Friday, 10 October 2008

IS POLITICAL EXPERIENCE CRUCIAL?

By Gershom Ndhlovu

“Experience is the excuse of the incumbent over the ages. Experience is what they always say when they try to stop change. In 1979, James Callaghan had been Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor before he became Prime Minister. He had plenty of experience. But thank God we changed him for Margaret Thatcher.

“Just think about it: if we listened to this argument about experience, we'd never change a government, ever. We'd have Gordon Brown as Prime Minister – for ever…

“The risk is not in making a change. The risk is sticking with what you've got and expecting a different result. There is a simple truth for times like this. When you've taken the wrong road, you don't just keep going. You change direction – and that is what we need to do. So let's look at how we got here – and how we're going to get out.”

These were the words of opposition British Conservative Party David Cameron at his party’s annual conference last week and they ring true of the current Zambian campaign period in which the older candidates in the forthcoming presidential by-election, MMD’s Rupiah Banda and PF’s Michael Sata both of them in their 70s and both of whom have been on the political scene even before UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema was born, have been deriding their younger opponent as lacking experience in government.

Sata even goes farther by contemptuously referring to Hichilema or HH as he is popularly known, as an “under five”. I am not a fan of Cameron and his Conservative party, but for once, I agreed with him on the issue of experience as an excuse to block the much needed change in our situation.

For ages now, our own leaders, past and present, have referred to the youth as future leaders but one wonders when that future for the youths to take over will come. Or is it the case of those old men and women who used to say “ndise mayusi,” loosely translated as we are youths and never getting to admit they were past their sell by date?

Examples of what harm the so-called experience can do in the running of a country abound. The leader of one neighbouring country has been at the helm for close to three decades and he is not getting any younger and yet the economic and political situation that country is in a serious mess it can only take a miracle to change things.

Our very own President Kenneth Kaunda was Zambian president for 27 years in a government in which both Banda and Sata cut their teeth and where did he leave us? There were long queues for basics like Ebu, a smelly carbolic soap, pasa mulopa buns and just about anything until came along someone who did not have experience in government, Frederick Chiluba who--let us face it--changed a lot of things for the better.

May be by a miracle, our own “experienced candidates” both of whom are claiming to carry on with the late President, Levy Mwanawasa’s legacy will truly turn round the fortunes of the 80 per cent of the population leaving in poverty, something they failed to do when they had the chance. On the other hand, one would hope that the younger candidate would inject fresh blood and energy in the running of government along corporate lines which, in any case, is the norm in the globalised world.

The days of running government just for the sake of it are gone. This is the reason why we still have people in government who want to give themselves huge salaries, comparing themselves with corporate managers, but not delivering the goods to the shareholders, the citizens who also pay the taxes on which state machinery runs.

On account of age, and corporate experience, Hichilema would probably provide that magical hand that Zambia needs for now.

 

I was shocked to read about Solwezi Central Member of Parliament Benny Tetamashimba saying that he drove the most expensive GX in the country and that he could manage to buy any vehicle on earth.

If Tetamashimba was an MP for Lusaka Central, he could be excused because quite a few constituents there would afford to have bespoke Rolls Royces made for them, but that coming from an MP of Solwezi Central where few people can afford a bicycle not to talk about a Corolla, is a bit insensitive.

Just last week, a junior British minister, Tom Harris was sacked by Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an insensitive comment he made asking why the credit crunch currently affecting Britain and other western countries which has seen people lose jobs, companies closed and banks collapse, made people “so bloody miserable.”

But in Zambia, MPs and ministers can get away with it by laughing at their poor constituents who cannot afford to “slaughter” women and drink from expensive hotels or buy wheelbarrows and bicycles because they are poor. What is sickening is that for the rest of us, “kulyamo fye” is the buzzword. That is why the distribution of mealie meal and sugar to would be voters appears normal.

Principled men and women like James Lukuku are demonised for not taking advantage of the kulyamo fye culture which surprisingly, is defended by some clergymen and journalists, at least in private.

