A vibrant opposition is as good as an efficient govt

We are elated to see that the opposition in Zambia has decided to unite and speak with one voice on various issues affecting citizens. We are told that this coalition is not about supporting one candidate to stand in 2021, at least not for now. They say each political party will retain autonomy, but unite when need arises to address specific governance challenges.

A few observers and critics have already argued that this move may have been implemented too early and could lose momentum by 2021. Others feel this is a premature, desperate congregation of selfish individuals who don’t have the capacity to sacrifice their personal interests for the greater good of serving Zambia.

Our opinion is that this united opposition front, or whatever appropriate name it has adopted, must be supported by all well-meaning Zambians. In fact, it is good that various political parties are showing willingness to work together before the hype for the next general elections reaches climax.

Why do we think so? In our view, political leadership doesn’t mean being in State House or ministerial office and signing government contracts and giving orders to civil servants. It is very possible for a group of people to contribute immensely to a country’s governance system even before forming government, and we have seen this work in progressive countries where laws are respected.

If anything, a vibrant opposition is as good as an efficient government, if not better. People think this unity is too early or premature because they want it to be formed for one purpose and one purpose only, which is to remove President Lungu and his Patriotic Front from power. Yes, eventually, it inevitably culminates into that objective, but forming political pacts for that sole purpose is what has caused united fronts to lose elections in the past.

We would like to argue that the responsibility of changing government is not bestowed on the opposition, but the people who desire to be governed differently. When citizens feel the existing government is too corrupt, oppressive and failing to uphold the promises it made before it was voted into office, it becomes their duty to take it down. But in order to bring about positive change in government, the electorate needs to be presented with an opportunity to scrutinize options among the available alternative political formations.

People want a government of leaders who are willing to sacrifice their personal interests, leaders who genuinely love this country, take advice, tolerate criticism, respect the provisions of the Constitution and have the capacity to unite the country. Those who want to govern need to satisfy the leadership attributes listed above. Once the people identify such a political formation, they will not shy away from selecting new leaders from it.

It is for this reason that we support the formation of this united opposition front. We feel that it has come at the right time to fight the bad governance practices being perpetrated by the Patriotic Front. The people of Zambia have always been yearning for a much stronger voice, a voice that will point to the issues affecting them, and mounting actionable pressure on those elected to provide public service to perform their duties.

Considering that this political alliance insists that it has not been formed for the purpose of propping up a 2021 presidential candidate, we feel then that it is espousing a good cause that deserves support. If it proves to be effective in speaking for the voiceless and oppressed citizens, then we don’t actually see it losing momentum ahead of 2021.

But we must warn that uniting for ulterior motives has the potential to leave the opposition even more fragmented than it already is. If those who are organizing this political alliance are going in with the desire to weaken and swallow other political parties, there will be a devastating fallout from the divisions that will ensue because people who have principals don’t like being used.

For this alliance to work and last long in delivering the desired checks and balances on behalf of the people of Zambia, its leaders must suspend their egos. Those who feel powerful and more popular must be willing to lower themselves and elevate those alliance partners who may be perceived to be weak and less popular; otherwise why are they inviting them to a formation if they don’t recognize their relevance? They must get together with the appreciation that each of the alliance leaders has their own strength and weakness, but together, they form a formidable pact.

We would like to end by advising those who are defining the agenda for this alliance to be progressive and calculative in their activities. They have to know what battles they can fight and win, and which battles they must not waste time on. If they want to champion for electoral reforms, for example, as a united opposition, they now have a formidable front that can win the attention of international organizations that fund elections in Zambia. They need to speak with one voice and tell the outside world where things go wrong in Zambia and how votes are stolen. Let them call for help in addressing loopholes in the electoral system before 2021. That is what they must focus on as they aggressively challenge corruption, abuse of power and State capture under the PF.

We heard from its recent joint press conference that this political alliance will fight tooth and nail to prevent incumbent President Edgar Lungu from contesting presidential elections for the third time. That is okay to say for the voters to hear, but directing all energies to achieve this will be a waste of time, as it were during the 2016 presidential election petition. Petitioners had a point, but the President had the power and money! Who won?

President Lungu is standing in 2021, unless nature decides otherwise. There is no court that will reverse the decision of the Constitutional Court, it’s done and dusted – illegal or not, that is the PF candidate. It was more feasible to challenge the third term bid before the court had a say on it than it is now after the biased judges have endorsed his candidature.

Yes, the third term failed under Frederick Chiluba because Zambia had a very powerful civil society then, the church leadership was respected then, Cabinet ministers were loyal to the country rather than an individual, while eminent lawyers and judges loved Zambia more than money. We live in a mafia state today where money controls everything and everyone; it’s each one for himself, and God for us all.

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