The abyss of political fragmentation

We must step back from the precipice, the abyss of regional fragmentation the bane of African politics.

For a long while the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) provided a Common vision against the UNIP one party state, authoritarian state. The MMD received universal support leading to the 1991 elections that ushered in a popular Government with representation from across the breadth and width of the country.

The subsequent Cabinets reflected this diversity and wide power base.

Things have changed and it is important for our political leaders to understand the change in political dynamics in order to fully appreciate the nuance of what has transpired.

The same multiparty system that ushered in a popular and accountable leadership with a wide national base in 1991 has now produced a minority leadership that has further marginalized itself by a regional Cabinet that has excluded many interests and regions.

Academics have described the situation as “state capture” where leaders monopolize power and treat the state as their own patrimony resulting in the non-universal allocation of public resources passed on patronage, nepotism and exchange of favours.

In such situations, they say: for despite the presence of political pluralism and contested elections, ethical universalism fails to take hold as the main rule of the game, and winners of the political process, in their turn, treat the state as their major source of spoils, feeding off the public resources that they divert toward their clients.

To borrow from Wynter Kabimba’s lecture in parliament, there is a danger in emphasizing Bemba domination as this could lead to genocide. This is the nature of the beast that we are confronting.

While one group of Zambia considers Bemba as a language of the vanquished others see it as the language of the oppressors.

It is in this context that the present political stand off in Southern Province must be seen. The same is the situation Western Province.

The situation Livingstone has the potential, of degenerating into a full blown crisis that pits citizens against Government.

While it is true that Government has the advantage of security agents and a monopoly in the ownership and use of instruments of violence the situation is not that easy. As proved elsewhere, sheer force without winning the hearts and minds of the people is useless, if anything it will antagonize the people and lead to further alienation.

While we agree and appreciate that  a life has been lost in the run up to the Livingstone by election, it is equally important that a number of very pertinent issues are answered before wholesale condemnation of one group or another as has been the case.

First and foremost we need to know what the Patriotic Front team was doing in the UPND campaign Headquarters area. Their presence in that area has never been denied but no cogent explanation has been offered.

The circumstances in which this event occurred must also be studied and analyzed before Government opens another front of confrontation.

There are serious questions that must be asked about the entire incident and indeed the very partisan act by the Police which virtually decapitated the campaign team of the opposition. The circumstances of arrest were equally suspect. People who went to the Police to complain about the PF invasion were instead arrested.

These and many matters will in due times become issues of debate and rancour.