If the president, acting or substantive, cannot fire such ministers, the people themselves can fire them by not voting for them at the next election. This is the only way our public servants will show respect to us if they know that their utterances hurt us.

And talking about MPs, some MPs supporting Rupiah Banda’s candidature are arm twisting the electorate by saying that even if they vote for an opposition leader for the presidency, the MMD MPs are in majority and would make it tough for the new leader to pass laws.

In one of my earlier columns, I stated that it was possible for MPs to dissolve themselves quoting a relevant Article in the constitution, but because of their selfishness, they had no compelling reason to do so.

3 comments:

Zedian said...

It's a very good point you've raised there sir.

Perhaps the only experience HH doesn't have is running down a country, at which the other two are well seasoned!

However, given that many agree all the candidates have serious demerits, this election appears to have put the country in a rather precarious situation.

It will be a question of the least evil candidate winning.

Brian Malama said...

My Fellow Zambians and colleagues
Ben Tetamashimba what are you attempting to do? Mislead and taking the Zambian electorate for imbeciles'?
How dare can Teta, turn around today and support former president Frederick Chiluba and accuse the judiciary of demonizing the former head of state? Teta is also shooting Banda in the foot who has indicated that once elected into power he will carry on with Mwanawasa's policy on the fight against corruption and alleged plunder of national resources.
Its highly immoral and political buffoonery for a man like Teta, who assumes Zambians and the media at large have short memories, or simply do not keep track records of what he says.
According to Bivan Saluseki's story carried by the Post May, 18, 2007, Teta was quoted saying, "Pressure on Chiluba will continue until he owns up," He was also quoted in the same tabloid as having said, "the MMD doesn't want Chiluba."
On what moral high ground is Teta speaking today suggesting that Dr. Chiluba is being demonized? It’s shameful really for the MMD spokesperson to take this direction.
Much as it is said that "politics is a dirty game" political leaders especially those in government must take responsibility and must learn to use ‘their heads’ before making certain comments contemporaneously?
If the MMD intend to use Chiluba as a ballot booster then they are being unfair to the man who in all fairness has the liberty to endorse anybody's candidature.
I really question the outspoken MMD spokes man's integrity if he can easily shift the MMD’s goal posts during this crucial presidential bye election.
Chiluba’s saga in court and allegations leveled against him, for me is a very big issue in Zambia and therefore matters that border around him must be treated with the seriousness they deserve.
Government has spent billions in investigating the man, how come today a Chap from Solwezi,’ boot licking’ for a ministerial car should sink so low and speak carelessly?
Zambians abroad are very bitter at the manner government and political leaders take advantage of the docile electorate!
Zambians, wake-up and vote wisely, please ignore the packaging of stupid politics.
Civil society empower those villagers who simply vote on the basis of government and MMD cheap bribery and diabolical corrupt activities.
Let us not be swayed by Government spin and seemingly appropriate media announcements directed at shaping the minds of the voters, “ Chiluba’s plot found?, Kaunda given house and car, civil servants to receive their arrears,” including those who left without pensions. Why does this government wait for an election to implement developmental projects is not corruption?
Civil society pound on these issues and not just the NCC which does not mean anything in the first place other than fat allowances to a few greedy good for nothing ‘chancers,’ God forbid.
If were given the chance to vote I would try an opposition party for obvious reasons. The death of Levy Mwanawasa is a huge expose’ of how corrupt the MMD still is, which an indicator of worse things to come is also.
I would definitely stick my money on the opposition! Another is government sharing the UK and USA monetary donations towards to the participating opposition parties. The finance is towards for is a national cake which must shared among stakeholders.
Let this election be issue based and not based on a minority’s greed. “ We want change we can Believe in”.

Brian Malama
Cardiff
UK

Anonymous said...

An interesting article.

More topics for discussion on the forthcoming elections can be found on :

http://kusilakwacobra.blogspot.com/

Check it out and tell other concerned Zambians.