge Luis Borges’ admonition that, “do not talk unless you can improve the silence”.
Blinded by their poverty of ambition which hopes to gain political mileage out of people’s suffering; these toxic opposition politicians – who are still my people – have a method behind this. It is said that there is always a method to the madness. And the method behind this madness by the opposition is their hope that by calling development as underdevelopment, and progress as bad; then the PF Government will surrender and stop implementing its Developmental Agenda as articulated in the 7NDP and Vision 2030. By hoping for misery and poverty, these toxic politicians forget that they are essentially branding themselves as missionaries and lords over misery and poverty – classic prophets of doom!
By labeling development as underdevelopment, and progress as corrupt and bad; these reactionary forces inadvertently make themselves the chief enemies of development and progress in Zambia – the enemies of progress!
To the above, the questions which must be asked are:
1. How should the ‘followers’ of these negative opposition leaders as well as the general public respond to this opposition-inspired toxicity in our body politic?
2. How should the ‘followers’ of these negative opposition leaders as well as the general public respond to this opposition-inspired campaign of antonyms to call development as underdevelopment, and progress as bad – all in the evil hope that PF Government will be discouraged to implement the Developmental Agenda espoused in the 7NDP and Vision 2030?
The followers of these negative opposition leaders and other reactionary forces must heed the Scriptural warning, and immediately _“leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, NIV).
The Author is the Ruling Patriotic Front(PF) Secretary-General