OUR country has suffered a slow pace of development because our politicians spend more time attending to non-issues while neglecting the real problems that are affecting our people. This is reflected in the kind of debates that our leaders engage in. The quality of politics in our country calls for deep meditation from all citizens of goodwill. We make this call because we feel the kind of discourse that politicians are engaging in will not help us solve the many problems that are causing misery among our people.

There is no leadership that can govern without making a single mistake. It is simply impossible. But when mistakes are made, a sober leadership takes responsibility, apologises and retains its focus on the real issues. The bicycle scandal would not have ended in that embarrassing manner if those in government had been honest from the onset. Strangely, after being caught in a web of lies, the Minister of Home Affairs now has the audacity of placing the blame on opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for the misinformation. To us, this is really cheap politicking that should not be tolerated because such useless claims can derail national debate on developmental issues.

We should not allow the politics of our country to be relegated to trivialities chosen precisely because they salve the consciences of the powerful and well-to-do, while concealing the plight of the poor and powerless. The kind of politics that we are seeing in Zambia today leave much to be desired. It’s more like children playing a country game where one pretends to be president and he has ministers who have to act like leaders. It’s hard to believe some of the decisions, actions and statements that come from our leaders.

We cannot have a trend where non-issues are the order of the day as far as discourse is concerned. This practice is unacceptable and needs to be changed. Our nation’s politicians, both in the government and the opposition, need to take stock of their contribution towards the development of our politics and democracy. What is it that they have done to make politics an honourable and dignified service? What plans do they have for the people?

Our people are facing numerous problems and challenges. Poverty in this country stands at about 64 per cent. Most of our people both in urban and rural areas can barely manage to survive. There are many people in Zambia who each day cannot meet the basic needs necessary for a decent human life. Our nation is richly endowed with natural resources, but our people live in abject poverty. The unemployment levels still remain very high, over 75 per cent, and most of our young people continue to walk the streets without any opportunities for jobs. These people want to hear a voice of hope, they want to hear meaningful dialogue from their leaders. They want to hear from responsible government officials who are willing to show accountability.

In the midst of all these problems and challenges, our political leaders have embraced corruption, destroying the social structures of our country. Why are our leaders so greedy? Why is it that when they are caught in a scandal, they look for someone else to blame? This is the reason why our country cannot fight corruption effectively because it appears there is a written rule to defend anything that is negative about their leadership. Individuals who are corrupt in this government are enjoying while the innocent are having to pay for their sins. We have noticed that when one minister or government department is found wanting, everyone else in government is expected to swing to their defence.

Corruption is robbing our nation of scarce resources. Those who pay bribes, those who protect and defend very corrupt elements are perpetuating an already dysfunctional system. We invite all Zambians to avoid corruption at all costs and condemn it whenever and wherever they see it. It should not matter who is involved, the corrupt must be called by their name and the people must demand justice.

These are the issues that we should be discussing as a country, not name calling and useless claims. And it is even laughable that at times the same leaders who perpetuate these non-issues accuse the media of being petty and yet the media is just a mirror of society; it reflects what is happening in the country – be it desirable or undesirable. When a minister calls citizens “stupid”, the whole government is silent, when the media make reference to the same word, government demands an apology, what kind of society is that?

The politicians need to understand that the situation in the country will not improve as long as they continue to make trivia their only discernible preoccupation. No one will develop our country for us. And politics need to be taken very serious because it is the instrument by which people cooperate together in order to achieve the common good. Political leadership is needed to guide the energies of all towards the common good.

For these reasons, politics need people with high credibility; people with substance whose every word, every act and every policy conforms to the people’s interests. No one will come and lecture us on the necessity for visionary and hardworking political leadership that is imbued with the desire for change that is anchored on democratic governance and patriotism to our nation.

No one will come and remind us that political leadership should come with requisite knowledge, motivational force, managerial ability, flexibility, acuity, organising capacity and forthrightness. We are responsible for our own destiny and we will continue to wallow in poverty and underdevelopment if nothing is done to eradicate the mediocrity in our politics. Our people have a responsibility to take political leaders to task and demand better performance from them at all times.