We agree that collective causes must be defended, but such defence must be principled.
We also agree with the principle of collective responsibility which holds individuals accountable and responsible for decisions and actions that are made collectively, with or without their consent, intended to protect the collective good of a community, society or political body.
This convention is more specifically applicable in government or Cabinet in particular where ministers are obligated to support a government position especially in Parliament where failure, of an important motion, would result in the resignation of a sitting government.
To this extent, we agree with the President when he calls on his ministers and members of the central committee to defend government policy, but such defence is not without a caveat, because such conventions are governed by moral conditions.
Collective responsibility will, however, be negated where the cause is criminal or a clear abuse of power, hence the individuals involved will ultimately be held personally accountable.
Often times governments, especially those with hung Houses created through coalitions have allowed individual members to vote with their conscience. This is in recognition of the importance of moral persuasion. Principled individuals will not be persuaded to do evil for the purposes of ensuring conformity with the dictatorship of the majority; they would rather resign and remain with a clear conscience than support a cause that lacks merit.
There is indeed the issue of collective moral responsibility that goes beyond an individuals’ commitment to a group. This encompasses a commitment to the society; in this case collective responsibility must be subordinated to collective moral responsibility, whose subversion will lead to society’s collective pain, suffering and punishment.
This is evident where a government undertakes policies which create hunger, crime, unemployment, rampant and unchecked corruption and other societal ills. Collective moral responsibility will demand that those in authority are held accountable, sometimes personally, because they have deviated from the norms and common good of society. They have turned a blind eye to crime and impunity, and have allowed known criminals free feign because of personal interests they may wish to protect.
As the government ministers set out to defend the government against critics, it must provide clear answers to abuses of power, for example where criminals are appointed to sensitive government position or indeed where the poor are being made to subsidise irregularly procured expensive fuel, which act has had the escalating effect of fueling inflation.
The prices of cement have gone up , mealie-meal prices have escalated and the cost of doing business has pushed a number of companies especially in the mining industry to fold.
This would have been avoided if Trafigura had not been engaged to supply needlessly expensive oil to Zambia. These are some of the questions the ministers must answer to the satisfaction of the people.