Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Robert advises the return of the hyenas?

"They are behaving exactly like Hyenas, these are animals that go about looking for faeces. The MP’s ditching their parties are like Hyenas looking for fecal excreta.”
- Dr. Francis Manda (Lusaka Times. January 6, 2013)

Lately news, and indeed social media postings from the ifintu ni Lungu side of the political pendulum, has become mentally eliciting. Just the other day, I was treated to a picture of H.E. President Edgar Lungu in a boogie mood on arrival at Harare International Airport, again. I grant him that. He can boogie. Reminded me of my younger days, when we would walk singing, “I got the power” after Shupi had allowed us to simply touch her hand.

I wondered why H.E. was so boogie. Could be, he was also remembering his younger days. But, I read he had again gone to consult Robert.

There surely must be a new Robert around. The Robert I know is no different from my grandmother. You see my grandmother always has an upside down view of democratic political choices and governance. In the January 20, 2015 presidential elections, when she heard that the incumbent won, she rounded us up to find out who the culprit among us was.

“How could he win, when I had crossed him out? He personally told me he had no vision, so I put a cross against his name to show my displeasure”. What could we say? She is grandma, a very wise elderly. Sometimes, not very different from Robert.

In case there are those who do not know who Robert is. Robert Mugabe is that firebrand African president we so admired this side of the world. He became president of Zimbabwe in 1987. This is one of the very few African presidents who could tell Western world leaders to disappear if they did not like him or how he was governing his country. The one that talked more Karl Marx speak than Karl Marx himself. The one that claimed he fought and suffered for the independence of Zimbabwe more than any other Zimbabwean so he has to be president for life. Remember Ian Smith claimed he fought for the independence of Rhodesia, too. But I guess he was delusional.

We admired this fellow Robert then, but not now. Not because he has over stayed as president, but because his relevance was then, not now. Some may disagree with me, but this is one fellow that nearly brought Zimbabwe down to be a basket case. But thanks to the vibrancy and functional literacy of Zimbabweans, they persevered and still do.

We seriously need to ask our president what exactly he hopes to learn from this fellow that upholds visages of dictatorship. Perhaps, it is to do with his admission that he does not have enough wisdom, so he has to consult elders. But, surely Desmond Tutu or Uhuru Kenyatta would be more appropriate.

Or is the insatiable hunger for political hegemony the lessons he is getting from Mugabe? The pursuit of political hegemony necessitates that one attracts every sundry of political opportunists even if they disgusted one a minute ago, as long as they can help sustain one’s dominance.

It surely does not make sense that a political party in government that petitioned some parliamentary seats on the grounds of electoral corruption, can today embrace the same persons it alleged are corrupt. This is a party in government that even re-opened some closed corruption cases against the very persons that are now being accepted into the party.

Is the, “Only God who appointed me will remove me" mantra from Robert a lesson we are witnessing as learnt? If not, how else can we understand the fact that the return of hyenas does not seem to worry our ‘corruption averse’ president?

Sorry! According to Dr Francis Manda, though offensive, MP’s ditching their parties are like hyenas looking for fecal excreta. And who am I not to quote a very eminent person on our political landscape. After all, Dr Manda is a master in symbolic expression.

So for now, let us watch the hyena show. But be heedful that, like I observed in “Of hyenas and fecal matter”, the best I know about hyenas, is to run when one is in sight. We, the voters, should always take to our heels when a hyena is in sight! Let us not be prey to political hegemony.

Verbum satis sapienti - a word to the wise suffices.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

House No 1159

“Xenophobia is a tragic failure of reason of which mixed space it is after all, we even kill for.” - God, Life & Reason

OFF late the residential address, House No 1159 has been on my mind, and I wondered why. But now I know. It is all because of the rantings from some assumed man of the cloth.

House No 1159 is where we resided in New Ndeke, Kitwe from 1969 to the early 70s. This is after we moved from an old colonial very tiny house in what was then called old Ndeke. We had moved into this colonial very tiny house that had a toilet provision for banyamazai in 1968.

From House No 1159, I could always see the Catholic Chapel at the end of the road. Come Sunday, literally everybody in our neighbourhood would be at the Chapel. This was a time before the “nisanga naiwe kuti wansaga” yellow preacher howlers, a time when church was a sincere and non-threatening affair. There were no threats of eternal damnation. In hindsight, I really don’t understand why these fellows had to howl that, they have found Jesus, and we could also find him. We did find him, else we would not have been trooping to the Chapel.

