The definition of democracy seems to be eluding us. We say so because what happened at the PF convention is anything but democracy and yet we seem to be accepting and tolerating the decision of the ruling party to completely ignore the provisions of the Constitution that require casting of a ballot when parties are choosing their leaders.
If we know what democracy is, there would be no way we could accept what transpired at the PF convention.
Yes, We! We are saying “we” because the PF convention is not just a party activity, it’s an event that is stipulated in the Republican Constitution, and it covers all political parties seeking to participate in the national election.
Ordinarily we would not mind what the PF does with their convention, but since they enacted a law that requires that a presidential candidate must be subjected to an intra-party election process, we have to scrutinise what transpired.
We are concerned that there was no voting exercise at the PF national convention. What we saw was a dictatorial process of endorsements.
Anyone who showed interest to challenge the incumbent was threatened and those that insisted were expelled from the party. Such was the case of Mr Kelvin Bwalya Fube who, after making clear his intentions to challenge President Edgar Lungu heading into the 2021 elections, faced unwarranted intimidation from the PF leadership and was later expelled from the party for apparently showing disrespect! Where is the democracy there?
We honestly think that in expelling and blocking KBF from challenging Lungu at the convention, the ruling party missed a trick. Instead of looking at KBF’s ambitions as a sign of disrespect towards the establishment, the PF leadership would have been wise to view such ambitions as an opportunity to show, not just opposition, but the party members themselves that they belong to a democratic institution where competition is not only accepted, but in fact encouraged. They should have gone a step further by facilitating for a smooth poll at the convention. That’s what true democrats do.
We are not the only ones concerned with the way the ruling party decided to conduct itself in this matter and we agree with Mr Nason Msoni who says by design, the PF convention was not meant to be democratic because they put thugs at the entrance to sort out anyone with an ambition or a divergent view.
Nason MSONI: “Whether there was democracy at play at the PF convention, I think that speaks for itself. The mere primitivity that we saw of closing off the entrance to the venue for anyone who wished to challenge President Lungu, that in itself is undemocratic conduct. The idea of mobilising and recruiting thugs and stationing them at the door, at the entrance awaiting to mete out instant mob justice on the opponent, it does not portray that you are dealing with democrats.”
Before the convention the PF secretary general issued a statement that the central committee had resolved to endorse Lungu as sole candidate, and at the convention we were told that the President had powers to appoint member of the same party organ that endorsed him. So in essence, the central committee appointed Lungu and Lungu appointed the central committee. What kind of democracy is that?
If the PF top leadership, those that benefit the most from having Lungu as Republican President are happy with him, then well and good. We are not against their decision to endorse him because that is their choice. But the problem comes in when a select few in the party appoint a presidential candidate and make a decision to bypass a critical electoral process that is required by the Republican Constitution. This, in our view is lawlessness.
Who voted for Lungu? The PF central committee cannot on its own pick a presidential candidate, other delegates are the convention needed to be brought to the table, and votes needed to be cast before a candidate could be unveiled even if the party leadership had already decided that Lungu remains their man. Maybe Mr Lungu could have won that election by 99% of the votes and the poll would effectively have been academic exercise, but the voice of that one percent was going to be heard. That is what democracy is and that is what the Constitution calls for.
Is PF saying that not a single delegate wanted any other candidate? We know for a fact that that’s not possible because had Mr Fube been allowed to participate, his vote would not have landed on Lungu. PF has set a bad example. After this sham of a convention, they will shamelessly start to point fingers at the lack of democracy in UPND, yet they have led the way.
How can a party that does not respect the rules of democracy be expected to respect the will of the people on the national stage? It is clear from this convention that the nation cannot expect democratic practices with the current leadership. This should have been a simple primary exercise for the PF where President Lungu could probably have won by a landslide but the party botched it. It really was not necessarily to go in that direction but seeing what transpired, we wonder whether our leaders have any interest in democratic process. We wonder if our people’s vote are safe in the hands of the PF leadership!
In many ways we are reminded of the sentiments that Zambia should return to a one party State. Those sentiments came from the PF leadership and today they have proved to be prophetic in nature, at least at a party level. PF is now Lungu’s party in all but name, he gets to appoint a committee that in turn appoints him. A sole candidate indeed.
This is why we say there is no point in enacting laws that you cannot follow. It’s pointless. In fact, it’s more dangerous to have a society that has laws which are not followed than not to have laws at all.