Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Politics: Why did you join?


‘To enact and execute just laws, is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.’ (Prov 21:2)

Very often when people in politics are asked about why they joined politics, they reply, ‘To help people.’ In the west, I have often heard a very different answer, ‘To make a difference.’


These two answers are superficially similar but they are not. When you look at politicians in Africa and in Zambia in particular, the way they help people is by using their money and resources. A member of parliament in a town I lived in many years ago used to offer his van to transport the infame to hospital every evening. He was there for the funerals. He would donate food and transport for the mourners. To the people in that constituency, he was ‘a good man’ who deserved another term in office and so he was re-elected. For years that constituency remained very poor and backward.

I once went to a house of a mayor of a city in Zambia. I found dozens of political party women cadres camped at the back garden doing nothing but chatting and gossiping while being fed by the wife of the mayor. I asked what this was all about and the answer I got was, ‘This is politics.’ This is what the Zambian people have come to expect from politicians. He is a good one if he donates a truck load of millie meal to the constituents, if he dishes out money in public places or at State House in brown envelopes, if he distributes chitenge wraps, pays school fees for a desperate single mother’s child, settles a hospital bill here and there.

If this is what we want from our politicians, we should not be surprised that they will steal from the national coffers in order to maintain their reputation. They believe themselves to be benevolent Robin Hoods, only that they do not steal from the rich but from the same people whom they pretend to be helping. These politicians do not do these things in order TO HELP PEOPLE, no, no. They do it for THEMSELVES. The eye is on the next election.


In the United Kingdom, I have met dozens of families that sponsor children in Africa every year. They pay for these children’s education and wellbeing. They are unsung heroes who do not have much. Charities too, like World Vision, Oxfam, Water Aid etc are helping people world wide. They are not politicians. The point is this. You do not need to join politics to help people.

How come EVERY politician in Zambia is financially better off when in office than they were before they entered politics? Are they really helping the people or helping themselves?

The 44th President of the US, Barack Obama, was a social activist in Chicago, helping people. I take Obama’s example because it gives the best human motive one can ever have to join politics. Obama could have been a lawyer, and a good one for that. He could have made a lot of money from law practice and then used his money and resources to help individual families in Chicago South side. No. Obama saw that the problem his people were facing was political. It had to do with the LAWS OF THE COUNTRY. This is what motivated him to become a politician.


I would ask the 150 members of parliament in Zambia today. ‘HONOURABLE SIR/MADAM. What law have you enacted or changed or sponsored/proposed that has helped the Zambian people?’ Zambians are still paying through their noses for EDUCATION, for HEALTHCARE. Pensioners are dying before they receive their money. Thousands of Zambians have jobs without a written contract and can be fired at any time by their employers. Millions of Zambians are homeless and a majority of those who rent have no rights at all and rentals can be hiked without notice at all if there is another tenant willing to pay more. Millions of Zambians are still without clean water. Those in the city townships like Ng’ombe, Chawama, George are still defecating in containers at night because pit-toilets are outside the house. The Zambia police have killed and maimed people and no one has ever been blamed for it. The existing laws are weak against peaceful demonstrations and protests. People are victimised even for satire as long as the President is aggrieved. The media is only free as long as it sings the ruling party’s songs. We cannot have a country where good and evil acts depend on the mood and morality of the one man in State House. The country must be above that.

Well might Isaiah lament. ‘You cannot be trusted, even in court. You lie about each other and depend on false arguments to win your cases. YOU CREATE PAIN and produce wickedness’ (Is 59:4)

What has the MP, the Mayor, the Minister, the Vice President or even the President of Zambia done to CHANGE this for the 17 million individual Zambians? How have you used the law to level the playing field so that every Zambian has a chance to succeed in life regardless of tribe, race or station in life? In August 1979, President Kaunda opened Zambia’s largest hospital, the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. Kaunda celebrated one very important piece of legislation that his UNIP government had enacted- Free healthcare at the point of need. He pointed out that without this, far fewer than 2 million Zambians would be able to see a doctor or afford a hospital visit. UNIP did that. It made a difference for every child in Zambia to get an education, every person to go to a hospital and be treated free of charge. The unions had immense power to negotiate labour conditions.

It looks like laws are only made to make life better and more comfortable for those who are already well off and in the favour of the rulers.

Why did you join politics?

Imagine you were stripped of all your power and wealth right now, would you be in a better Zambia than when you entered politics? Do you think that your children would have a good chance of making it in life without your money? If you were sick, do you think that you could afford healthcare? If you were arrested and sent to prison, do you think that you would find prison conditions better than before you took up politics? What difference have you made for Jack Chipulu, a street kid in Lusaka?

By Charles N


  1. The pf government and its membership are in politics to goverm and serve. Our track record speaks for itself-unprecedented infrastructure development which has provided a foundation or auspicious drive for economic development and growth. It is there for all to see. It is this drive to develop our people which has been instrumental in securing election victories since 2011. Kz

  2. We pray for a time when our people will realise that it’s not alright and honourable to accept fish instead of a fish hook from leaders.

  3. What is there to see exactly KZ? Development is investing in things that return revenue at the rate higher than the expenses used. You can’t call development an investment where expenditure is higher than revenue being generated from the infrastructure. What course did you study? Even a grade 7 with accounts can understand that simple fact. You invested money in your pockets you don’t love your country you love yourselves so much

  4. This is a well-thought-out article albeit with one some incorrect statement. UTH opened in 1979? No way. My father breathed his last in the UTH in 1978. Perhaps KK was opening an extension to the UTH in 1979. Otherwise, a very good commentary on a pertinent issue in erudite prose. I hope it touches some people in politics.