House No 1159 was the birth of awareness of neighbourliness and togetherness, and the church at the end of the street was the concentrate of this awareness. In House No 1159 and in all the houses in the neighbourhood there was no tribe. Of course our parents, when socialising together, always made snide remarks of which group of people were the nyamazai the most, who was insolent and uncouth the most, who downed lion larger the most, or who sent children to have their willies cut the most. Didn’t bother us much as kids. After all, we all admired Shumpi irrespective of her tribe, we all marveled at the driving exploits of chabwela kumanda, we all wished we could also go to mukanda as it seemed a nice break from school (we really didn’t know at the time that, that is where willies were cut. If we did, I don’t think we would have wanted to go)!

Huh! Come to think of it. Most now do chilanga mulilo, matebeto. Wonder if the assumed man of the cloth ever thinks of this. I doubt it.

Sorry for the digression. These now very aged parents are excused for their expressions of xenophobia at that time. But the assumed man of the cloth cannot be excused.

We should understand that for most of these now aged fellows, this was the first time they were living in a space populated by people from different cultural heritage. To them that the other behaved differently was as confusing as being told you need to find Jesus when you already found and knew him. The assumed man of the cloth cannot be surely confused in these days and times. Sic.

The now aged fellows learned to co-exist. They were in the same space and for the pursuit of their professional endeavours, perhaps there was nothing they could do about it. The only option they had was to crawl back to whatever village they came from. Most could not take this option, not because they were scared of being bewitched as they were now comparatively wealthy (as it was thought then), but because learning to accept the cultural differences in this new socio-political economy provided a future for their children that was deemed far much better than the village.

They also accepted their cultural differences, principally because of their firm determination to move the country forward. Most of these fellows were strong idealists, nationalists. Cultural differences were conquerable, and in it they saw a potential for development.

In the memory of House No 1159, I know that not all of these now aged fellows accepted the reality of cultural mixing. For some, tribal supremacy was their mantra. Lately we have witnessed some of these fellows rear their ugly heads. And perhaps, it is such aged fellows that the assumed man of the cloth is trying to emulate. He surely must be living on a different planet.

Happily for most that dwelled in houses like House No 1159, they know that only a hungry mangy dog when beaten does not snap at its master, instead it puts its tail between the legs, and licks the master’s feet.

That the word tribe is now vogue, simply because some politicians in some assumed dominant party had precarious hang on the pendulum side of defeat is tragic. It defeats reason. Clearly, the assumed man of the cloth is championing a logic distant from House No 1159. The term tribe has historically often used to refer to colonised, oppressed, or subjugated groups of people. The term tribe has a negative connotation. It is a term that historically was used to refer to what was perceived as inferior groups of people.

The assumed man of the cloth is desecrating House No 1159. We refuse to be deemed inferior. We are not hungry mangy dogs, we refuse to be. We grew up in culturally mixed spaces, we loved each other and we still do. Deep in our conscience we still live at House No 1159.

Well, perhaps the assumed man of the cloth does not know the sanctity of House No 1159 or that under the Penal Code Act of Zambia his rantings are seditious intent[1].

Thus, it must categorically be understood that when a people are pushed to be mangy dogs, like the assumed man of the cloth seems to be doing, many will seek refuge in the comfort of their heritage, and not lick the master’s feet. There will be no culturally mixed space.

Think again. Verbum satis sapient - a word to the wise suffices.

Ora pro nobis.

[1] Section 60(1) Seditious intention, (e) to raise discontent or disaffection among the people of Zambia; or (f) to promote feelings of ill will or hostility between different communities or different parts of a community; or (g) to promote feelings of ill will or hostility between different classes of the population of Zambia.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Election Rigging, an Old Lullaby?

"I strongly feel there is need to look at our seriously flawed electoral system in our current Constitution..., but both (Nawakwi and HH) are excluded from contributing meaningfully to the governance of this great country by our divisive and corruption-riddled electoral system... The 'winner-takes-all', first-past-the-post system is a serious hindrance to democracy and must be consigned to the garbage bin of history."
- Alexander Chikwanda, Minister of Finance.
(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, January 29, 2015. p10)

The January 20, 2015 presidential elections have come and gone. What is on most people’s lips is tribalism. If only many know that, only a hungry mangy dog when beaten does not snap at its master. Instead, it puts its tail between the legs, and licks the master’s feet. So exactly who was tribal? Any way that is a story for another day.

It is the lullaby, that the election was rigged, that matters most to me. And if you sat on the pendulum side of the winner, it was just another old lullaby. However, the consequences can be dire. As in the lyrics, a profound call to revisit our election results management exists.

