Governing by decree

The Government must learn to appreciate the value of constructive policy engagement, in the process of policy formulation and implementation.

Every thriving and successful democracy depends on the successful management of competing interests to arrive at consensus, compromise and ultimately harmony in the management of national affairs. A culture of consultation as a basis for and decision making is nurtured.

Ruling by decree may be effective in the short term but will fail and faulter in the long run, because it does not enjoy the blessing and support of the stakeholders. Ruling by decree is not only undemocratic but also limits the creative space for citizens leading to forced conformity and ultimate atrophy.

This has been amply proved time and time again.

A few weeks ago the Catholic Bishops of Zambia warned against the introduction of vernacular as a medium of instruction at lower primary. They described the policy as being unjust and a violation of human rights.

Even before the ink has dried, the statement has been vindicated.

All the 15 Chiefs in “Lambaland” have rejected the use of Bemba as a medium of education in their area preferring their own language. In Northwestern Province there is a problem over the language to be used as there is historical rivalry between Lunda and Luvale. Many other Districts are grappling with the political, practical and logistical challenge paused by the policy.

Instead of bringing about a unity of purpose the new policy has accentuated some deep seated differences which the English language had managed to obviate.

The moral of the story is that policies, however brilliant and fantastic should not be imposed on people. It is always desirable to work with people to formulate and implement policy.

In this case the new policy, which the Bishops have described as a violation of individual rights, will only serve to resurrect divisions that the one Zambia One Nation Policy had managed to neutralize. In a country with more than 70 languages it is not easy to come up with 7 major ones.

The selection of such languages is a political act fraught with many dangers as can already be seen from the reactions of chiefdoms which now feel marginalized. Technocrats who crafted the policy may not have envisaged the emergence of fissures in what appears to be a homogenous society.

The truth of the matter is that issues of culture, tribe and identity carry very deep undertones which do not only define a community but also color perception. For example Lozi as a medium of communication in some parts of Kaoma will be resisted because it is considered to be foreign.

With a little consultation these pitfalls could have been avoided.This is also true in what is becoming a major embarrassment over the plight of the Chitimukulu in Northern Province.The Government may have very good reason for its intransigence over the installation of a new Chitimukulu, sadly these grounds have been overshadowed by the manner in which the Government and the President in particular has singularly disregarded the role and place of the entire Bemba Royal establishment.

If we may borrow from the Bishops who said, “Traditional affairs and conflicts related to succession should be resolved by set customs, procedures and systems within the traditional structure with recourse to the courts of law when need be. Government should only come in when such systems violate state laws and human rights.”