NATIONAL BUILDING AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE

Sun, 29 Jan 2017 09:57:57 +0000

 

By Sycorax Tiyesa Ndhlovu

 

Understanding how democratic governance works may help us learn how the press can facilitate dissemination of information that promotes love, unity and peace which sustain not only national building but also enhances ‘One Zambia; One Nation’. 

Arising from some political violence before, during and after the August 11, 2016 polls; and some anarchy levels that still exist in our society, any peace loving Zambian prays for national building process to be sustained in Mother Zambia.

What has been of concern are some political agitations where some political leaders conniving with some circles of the press incite Zambians to backslide from the noble task of sustaining love, unity and peace in Mother Zambia in preference for possible civil strife to serve their personal,  political or commercial interests.

And recently, information and broadcasting minister, Kampamba Mulenga while in Southern province on her familiarisation tour of public and private media houses said government expects news media houses to promote information on national building.

Such a call is timely; especially that the political violence, voting patterns, hatred and hate speech seem to have tribal or regional elements. As a result, we need to find lasting solutions to ensure that love, unity and peace prevails among the more than 73 ethnic tribes in Zambia.

But a question one might ask is: ‘Is it possible to promote national building in a democracy?’

Before answering such a question, one should consider some factors relating to democratic governance; especially on citizen’s participation and the role of the press in such governance. Some qualities of a good citizen and those of the press will also be considered to demonstrate how such groups play their roles in good governance.

Former American president, Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a government of the people by the people for the people. This implies that in democracy, especially representative democracy like one in Zambia; citizens, through regular, free and fair elections choose political leaders of their choice to form government. And that such a government should serve the interest of the people who put them in office to manage public affairs.

Moreover, citizens also actively and fully participate in governance in many ways. In good governance, citizens with divergent and sometimes opposing views, debate issues of public interest to arrive at decisions that serve national interests. A free and professional press facilitates sharing of information that is in public interest; and such help citizens to make informed decision in determining their own personal and national destiny.

What has been an issue in most countries is how to arrive at what is in public interest. John Smith Mills defined public interest as the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, as good as such a definition of public interest might ‘sound’, some people have asked: ‘Who decides on what is in public interest?’

It’s such a perception and attitude towards who decides what is in public interest that some citizens, politicians, some interest groups and some members of the press tilt issues to suit their personal, commercial, political, tribal or regional interests.

However, when Mills was defining public interest in such a manner, he expected every citizen, politician, interest group and every professional body; including journalists to be honest, objective, factual and to be fair in dealing with national issues.

In this light, can any Zambian argue that issues relating to love, unity and peace in this country are not in public interest? Can personal, commercial, political, tribal or regional interests be more in public interest than promoting love, unity and peace in this country? Should tribalism or regionalism, for whatever reasons, replace ‘One Zambia; One Nation’? Can’t such a change erode love, unity and peace which Zambians have enjoyed for decades; and bring civil strife with its potential for bloodshed in Mother Zambia?

This implies that although, democracy promotes citizens with same or divergent views to fully and actively participate in national issues for citizens to make informed decisions, such citizens should have enough facts and figures on what is happening around them. Well-conceived pieces of opinion which not only promote peace but also promote national development are appreciated.

Such a situation also calls for, among others, sound formal educational levels with high reading culture and analytical skills among citizens.

Although in democracy citizens have the right to information for them to make informed decisions, such information should be accurate, factual and fair. It should also come from authentic sources; and therefore, from knowledgeable persons on that issue; and not from any human being as the case is on most issues in Zambia. Such pre-requisites on quality and source of information in democracy put another responsibility on each citizen, politician, reporter and each news media house.

The press, as a Fourth Estate, and as an honourary profession, needs to be ethical for it to play its right role in democratic governance. A free and professional press in a society where citizens, politicians and other interests groups are honest, objective, factual and fair on national issues can promote love, unity and peace which lead to sustainable socio-economic national development process.

Therefore, as long as citizens, interest groups and the press in a country are honest, factual and fair never can promoting national building disturb democratic dispersion.                                                                                                                                      One might argue that, in Zambia, the press isn’t free. Reacting to such a view, one can also argue that for decades now through Hitchin Committee Report (1947) in United States and Press Complaints Committee in United Kingdom, the press operates under professional ethics and code of conduct to prevent it from abusing its privileged position in society.

For the same reasons, the press in each country operates under the legal framework of the land. In short, in any country, the press isn’t above the law. Additionally, a professional press serves                                                                                                                                                         public interest.

Hence, information and broadcasting minister in the former Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)’s regime, Vernon Mwaanga, at that time, repeatedly echoed and tutored the Post newspapers (in liquidation) that press freedom isn’t absolute. Mr Mwaanga, then, castigated the Post newspaper for the then MMD’s government observations on perceived unethical and irresponsible reporting of the Post newspapers.

Mr Mwaanga’s arguments at that time were in consonant with free and responsible press which facilitates serving morals, values and public interest of a given society. And in Zambia, our public interests, among others,   are promoting love, unity and peace because these sustain ‘One Zambia; One Nation’ for the benefit of all Zambians.

Consequently, the core point comes from the answer to this question: ‘Which right thinking person can burn a house where one with his or her family and all properties are at that time?’

Even those who promote tribalism or regionalism for whatever reasons; and in the process incite youths to be involved in political violence and all forms of anarchy that have a potential of sliding this country into civil strife can stop doing so; and find a way of running away from the same bloodshed they might engineer. But can our women, children, the handicapped and the aged run away as fast as others can do? This is where public interest in love, unity and peace become critical!

National building is where regardless of one’s ethnic, racial, cultural, social, economic or political status or affiliation, one feels to be part of one nation. Conclusively, national building promotes our motto of ‘One Zambia; One Nation’.

With such a view of how citizens, politicians and journalists through news media organisations contribute to democratic governance, one can argue that national building is in consonant with democratic dispensation.

Unless citizens, politicians, interest and professional groups and the press promote dishonesty, false and therefore, biased and unfair information against public interest, promoting national building cannot be repugnant to democratic governance.

From such a discussion and analysis, Zambians should responsibly continue participating actively and fully in democratic governance for the benefit of all Zambians. Promote national building in good governance for a peaceful and stable Zambia.

 

The author is a lecturer in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also a Public Relations (PR) Specialist and a national trainer in local governance.

 

For ideas, comments and details, contact:

Cell: 0977/0967 450151

E-mail: sycoraxtndhlovu@yahoo.co.uk

Author

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