VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga says despite citizens’ expectations being high, the UPND administration should be given time to settle down and make rational decisions that will stand the test of time.

In a statement, Wednesday, Mwaanga said UPND and President Hakainde Hichilema’s victory had brought renewed hope that Zambia would have a functioning democracy.

“Africa has gone through different phases before resorting to some forms of democracy. We have had autocratic regimes, military regimes among others. It has been a long and frustrating journey. 45 out of the 55 African countries have held or committed to holding elections of some form or another. This is progress, modest as it may be. Zambia has had a culture of holding elections to elect local and national leaders since independence in October 1964. We were a multiparty country from 1964 to 1973 and then we endured a one-party system of governance from 1973 to 1991, when our country reverted to a multi-party system of governance, which is slowly developing and taking root,” Mwaanga said.

“The tripartite elections of 12th August, 2021, testify to a growing culture of democracy, which has had hiccups in the recent past. Citizens turned up in large numbers, over 70 percent voter turnout never seen before, to vote for political candidates of their choice. The election saw President Hakainde Hichilema elected by a margin of one million votes and a change in the composition of the National Assembly and local councils. The UPND Alliance has promised a new dawn of zero tolerance to corruption which was eating up our moral fabric and had become a huge cost to our national economy. The massive victory of President HH and the UPND Alliance has brought renewed hope that we shall finally have a functioning democracy.”

Mwaanga said the country needed qualified individuals to work in government and diplomatic positions.

“Expectations of the citizens are high and so are those of people who are eager to be appointed to government or diplomatic positions to serve the people. This happens everywhere in the world when there is a change of government. People must be patient and give President Hichilema and his administration a bit of time to settle down and make rational decisions, which will pass the test of time. The country needs people who are qualified for the jobs available and who will help the UPND Alliance government to fulfil election promises they made to the people of Zambia,” he said.

“Experience teaches us that democracy is a collective undertaking that involves duties and obligations; rights and responsibilities, that bring together. The leaders and the led; the electors and the elected; representatives of civil society, political institutions, which must be involved in constant dialogue, consultation and national consensus building. We should not overlook the fact that democracy means different things to different people. This is reflected in the Harare Declaration issued by Commonwealth Leaders in 1991, where they stated the following ‘…Democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances … ’. The crucial point is that the true will of the people should be freely expressed, within a framework of respect for the rule of law, and respects the rights of others.”

Mwaanga said democracy entailed a government had to be transparent and guarantee the rule of law.

“I would categorise these in a functioning democracy as follows; (1) the participation of the adult population in the election and removal of the government through free, fair, credible and democratic elections which meet international standards, (2) freedom of association and expression, which must include freedom of a responsible press, (3) transparency of the process of government and (4) the rule of law and guarantees for equality under the law,” said Mwaanga.

“There is great wisdom in the saying that democracy, like an army, cannot match on an empty stomach. Faith in democracy can easily be eroded and even rejected by failure to materially better the lives of people. Experience has shown that democracy cannot possibly survive in conditions of abject poverty. It must be seen to be putting food on the table. I know of many African countries which have maintained impeccable democratic credentials, but which are still wrestling with crippling development and unsustainable national debt burden. I found a very sobering comment I once read many years ago by the famous German theologian Neibuhr, who said “man’s capacity for evil, makes democracy necessary; man’s capacity for good, makes democracy necessary’. Yes, it may be said that democracy is not cheap, but the alternative is worse and I mean far worse.”