When Andrew Mazoka and General Godfrey Miyanda sung the elections have been rigged lullaby in 2001, we saw some significant changes on how results are to be managed. This is because there was partial implementation of the recommendations of the 2003 Electoral Reform Technical Committee. Still, more needed to be done, but we went to sleep.

In 2008, Michael Sata woke us up from our slumber when he sung the same lullaby again! According to a Wikileaks cable on the petition (which was discontinued), the ground of the petition were premised on the PF’s claim that, “.. electoral officials had rigged the results in areas where PF polling agents were not present, including in many district centres that collected and transmitted constituency results”.

That the actual polling day activities of January 20 can be deemed credible is not debatable. The eventual elections results management itself is undoubtedly the same old lullaby.

The expectation that determined and declared results as tallied from polling stations, will not again, raise concerns from contesting parties on the final constituency level presidential results declared by the Commission was a fallacy. The authenticity of the Constituency level results declared at Mulungushi Conference Centre was yet again a walk into the past. The opposition observed that some results forms did not bear the seal of the Commission; were not witnessed; had witness signatures, but no organisation or political party identified; or had witness signatures, but no identifiable party and its agent.

The Commission clearly found itself on the see-saw of the absurdities in our laws. The Electoral Act No. 12 of 2006 provides that the announcement of results at the polling is witnessed by political party polling agents, election monitors and observers, and, in Section 72, the Act does provide political party agents an opportunity to object when irregularities are observed during counting of votes and determination of provisional results. Legally, this means any concern raised is fait accompli as the results determined and declared are valid, since no objections were raised when they needed to.

Strangely, the Electoral (General) Regulations, Regulation 48 form used (Announcement of results of the poll – presidential) provides for witness signatures and identification of witnesses’ respective organisations. Yet, contradictorily, Section 36(2) of the Act does NOT mean that a results declaration form is only valid and admissible by the Commission if it is signed by a party agent. This is because, this section prescribes that the absence of an election or polling agent from a place where any electoral proceeding is being conducted shall not invalidate those proceedings”. Sic.

Further, the Electoral Commission started announcing results even when in some polling stations voting had not yet commenced. The UPND raised concern that doing so will influence individuals that are yet to vote. This concern arose, as at the time the contest between the leading parties (PF and UPND) was so close that even a difference of 5,000 votes could influence the outcome of the elections. This was deemed contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act Section 74(3)(b), which is the Commission can only announce results without having received the results of all polling stations if the outstanding results are not likely to influence the overall result outcome. The Commission granted the request and stopped the announcement of results until all eligible voters had cast their vote.

Significant, is that the Commission was legally on firm ground. Section 74(3)(a) also provides that “the Commission may determine and declare the result of an election without having received the results of all polling stations, if to wait for the receipt of the result from every polling station would unduly and unreasonably delay the determination and declaration of the result of that election”.

It is important to note the two terms, unduly and unreasonably delay. An unduly and unreasonable delay in the determination and declaration of the result of a presidential election does not arise in Zambia. There is no legal provision for when or within what timeframe presidential election results should be declared. The only provision is that results should be determined and declared by adding together the results received from all polling stations immediately after the close of polling (Electoral Act, Section 74(1). This was not the case at the time, anyway.

In hindsight, the January 20 is another election that taught us the past, but as a people we never seem to learn. The January 20, results management was a repertoire of the ECZ we have come to know so well. Perhaps, it is time we strongly lobbied for implementation of the 2003 Electoral Reform Technical Committee recommendations that: Party agents or other authorised persons be permitted to sign and receive copies of the polling station result forms, which should be posted for public view at the polling station and that results should only be announced after they have been signed by party agents; results sent by the Returning Officers to the ECZ be countersigned by monitors and polling agents, to avoid suspicion of alteration of election results after the results have been counted and aggregated at the collation centre; and that ECZ should set a date of official announcement of final results (Report of the ERTC, 2004, page 64).

In retrospect, the lessons learnt for review of the country’s electoral system, were already learnt. The country’s plethora of constitutional reviews and electoral reform processes demonstrate considerably that there is a need for change. What continually lacks, is the political will to implement the many well intended recommendations from the reviews. Could be that the status quo is desirable as the obtaining rules of governance and elections seemingly favour those in government and protect the interests of the political party in power.

Undoubtedly thence, the lyrics of the election rigging lullaby should not just be glossed over. It is not an old lullaby. The lyrics are a vote of no confidence in our election results management. This is undesirable.

Verbum satis sapient. Peace be with you.