By Elias Munshya, LLM, MBA, MDIV.
Amid a barrage of attack on our democratic institutions, it is crucial that we as a people do not succumb to the feeling of hopelessness and pessimism. I have an abiding faith in the people of Zambia that they will be able to overcome all challenges to stir their country back on to a democratic path. I have made it clear in my previous writings, that President Edgar Lungu and his Patriotic Front (PF) do not mean well for Zambia. They are, slowly, making their moves to undermine the democratic integrity of our republic. However, I remain optimistic that the people of Zambia will match Dr Lungu’s enthusiasm to destroy with even higher energy to mend the nation and propel it to higher ideals of democracy.
This week, Dr Lungu and his Patriotic Front government will be soliciting parliament to amend the constitution. Most amendments in the new bill are aimed at propping up Dr Lungu and making it easier for the Patriotic Front to win the 2021 elections. The amendments also will ensure that President Lungu maintains power, even if he were to lose the 2021 elections, through the formation of an ill-defined “coalition”. The amendments also seek to reintroduce deputy ministers at high cost to the treasury. The Lungu administration is also trying to do away with executive mayors and stop mayors from being elected through direct suffrage. If the bill goes through, it will also bizarrely maintain MPs, ministers and deputy ministers, in office during the election period. This will ensure that the PF ministers will have access to government funds while they campaign. These proposed amendments were adopted by a notoriously undemocratic National Democratic Forum (NDF). Apart from having shadowy Lusaka figures, the NDF also had outrightly deceptive organisations trying to meander their way into the hearts of a ruling party desirous of manipulating the constitution. What the NDF did during the two weeks it sat was unprecedented. Never in the history of this republic has the constitution amendment process been surrendered to a group sitting in Lusaka for just a few days. Without popular support or, a rather popular, consultation, the constitutional amendments being proposed by the NDF are illegitimate. Where then does our country’s hope rest?
Hope rests with the people of Zambia. It is the ordinary Zambians who are the protectors of their own democracy. And Zambians have started talking and agitating for change. The people of Zambia stood against Dr Kaunda, they resisted Dr Chiluba, and they voted out Dr Rupiah Banda out of office. As far as Dr Lungu is concerned, he too deserves a proper treatment from the people of Zambia. Zambians must not feel helpless or hopeless. Our actions are paying off and should pay off in the long run. President Lungu and the PF must know that these new changes to the constitution are unacceptable.
History is on our side. Zambians, as I have stated above, have resisted tyranny. I am optimistic because history is on our side. The same Zambia which fought the Kaunda dictatorship and prevailed; is the same Zambia which shall win the fight against the Lungu despotism.
The current parliament should be on people’s side. From the numbers, it is clear that if the United Party for National Development (UPND) MPs with a handful of independents stood with the people of Zambia, Dr Lungu’s constitutional amendments would be defeated. It is time for the parliament to reject Dr Lungu’s changes. We are aware of the manoeuvres that the PF will try to machinate, targeted at the UPND MPs. They will be exposed to bribery and fake promises of deputy minister positions. The UPND MPs should reject all this bribery and vote on the side of the people. The Patriotic Front has been amassing an enormous fortune to be called upon when the right time comes to buy votes. With this looming constitutional change, the PF and its supporters are now ready with purloined millions to buy UPND members.
I remain optimistic that tyranny will not reign in Zambia. No President clothed with tatters of arrogance can defeat the collective will of a people, the Zambian people.
Munshya, E (2019). Why I Remain Optimistic About Zambia’s Future. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (July 3, 2019)