FeaturesHeadline News


Since 1991, Zambia has been praised for the ability to change governments peacefully in a world where democratic norms are under threat. This article recognises however that concerns about Zambian democratic development are real and valid. 

The ability to hold regular free and fair elections is an important starting point for any democracy. This is however just one element of good governance. In addition to holding regular elections, the government has a responsibility to respect human rights and other fundamental freedoms. This responsibility extends to jealously guarding Zambia’s pluralistic system of political parties; the independence of the judiciary; and the separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches.

I hope soon we get to see both the ruling government and the opposition working together. Failure by the ruling government to collaborate with opposition parties, is making it difficult, if not impossible for the opposition to play its rightful role of suggesting improvements to legislation and policy and holding the government to account. The inevitable consequence of this is to detach further the government from the general population as, in a true democracy, opposition parties act as a bridge between the citizens and government. 

I emphasise the role of the Opposition in improving proposed government legislation and policy. It follows that I share the view that the Opposition should not, as a matter of reflex, reject every piece of legislation or policy proposed by the government. Doing so would drive Zambia into unproductive tribal politics similar to current American governance. The Opposition should be patriotic enough to support policies and legislation it believes to be in the national interest, regardless of the initiators of these policies ad laws. But politicians are politicians, and they often succumb to the temptation of taking a short-term view of governance. They rarely look beyond the next election. For this reason, Zambia, like all democracies, needs a nonpartisan and professional civil service to play the critical role of custodian of the long term. 

A nonpartisan civil service helps level the political playing field as it can be relied upon to provide accurate data for use by the public, the ruling party, and opposition parties. In these circumstances the Opposition is able to serve as a government in waiting as it can be confident in the event of assuming power that the bureaucracy responsible for oiling the machinery of government will be loyally at its disposal, regardless of the Opposition’s political complexion. It cannot be said with any confidence that Zambia has such a civil service today, and there appears to be no interest on the part of government to promote long-termism. That is unfortunate as without long term planning, Zambia’s future is bleak. To avoid a hopeless future characterised by lack of opportunity and corruption, it is imperative that progressive Zambians, whether in the Opposition or in the enlightened faction of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND), come together to address the threats to Zambian democracy. The purpose of uniting is to restore democratic values and maximise future opportunities for the country. The next general election will be the most important in the history of the republic. If progressive Zambians can come together as suggested, there is a good chance of arresting the rot and placing the country on a path to prosperity and sustainable democracy. If on the other hand progressive Zambians do not come together and contest the next election under one banner, mediocrity, regionalism, political violence, and authoritarianism will continue. 

There are about thirty political parties in Zambia. Clearly only one of them can win an election outright. While the vast majority of these parties have no hope of ever winning an election outright, they do nonetheless have talent that the nation could benefit from. It is therefore suggested that in choosing a standard bearer for the proposed alliance of progressive parties, the voice of small parties must also be recognised. It should therefore be possible, under a fair system of selection, for a leader to emerge from a small party. 

There are two interrelated incentives for progressive politicians to abandon egotistical impulses and join a broad alliance of patriots. The first is that the Zambian people are expecting progressive leaders to come together and choose a standard bearer for 2026. Any leader insisting on promoting his or her own small party at the expense of the alliance, will be treated harshly by the electorate. The second is that an alliance of this kind is assured victory in 2026 and leaders involved in the formation of the alliance will have great influence in the credible government formed after the next general election. 

Political parties cannot however come together without a common platform. Fortunately, the governance issues complained of today are so stark that crafting a manifesto that regular Zambians can relate to and support, is not a huge task. With respect to governance and policy the Platform could

Commit to a new constitutional dispensation driven by the citizenry with a view to strengthening democracy and making government more accountable. For example, the platform could call for the Electoral Commission of Zambia to be appointed by the National Assemble.

Commit to Professionalisation of the Zambian civil service, including security organs, to remove partisan bias. Commit to merit-based appointments for public agencies and corporations.

Commitment to end corruption by fair tender procedures and ensuring that projects are implemented by field experts not politicians or politicians’ cronies.

Commit to free market principles with proviso that the disadvantaged are not excluded from participation.

Commit to prioritising Zambian interests in all government transactions.

This is just a rough example of what the progressive alliance could campaign for during the hustings, and actually implement when in government. The critical point is that Zambia is much better than the examples we see from the current leadership. Let us all be sufficiently vigilant to ensure that what we see today does not become the norm. Let us all work together to make viable democracy and prosperity a reality!


Related Articles

Back to top button