  5. What has we done? 1. they have opened up zambia through good roads, 2.they have brought development to your door steps through the decentralisation. The number of tv and radio stations licences have increased, they have brought the spirit of reconcilliation e.g the nolle prosique of hh, the list is endles

  6. This is the best article so far this year, it really glorifies God and states clearly what God stands for. Ba Charles N, you must be a man of God and I hope you practice what you preach. God bless you and I hope our politicians have learnt something from what you have written but our politicians can be be stiff necked to God’s message as the Bible says in Acts 7:51.

  7. “We cannot have a country where good and evil acts depend on the mood and morality of the one man in State House. The country must be above that.”

    True. The mentality of expecting political leaders to solve all problems is what has led to failed governance and poverty in many African countries including Zambia. In Germany, it is interesting to observe that private companies and individual enterpreneurs can be more influential than politicians in the key roles the play in economic growth for their various federal states. Government only plays a secondary role in supporting them with favourable economic policies.

  8. Charles N has raised very serious issues in a very neutral and beautiful way. My frustration is that it will end just here. We Zambians MUST stop pretending like those who rule are gods. It’s nauseating to see sycophants and citizens grovel and lick the boots of those leeches referred to as honorable and Excellency when they are in fact plain leeches and suckers.

  9. @Kaizer Zulu
    Consider the last paragraph. If you were a laboratory technician and never joined politics, how would you have fared?

    P.F Polotician’s pledge, 2020.
    Meantime #P.F.MUSTGO

  11. Great article. It lays the foundation for self introspection in our political culture. The current crop of politicians we have are a product of a defunct political system and culture. Our high poverty levels push people into politics to make a quick buck and seek the good life but the good life is a product of virtuous life not one of crime and evil. To fully get rid of these bad apples in politics, we need a cultural revolution led by selfless philosopher kings who will throw these criminals in government in the dungeons where they belong. Democracy has also turned out to be our greatest curse because it has made it possible for the worst of the worst crooks to aquire political power. My thesis is that “Anyone can rule, but not everyone should rule,” only a select few selfless…

  12. …..selfless philosopher kings who put the needs of the masses above their own bellies. I don’t blame Edgar, I don’t blame Brian, I don’t blame Kampyongo, or even the little man Chitotela. They are beneficiaries of a defunct democratic system and a political culture of self empowerment. Again, I repeat, “anyone can rule, but not everyone should rule.” Where our natural resources are up for grabs and our human capital up for exploitation, it would be wise to elect only philosopher kings (technocrats) going forward because a lot is at stake for us as a state. The average Zambian has not travelled and has not seen the way the other half of the world lives and the caliber of people in office hence, they are deceived by thugs who proclaim infrastructure development counts for self…

  13. ….counts for self actualization of the masses. Mr. politician what about the job security of the youth who graduated with a degree from unza 10 years ago and is still languishing in the streets? What about the millions of Zambians that go 15 hours a day without electricity? How can you call us a competitive Country when our people have no unlimited access to the information highways necessary to stay competitive in the information age? Lucky you Mr. politician, the average Zambian has not seen how the other half across the world is living otherwise you would have an uprsing on your doorstep within no time. To add salt to the wound, these political thugs we call our leaders have even silenced the media to drive the unsuspecting voters into further darkness. Young people, I urge you to…

  14. …I urge you to refuse to live like this anymore. Make your vote count next year. They can imprison your body, but not your mind. There is nothing normal about going jobless for more than a year after toiling for four years in college. There is nothing normal about going without electricity for 15 hours a day in a country blessed with abundant water resources. There is no reason why a Zambian should not enjoy the same social amenities as a Singaporean who doesn’t even have the natural resources you have. The problem is your poitical leadership. Change it or perish the choice is yours. It takes courage to change the familiar but sometimes it’s necessary.

  15. As far as criteria for our MPs go, I think it’s best to ask them what laws, if any, they have enacted that makes their communities better off.
    It’s very important to do that!
    Most of the voters don’t even know what it means when they elect people to represent them.
    You retain your seat if you are seen to be donating from the constituency development fund, lol. We need voters who will ask MPs, what laws have you enacted on my behalf that make my life better?
    Well written article.

  16. As Layman has rightly stated, most Zambians haven’t had the opportunity to travel and so may feel that the leadership we have is adequate.
    I think this is why we have the majority of diaspora who appear to question most of the so called development by the PF, most of them know better what it means to lead, and exposure makes them refuse PF statements.
    I am yet to see a PF supporter here air their views reasonably, 9 Chale tries to seem smart by writing long essays about philosophy that don’t apply and NEEZ UPND strategist is busy with his Kaizer profile trying to discredit the PF.

  17. I commend Charles for this enlightenment on the current situation. We have people in our midst who want to make that difference in our lives while we put in power the foolish majority who want to help the poor! Surely, we need to change our thinking culture! For years and years, we have approached politics from a different perspective, thinking that the people we elect will make a change to our lives! They have failed miserably. As we walk to the next elections in 2021, let’s think and make our vote count! Voting Pee Efu back is like stabbing ourselves in the back! Let us try someone else.

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