“Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away."
- Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things)
Every day, I walk into different human class spaces in this country. Upper, middle, lower classes and, the forgotten class that we only see when they stretch their hands seeking alms or when they pee on our comfortable lives. The beauty is that as an anachronistic, I don’t blend, but I learn. The lamentations are symmetrical. “Gosh! RB times were not bad at all; Times are so rough now; We were cheated; PF lied; Where is the more money in our pockets; How come we now seem to be a province in China”.
Yet when, I browse print and online media, glaring discrepancies hit me in the face. The public media and the past newspaper, seldom echo the lamentations that shriek in my ears lately. From these media perspective all is well. “The economy has improved (so they should be more money in our pocket); RB was a rogue, “alleged corrupt leader”; The Chinese are sacrosanct; The Public Order Act has been relegated to the ashes of our colonial history; The current Constitution is perfect; MMD was evil”.
This is, surely, a media that lives on Mars as it seems they do not know that media freedoms are now under threat. Radio stations, journalists are now and then asked to “pay an unsolicited visit” to some police station to answer some frivolous questions on news likely to alarm the nation or some alleged theft of a library book.
This is a media that is so closeted that it is not aware that some opposition party leaders were “frog marched” from the very town were a ruling party official had the “freedom of the town”; that some gun-totting police officers raided an in-door meeting by some opposition party leader; and indeed that some opposition party leader had to find a hole in the roof to escape from some panga-wielding party cadres of some known party. It is fortunate that the fellow is not dumbly fat, else he would not have fitted in that hole in the roof.
With the most classic being that this media did not see the military-type truck and hordes of police officers blocking a road so that some opposition party leader does not pay respect to the King in some province to the west of the country.
The rogue media (as it is governmentally alleged), on the other hand, echo the lamentations that shriek in my ears.
The public media and the past newspaper is however, not all that bad. At least, it was able to tell us of human rights abuses in our country when some so-called eminent persons from some Western embassies issued statements on the very observations that the rogue media have consistently being communicating.
Rather absurd, that it is only when hypocritical voices from the West say what is known that the public and past newspaper deem it worth our news reading. And I thought the editors and journalists in these media live in the same country as we do. Perhaps not. Could be their newsrooms have now shifted to Washington DC. Sic.
About it all, the question that in the end vexes me is: did the Patriotic Front lie during their campaigns leading to September 20, 2011. With much thought and reasoning, I have come to the conclusion that, perhaps, the PF did not lie after all.
To understand whether the PF lied, we must first unravel what the PF is as a party. From our knowledge, we know that the PF is a wamuyayaya party, it has no defined membership (well unless now it has) only followers, and has never had internal democracy. Democratic values and practices are alien. This is a party that has had no impersonal or neutral rules and procedures to avoid the arbitrary control of party functioning and internal elections (if they occur) by individual leaders or groups.
Critical of all, we knew and know that the PF is founded on two paradigms of political domination and privilege-seeking. These are patrimonialism and clientelism.
Patrimonialism is inbuilt in power relations within one’s heritage, and is strengthened by an individual’s rhetorical or financial prowess. Patrimonialism permits negation of rules, procedures and processes by the almighty leaders as the followers or membership often tends to hero-worship them. Well, we knew it was more rhetorical prowess. Could be we love folklore so much, that we seldom ask how an impossibility can be possible.
Clientelism is when we close our ears and offer our political loyalty to those we hero-worship for promises of material rewards (more money in the pocket) and security (donchi kubeba).
The PF is irretrievably soaked in patrimonialism and clientelism. This we knew, and perhaps today we should accept to learn. We can retrieve our footprints in the sands of democracy.
And this is because as Arundhati Roy writes in “Not Again”, “Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means”.
To which end, the PF could only have lied if we never devoured life in a democracy. But we did, and gluttonously.
Hence, I argue here that the PF could only have lied if we fail to muster our numbers and call them to account for their political rhetoric, and the now evidenced numerous human rights abuses. And it is not about making them account by not voting for them during elections. That is inane, in part. It is now. Like Wilson Pondamali’s observes, “This is not the time to weep for mistakes made three years ago, rather it is time to roll sleeves and get tough”.
Our PF members of parliament should be humbly and respectably questioned whenever they meet us in our constituencies or in whatever forum, and even when they are having dinner somewhere in public. Consistent and persistent questioning for accountability by us the citizenry, in addition to groups like the Grand Coalition, rogue media, and the Church, can to some extent lead to redress of our legitimate lamentations.
We know, they will give us the dog-eared excuse of “we are busy with infrastructure development”. But say unto them that “but, but.., the previous government was also doing that, anyway; or that why then did you set up this and that commission”. Let us humble them, for I believe there is some good in every human. They surely should have a conscience. Sic.
Seeking accountability from our leaders is both legitimate and legal. It is our right. That is what democracy demands of us. We did not ink our thumbs at the ballot, drop it in the box and go home thinking democracy, and more so the demand for accountability is for those we voted for. Or did we?
Oh! And don’t forget to hold our church leaders accountable too. They too, are political power wielders. In any case, God is a just God.
Lastly, although, we know we were pointed in the wrong direction; we know we are trapped outside own history (well mostly because of our deliberate historic amnesia); we are able to retrace our steps because our footprints have not been swept away. Ours are not footprints in the desert sands of dictatorship. Ours are footprints in the white clear sands of democracy. We can overcome, if we do not continue sitting under trees lamenting while sipping katata.
Ora pro nobis.