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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ghosts in the Moment of Silence

THIS week, I reflect on the many simple poor folk, royal highness's I have met as I traversed the country of my birth from East to South, and Barotseland. Having lost our fifth republican President Michael Chilufya Sata (a person that most that call the likes of me bitter, knew personally and in a dialectic way, I will miss him), one expected that there is silence in the moments of silence in his honour. Hate him or like him, we have to respect and honour him for ascending to the highest office in the land. It is no mean feat. It takes guts.

Unfortunately, to H.E’s memory, there is no silence somewhere. This is because, there are just too many ghosts abounding. This is not to say there are those that are not observing a moment of silence. There are.

These are soaked in heavy downpours of delusions of memories of angels in white dropping “development” like manna from heaven. We observe the moment of silence with them, as we have learned to respect the ghosts of the fiction of their happier memories. This is not the time for us to convince them, of what ghosts really are. We bow our heads in respect with them, as we feel with them their pain and loss. After all, we too are human, even if they never really treated us as such.

But there are those who know no silence in the moment of silence. These see ghosts. For ghosts are realities of our sadder memories. The ghosts they see are varied, scary, meanspirited.

Some have sadder memories of an individual that many years ago, a foreign diplomat once warned us about. This eminent person from one of our nearby countries that went through a protracted struggle for respect of freedom, human dignity and equality, noted that one emerging media mogul will one day hypnotize the masses to meet his and his friends’ self-interests. We laughed. We even used the mongrel dog-eared adage of “not in Zambia”. Yet, we know and pretend not to know that in this memory, Mwanawasa used to be called by some common vegetable name. But, when this individual became the garden owner and not the gardener, Mwanawasa was cross-bred to a “prize winning vegetable”. And so the story was, for the deceased fifth president. He too was a devil in the mind of this individual, but later this canny individual sang the Psalms.  

Well, today those that are not silent have come to the reality that this sadder memory is indeed a ghost that existed. But, it is no longer a ghost. Today, they call it the “cartel”. (Please, don’t ask me who or what this cartel is, as I am still in Mexico searching for it). Any way, it evokes pain, and perhaps we should not have laughed. I hear, it is a State within a State - a travesty of our democratic governance. Its opinion does not represent your interests and mine. It represents itself. Period. Oops! Seems, I found it.

Then, there are those that have sadder memories of a government that disrespected the very people that euphorically (and perhaps duped by the “cartel”) choose a particular party to rule over them. Forty two point two four, was it? Not an overwhelming majority. But, so says the Constitution. And it was!

In H.E’s most trying times, our sadder memories of the Patriotic Front government represent ghosts where this and that spokesperson, Jim and Mary, told us H.E is very fine. And anyone who publicly said he was not well, was insane, criminal, immoral, power hungry, and could be caged (well, some youths in Woodlands were indeed caged). Huh! So disrespectful, they were. Somehow, these fellows believed they voted for themselves. I wonder how they could think that.

In hindsight, clearly these fellows suffered from dementia praecox. Dementia praecox is one of several psychotic disorders characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances of thought and language, and withdrawal from social contact. In the moment of silence for H.E., clearly, one does not need to be a psychiatrist to diagnose them as such. We have ghosts, thereof, because we were fed a demented reality, and it is sad.

The unfortunate circumstance arising from these ghosts is that the many simple poor folk, I have met in my travels have inerasable sadder memories. They don’t want to live a demented reality ever again. The trust they had in independent media, the people they vote for seems to now have waned like when the Stone Age ended because they ran out of stones (just a fable). They have been pained, disrespected (and are still disrespected given the confusion being witnessed during H.E’s mourning period). But, fortunately the simple folks will pay their respects to H.E., though seeing ghosts in the moment of silence.

Inarguably, perhaps they should not only observe a moment of silence, for him (H.E), but for ourselves, too. We have been duped for far too long.

This, should be, a moment of silence where we should say, “never again”. Sic. We should also be careful of those that are pointing; giving directives to the exorcists to conquer the ghosts. Simply because, the ghosts we see today are their memories. They are the ghosts.

Ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Jackals are howling: A rendition

“If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.”
- Albert Einstein

THIS week, I had intended to share with you my irresponsibility with respect to culture and gender. Why is it that, it was from our colonial menopause that the sorting of humans begun? I wanted to show you that my mother had an identity – she was not a Mrs. My Father! But in our poverty of reason and degeneracy, the Europeans through dog-eared agencies of Donor support ram gender and good governance dialectics down our throats. Like mangy dogs we echo inequities that are a creation of adopting their languages, religious practices, and development paradigms.

Lastly, I had also hoped to show that civil society leaders too need serious introspection. It is inanely hypocritical for them to have been hysterical about a change of government as in so doing they lost their guard. 

These issues unfortunately will have to wait, as yesterday I heard the howling of the jackals.

The jackal is a carnivorous species of animals related to the dog. The jackal is cunning, cowardly and always tends to form a pack with its kin. It is known for its discriminating mournful and melancholic howling, especially when the moon is full.

The fascination of the jackal is subject of much folklore. But one that approximates the jackals I heard howling yesterday, is that of a jackal that was so hungry that it got thin beyond recognition. When the other animals saw the mangy jackal, they could not recognise it and ran away in fright.

The jackal being a crafty and cunning animal soon realised that it could take advantage of its changed appearance. It rallied all the animals and thundered: “Do you know who I am?" All the animals were cold with fear, and could not utter a single word.

The lion however gathered some courage and mumbled: "No my lord, your majesty seems to have been sent by God to rule us and we request you to take the reins of power from me". The other animals consented and said in unison: “Yes, you are our Lord and please rule over us." The jackal accepted.

The jackal was however worried about the other jackals of the forest. He asked the lion to banish all jackals from the forest. Now the jackal was never hungry, became fat once again and enjoyed his newly gained power. The other animals tried to figure out who their new king was, but in vain.

One night there was a full moon, the few banished jackals that had hidden themselves, started howling as all jackals do when there is a full moon. The jackal-king could not control himself, but start howling like his kin. The secret was out. The animals discovered his real identity, and the lions had a feast.

Folklores are not a product of demented ancient minds. Folklores tend to have a moral lesson. The lesson of the jackal-king folklore is that it is very difficult to put on a facade for a long time.

It is important that we remain who we are and try to bring about positive changes in our people’s livelihood. But the tragedy of this God’s country, however is that there are those within the citizenry that continually put on a façade in the face of plain political and socio-economic degeneracy.

The jackals discriminate mournful and melancholic howling may be pitiful, and many may be moved to permissive and apologetic feelings. But it is irresponsible to feel pity, permissive and apologetic, for the jackal is no different from most politicians.

Our plague often is, when the howling gets louder it seems our legs take over the thought processes. We kneel, fall into an amnesiac state or jump into a transient euphoric stupor. We celebrate. We dance!

But to who’s good? Perhaps, we should listen and decipher the meaning in the howling.

Listen to the howling tonight, and remember that the Turks believe the howling of the jackal is bad luck. The person who hears it must spit on the ground, otherwise tragedy will fall like the vengeance of the gods.

Ora pro nobis.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Me, Michael Sata, and Country

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."
- H.L. Mencken

This year, this backwater country of my birth celebrates its 50th year of independence from the British Colonialists, though I don’t know what is being celebrated. And it is nearly three years since the Patriotic Front (PF) came to power, and already I see so-called golden jubilee billboards with Michael Sata on them.

Strangely, I really don’t remember reading about him in the grade seven or form five history books of our country. I remember reading about Lewanika, Kaunda, Nkumbula, Chona, Kapwepwe, Katilungu, and that famous lady who stripped to scare the colonialists, just to mention a few. Funny, I always forget her name. Perhaps, the history teacher was always so fascinated with Otto von Bismarck that he forgot to mention Michael Sata. Anyway, that is a discussion for another day. Sic!

I love my country even though I often refer to it as a backwater country. I know there are those who often argue that referring to one’s country as backwater is evidence of lack of pride in one’s country.

In my mind there is clearly nothing wrong in one always reminding oneself that the country of their birth is a place in which no expected substantive political and socio-economic progress is occurring. If anything, pretending the contrary is evidence of lack of pride in one’s country.

We must always remember that we can only change our circumstances, more so the circumstances of the multitudes of the poor among us (fifty one years from the day we celebrated our independence), if we accept that we are indeed a backwater country.

In the near three years of PF being in power, there are many of us who are now subjected to uninformed, infantile and unreasoned flak whenever we criticize the Government. Perhaps, what these nihilist protectors of the State do not really know is that our position has never changed.

Lack of respect for civil liberties, dictatorial tendencies, abuse of public resources for political hegemony, lack of transparency on governance issues, and unreasoned submissiveness were vogue then. They are still vogue today, if not more abominable! How then can any right thinking citizen expect us to shut up?

We criticize, because we love country and we hope for something better as a people. And if what we are criticizing today is what we criticized yesterday, all the more reason that a government and its crawlers should listen. This is simply because PF could not have been the incumbent ruling party, if it did not in any way campaign on the basis of our criticisms of the previous governments.

This is not to say we are not cognisant of whatever infrastructure development strides the PF and previous government have undertaken. But we must always remember that political parties contest to form government to, not only build roads, hospitals, but more importantly to uphold the liberties and dignity of individuals in the country.

Whereas there are those that believe we should shut up because Michael Sata is building roads, etc at unprecedented (if not fiscally unsustainable) levels, I vehemently believe my civil liberties, the right to express myself is more important as that is what can determine what country we need. Shutting up is not a solution. It is merely evidence of hate of one’s country.

It is unfortunate that the intensity and perversity of the inability of today’s ruling party supporters and government itself, to stomach any form of criticism is now reaching dangerous levels. Any form of criticism, which is often well intended, galls them to the extent that they actually turn blue with rage like a Bunsen burner. The now frequent sadistic use of the State to violate civil liberties attests to their perplexing rage.

However, in hindsight today, I realize that their rage is not perplexing after all. It is simply a question of trying to be more holier! Most of today’s PF goody-goodies were not actually there in the formative years of the party.

Thus, our position is unlike some of the self-anointed megaphones of truth on governance in this country. These megaphones now seem to be always eating their own vomit of what they always said about Michael Sata and the PF when in opposition. They are now fawning around Michael Sata like they always idolized him. But I don’t buy into their fawning. It’s a façade! Things are not right. Period.

Exactly, where were these goody-goodies that are now so holier than the incumbent President Michael Sata himself? Do they know him politically? Do they share his passion for country? Michael Sata’s love for country, we have never doubted, but for his means.

Even in the formative years of PF there were times Michael Sata would show evidence of disrespect for process and procedure as he deemed that abiding to these were mere retardation of progress. We never witnessed any evidence that can convince us that Michael Sata revered civil liberties, in particular freedom of expression and freedom to impart one’s ideals. He just always had to have his way!

Further, these are times in which the likes of Charles Chimumbwa, Edward Mumbi, Sylvia Chalikosa, Chisenga, Chileshe Mulenga, Paul Lumbi, Faustina Sinyangwe, Bernadette Mvula, Elizabeth Phiri, Guy Mulenga, Given Lubinda, and uncle Guy Scott stood up to his off-the-cuff decision making in an attempt to better develop and democratize the party. Today, we don’t hear much of such individuals from the PF’s formative years. Wonder where they went! Perhaps, if some of them were the ones closer to Michael Sata today and not the present goody-goodies that were never there then, they could have made a difference. Just perhaps, or is it wishful thinking?

Michael Sata loves country, as much as we do. Possibly, Michael Sata’s love for country is an infatuation that breaches expected norms in a democracy. Could be, he seriously needed the people from the formative years of his political party. These would, perhaps today, mitigate his historic “man-of-action” off-the-cuff tendencies. Off-the-cuff decision making, is regrettably dictatorial. It does not allow space for reasoned participation.

In wishful thought, during these trying times of us not having any irrefutable evidence of how he is, if some of these individuals of PF’s yesteryears were still around Michael Sata, may be we would not be subjected to the now unbearable suspense of why the President has not been seen in public for close to over two months now. A good number of these individuals loved Michael Sata and country, just like we do. They would do what is best for him. And not what is best for themselves, as can be suspected from the current Michael Sata crawlers.

