Multiparty democracy hangs by a thread in today’s Zambia There’s need for those in government and those managing the electoral processes to ensure that the August 12 elections are as free, fair and peaceful as possible. So far those in government have not created an environment where all can mobilise freely, fairly and peacefully – there’s no level political play field.
I know that it sounds negative but I have always thought it positive to say that the thing about multiparty democracy is that we can remove without bloodshed the people who govern us.
We can get rid of a Lungu – the same way we got rid of a Kaunda, a Banda – by peaceful electoral processes. But that cannot be done when electoral processes are manipulated, elections are rigged.
We must ask what will happen when people realise that they cannot get rid of those who govern them through the ballot box because the electoral processes are manipulated and elections are rigged. If people lose the power to sack those who govern them one of the several things happens.
First, people may just slope off. Apathy could destroy our multiparty democracy. When the voter turnout drops below 50 per cent, we are in very serious danger.
The second thing that people can do is to riot. Riot is an old-fashioned method for drawing the attention of those who govern to what is wrong, unacceptable. It is difficult for those in government to admit it, but riots produce changes. The 1988 mealie-meal riots marked the beginning of the end of Dr Kenneth Kaunda and UNIP’s reign. Zambia was never the same after those riots. Ideas for change started to emerge.
Riot has historically played a much bigger part in our politics since the first miners’ riots of 1935 which started in Mufulira and quickly spread to Nkana in Kitwe and Roan Antelope in Luanshya than we are ever allowed to know. Thirdly, regionalism can arise. Regionalism is built out of frustration people feel when they cannot get their way through the ballot box. With regionalism comes repression and all sorts of negative things.
I hope that it is not pessimistic – in my view it is not – to say that multiparty democracy hangs by a thread in Zambia today. Unless we can offer people a peaceful route to the resolution of injustices through the ballot box they will not listen to politicians that have blocked off that route.
President of the Socialist Party