Commentaries and Analyses Index

Bogus National Reconciliation

LUSAKA, May 12 - You have to be a special kind of idiot not to recognise the fact that Zambia has sunk itself into a deep painful national crisis. This crisis has historical, national and international causes. The burden, however, of lifting Zambia out of this crisis rests squarely on all the Zambian people in general and Zambian politicians in particular.

There are those in Zambia who honestly and genuinely desire to see the current high temperatures of a hostile, loveless national political environment lowered. Such people are worried and unhappy at what they perceive to be too much hatred and lack of love driving the politics of Zambia.

From these people, we hear all kinds of calls for lowering the political temperature in Zambia. We are advised to practice love, and focus on development issues, rather than attacking each other. Someone has even gone so far as to advise Mwanawasa's critics not to do so because they hate Mwanawasa.

There are those yet still, whose understanding and appreciation of our current complex, deep, multifaceted national social and economic crises is so shallow and lacking any depth that they see only personal hatred and jealousy as the reasons why Mwanawasa and Chiluba continue to attract such heated, viciously negative widespread national criticisms and condemnation.

Yet still, there are those who try to reduce all opposition and criticism of those in government as being merely motivated by the desire to replace those in government by the opposition and critics. While there may be some truth in all these views, the version of truth in these views is not the entire truth.

There is a particularly pernicious bogus national reconciliation being sort by some people in Zambia who, somehow, have convinced themselves that if Kaunda, Chiluba and Mwanawasa can seat down, talk, share jokes, part each other on their backs, become buddies and perhaps even let each other off the hook of historical justice, then national reconciliation will take place.

To this imaginary bogus reconciliation is added the fantasy of collecting all the key political players in Zambia and letting them share such a moment of empty, soulless, fake personal reconciliation and abrackadaabrackada - national reconciliation will have occurred. And we will all in Zambia suddenly be at peace, politically, with one another.

Others have even gone so far as to suggest that we may need the modern Freudian aberration of a national truth and reconciliation commission, the South African way, in order to generate the kind of national political environment we need to promote genuine national peace, unity and social and economic development.

Some among those who want Kaunda, Chiluba and Mwanawasa to sit down and reconcile believe that this is good for the nation; because we must somehow rehabilitate these politicians as our presidents, as individuals who have contributed to our national development. In itself, this generous wish, and hallucination, is not bad. But attempting to actually do it, to rehabilitateand place Kaunda, Chiluba and Mwanawasa into more positive political shadows will require more than miracles can achieve, in the minds of most serious and thinking Zambians.

There is no doubt that Kaunda has not been given the full credit and honour he deserves both inside Zambia, and outside; especially in the Southern African region. No one in his right mind can fault Kaunda on his anti-imperialist, anti-racist positions. Nor, for that matter, must Zambians underestimate his great contributions to creating and building what we now know and call Zambia.

The full account of what Kaunda paid personally to contribute to the liberation of Zambians and other Africans in this African sub-region is yet to be fully revealed by historians. Kaunda easily stands out, in a class of his own, among many modern African politicians.

For all this and the many positive things he did in Zambia, including establishing and institutionalising elementary aspects of governance such as a parliament, the judiciary, executive and a national economy, Kaunda stands very tall among many African and world politicians.

But, even the crudest, least intelligent analysis of Kaunda's contribution to the growth and development of a genuine Zambian national democratic political culture quickly reveals that Kaunda lamentably failed to promote, grow and nurture a national democratic culture.

This is why he was so mercilessly thrown out of office in 1991, by the majority of the Zambian people.

That it is Chiluba who only could succeed him is further proof of Kaunda's singular failure to leave behind a genuine democracy when he left office. The shambles into which UNIP has fallen since Kaunda left it further suggests how badly Kaunda managed national political resources. National liberation political parties are supposed to be more resilient than UNIP has shown itself to be.

Those of us who care to know have an acute memory of the long duration of the heated animosity between Kaunda and Chiluba, long, long before 1991. That Chiluba chose to hound Kaunda even after Kaunda had been ejected out of office further worsens the bad blood between these two.

And those who care to remember will not have forgotten how Kaunda treated those Zambians he considered not loyal to himself.

Chiluba is Kaunda's creation. Kaunda's legislature created the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Kaunda's 17 year long One Party State ensured that the ZCTU remained the only formidable organised opposition voice to Kaunda.

For most of that time, Chiluba was at the helm of the ZCTU. Zambia had two concentrated political power centres, both in the vicious grips of two men alone.

When Chiluba assumed national office, he simply meted out to Kaunda the treatment he believed Kaunda had generously meted out to him, when he too was in office. Besides, we all know that Chiluba never really truly believed that Kaunda would never bounce back into office. Nor, for that matter, was Chiluba ever fully confident that he actually was the president of Zambia. This partly accounts for the strange constitutional acrobatics Chiluba made to prevent Kaunda from contesting elections in 1996.

Mwanawasa's presidency is Chiluba's aberration. Of the three of them, Mwanawasa is a terrible mistake of history. Mwanawasa should have done what Professor Hansungule once advised him; to fight on his own to become president, rather than pick up the poisoned chalice Chiluba offered him.

The Mwanawasa I know probably loathes the moment he accepted to become Chiluba's successor.

It is not impossible to shepherd into one venue all the main Zambian political personalities, both those in office and in the opposition.

It is even possible to compel all of them to emerge with hands held together, bodies swaying from side to side, singing, 'Bind us together Lord.' A more enterprising effort could even compel them to sign some 'Memorandum of Reconciliation' or some such silly document.

None of any of these events, however, will heal the deep wounds between our politicians. Nor will such foolery result into genuine national reconciliation. These will all be just that; events best left to the media. Zambia as a nation is ridding on a huge crisis. To resolve this crisis will require more than just the restoration of some form of friendship between the key political personalities in Zambia.

Our greatest obstacle to moving out of our current complex crisis is our collective failure as a people to transcend both the Kaunda and Chiluba eras. We seem stuck in our mucky political past. We have refused to let the past be just that; past and gone. And so, soon, it is possible that even Chiluba will look like an angel, as we sink deeper and deeper into our crisis.

One of the other great obstacles to resolving our crisis has been Mwanawasa's refusal to recognise the most obvious truth; in politics, especially lumpen capitalist politics such as we have in Zambia, political legitimacy is superior to legal legitimacy, by far. Mwanawasa's current term of office lacks political legitimacy. And Mwanawasa has refused to resolve this problem. Legal gymnastics cannot restore none existent political legitimacy.

There is the failure by potential new, untainted entrants into our political arena, to capture the moment and provide the leadership the country so badly needs. This problem is further compounded by the fact that we continue to lack the ability to stimulate other social formations, such as organised labour and the NGO movement in Zambia, to take their political responsibilities more seriously.

Rather than invest in bogus reconciliation endeavours, we all need to take a hard look at what has gone wrong in Zambia; and resolve to act decisively.

By Azwell Banda
The Post / allAfrica Global Media

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