Thus today, we ask: show us Michael Sata. We may have differences with his approach to democratic governance, but he is our President too. Verbum satis sapient .

Ora pro nobis.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Salome’s song

"Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings..."
- Patrick Henry

The day is Saturday. The date: Unknown. Place: The country of my birth.

Salome looked up at me with her milky beautiful eyes. Now that the excitement of my presence among them after a month or so had ended, it was time for the interrogation. I always get that. And the dialectic excuse that I am a prodigal son never washes with the little angels. Perhaps, they are yet to know what a prodigal son is.

“Where did you go?” asked Salome with the serene innocence only children have. The other little ones never really have insightful time for questioning my absence. But Salome is different. She exudes inquisitiveness that I always seek in my students and indeed most of my country folk. As far as Salome is concerned, I am not the kind that just disappears and re-appears without justification. I belong in her world. It seems the little thing has this thing in her that I always owe her an explanation. I do anyway, so I had to.

“I was in school,” and with that I hoped the interrogation was over. Not knowing I had just opened a can of worms.

“Boza,” (lies) she screamed. And she turned onto her friends. “baMbinji is saying he was in school. Huh! He is too old for school.” And for a while a debate among them commenced, with “boza” being the most pronounced word I could hear.

Perhaps, I got caught up in my own lies by not explaining exactly what I meant by being in school. Should have told them what school I really was in. To them school is a kindergarten. And I am surely too old for that, except as a teacher. It didn’t matter, I had already lost the ploy.

In hindsight, Salome’s lament[1] was not really that I had lied. No, it is simply that I did not accord her the dignity she deserves. Salome and I dwell in the same world. We are each other’s keepers. We celebrate joy and success together, as this builds on our understanding of each other. And we lower our heads in sadness, shame and remorse together, as one’s misfortunes, failings or thoughtlessness, gives us the strength to always seek to walk paths on the bright side of the moon.

And as it is so between Salome and I; in a democracy it is so too between a people and those that they choose to lead on their behalf - the valets de chambre. Those chosen are after all the employed. We are the employers.

Democracy is about mutual respect between the led and those that lead on their behalf, thereof. But, democracy places a higher price on the dignity of the valets. More so because the valets should always remember that a people do not queue up in the scorching summer heat, just to throw pieces of paper in a box so that they reduce their worthiness as keepers of those among them that become valets. Look, we can’t all be valets, someone has to do the dirty work and for that we respect them. And they too should respect us for giving them the honour to do so.

However, the events of the last few weeks in my country have filled most with foreboding and uncertainties as to the worthiness of some of our valets. This is a period in which, instead of humbling themselves in recognition of the fact that the positions they hold are because a people decided so, they on the other hand diminished the worthiness of the very people that in multitudes queued up to cast the ballot for them.

There surely is nothing wrong in saying the chief valets de chambre is not feeling well, and hence has gone for a medical checkup. Doing so, is in fact a demonstration of evidence that a people are respected as that is what a democracy demands. In addition, there is nothing not African in saying the chief valets de chambre is not feeling well, as some would want us to believe.

And if the contrary is the case, which is the chief valets de chambre is actually well, then mutual respect demands that the chief valets de chambre should walk into the cool July sunshine and greet the people. The people will jubilate, not only because the chief valets de chambre is indeed well, but much so because the chief valets de chambre and his deputy valets do indeed respect them.

For deputy valets to instead, threaten a people for simply asking of the chief valets de chambre’s well-being, as has been the case lately, is simply callous and not deserving of a country that prides itself of being a democracy. It is disrespectful. Sic.

The chief valets de chambre, is like Salome and I. I owe Salome an unhesitating answer. An answer that will soothe her lamentations, as this is what Salome expects if she is to continue respecting me. In lying to Salome, I have injured her dignity.  I have to restore the mutual respect we have.

In Salome’s song lies the one lesson our valets always have to learn – “We simply ask for and deserve mutual respect”. And that is not asking too much. Or is it?

Ora pro nobis.

[1] Song