Friday, June 03, 2011

Knowing your enemy

The political uprisings that have taken place in North Africa and Syria bring to mind the political uprisings of 1848 in Europe – they are calls for political, social and economic reforms. The nature of all these political revolutions emerges from an economic background in which wealth exists side by side with poverty. That is to say that workers and students in oil-producing nations have risen against their aristocratic rulers demanding political freedom and economic empowerment. We in the WSM have come to notice one important thing from the nature of these political uprisings in Libya, Bahrain and Syria. Mass demonstrations that are not well equipped are being met with brutal resistance from the armed forces. This is a political lesson to those who advocate revolution through unparliamentary methods.

It is feared in Zambia today that if the Patriotic Front fails to win the presidential election (2011), mass demonstrations will take place. But mass demonstrations in Zambia are characterised by mob violence – stoning vehicles and looting private property. The Zambia police will react and innocent lives will be lost. To contemplate of a political failure in Zambia will in itself be a bad omen for parliamentary democracy conceived under multi-partyism. Political change brings with it social and economic collapse.

This was the case when the MMD came into power in 1991. The privatisation of the mining giant ZCCM has led to massive job losses and economic dislocation on the Copperbelt mining towns. New mining companies rely on foreign sourced labour and contractors. The new private mining companies create few jobs and are thus capital intensive. This is very common in Chinese-owned mines – walking in the Zambian cities today it is common to find that many educated workers and general workers have a natural respect for the British and white South African investors than with the Chinese. The Chinese have a habit of punching and shooting at striking workers. The labour relations in Chinese-owned mines remain very poor. Because nearly all the copper mining companies are owned by foreign conglomerates, the recent rise in copper prices on the London stock exchange has meant these favourable balance of payments have not translated into increased incomes and social development.
Indeed, structural unemployment exists on the Copperbelt when one looks at the kind of jobs being on offer on the labour market.

The ruling MMD is haunted by the political largesse of the late President Mwanawasa in the sense that President Rupiah Banda is expected to accomplish the political and economic benchmarks left by Mwanawasa. The fight against corruption and the implementation of a new and lasting constitution are among the foremost tasks Banda must contend with. But the rejection of a new Constitution Bill in parliament has sent wrong signals to the survival of the MMD. When the majority demand for political change at any price – parliamentary democracy remains very perplexing in the sense that a wrong leader may come to power was the case in Germany¸ when the Nazi Party come to power.

Though I may seem so hard in lampooning the political misfortunes of the MMD, yet we in the WSM do not envisage a political alternative to capitalism in Zambia apart from formulating the long-standing political and economic demand for an end to wage slavery and the exploitation of man by man. Personally, I find Banda to be an honest fellow trapped in the dirty politics of capitalism – dogged like everyone else by the brutal forces of ethnic and tribal loyalties. Power and wealth in most African countries remains under the legacy of conventional politics – politics is a crust of social and economic privileges.

In Zambia the political opposition parties have quickly likened the political events taking place in North Africa to the situation prevailing in Zambia today. Indeed there is a reluctance by the MMD leadership to resolve the 51 percent clause demanded by the majority in the New Constitution. By this means it is believed a presidential election needs to be re-run whenever a contender fails to win a 51 percent margin. The ruling MMD has deleted the clause from the proposed and amended Constitution.

Because Zambia will face a tripartite general election in 2011, the church and political opposition parties are demanding the setting up of a parallel voting tabulation (PVT) so that voters may know in advance who has won or lost an election. Banda has warned those advocating PVT in that it was illegal and was not enshrined in the current Zambian Constitution. The demise of the PF-UNDP political pact has given strength to the MMD – this must be glimpsed behind the ethnic and tribal loyalties that tend to determine voting patterns. The PF is strongly supported in Luapola, Northern, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces. The MMD is widely supported in Central, Eastern and Western provinces. The UPND under Hakainde Hichilema remains strongly based in Southern Province. Recent parliamentary elections have seen the PF gaining a foothold in North Western, Eastern and Western Provinces. The ruling MMD, though crippled by corruption has done well in building new roads and opening up mines in rural areas. The PF has become the second and largest political party in Zambia today – and given the flamboyant personality of its leader Michael Sata, it may seem that many people in Zambia are interested in regime change in the sense that the MMD has been in power since 1991.

But what they do not contemplate is the plain fact that political and economic reforms being advocated by PF president Sata will evaporate into thin air once the PF comes into office. The voters are only used as cannon fodder by the political parties. The WSM remains politically defensive when dealing with amorphous political revolutions taking place in North Africa and elsewhere. Political revolutions do not change the existing economic and political status quo – it is a mere change in political bosses.
K. MULENGA, Zambia

No comments: