Rising above the fray“The propensity to undermine other people’s achievements and to exaggerate their failures and weaknesses has been a mankind’s struggle for ages,” writes former president Bakili Muluzi in his foreword to the late Gwanda Chakuamba’s memoir, Gwanda Chakuamba, A Memoir of My Political Life.
Adds Muluzi: “Human beings have a conscious tendency to easily forget achievements.”
All this is true and may at specific times, even constitute unassailable wisdom. But for sure, when these words are used in reference to the state of the country’s affairs and the citizenry’s reaction, they surely are misplaced.
Our country is in state of despair. It’s crumbling and this is very much owed to our leaders’ bad work. Sometimes, the puzzle really is why more people aren’t angrier.
But being angry about the country’s state of affairs isn’t good enough. Active citizenship demands more and elections—as the ones we will hold in May this yea—are an opportunity for citizens to shape direction of the country.
And it’s not just in the voting, but also in shaping the election agenda before that. Pity then that in that regard, some have allowed to be distracted from the tough but important roles they have by being swept away by euphoria and stunts.
So far, the debates by the citizens themselves have not been inspiring as much as the quality of leadership options.
Some citizens, consumed by trivia, have failed to demand a little bit more from those demanding to get a fresh mandate to govern us or those seeking to replace them.
Even worse, some are blinded by loyalty to tribe and party, while others, unfortunately, including in institutions that must support our democratic franchise, have decided to look the other side to things detrimental to our nation building, in exchange for a few quid or other favours.
Its time though, our politics, civil society, media, citizenry, stood up for motherland—standing tall above petty line of cheap entertainment or freebies— and support causes and candidates that will bring meaningful change to this country.
Yet for the citizens to make rightful decisions, they must be aided by the institutions they trust: the media, civil society, church, chiefs and other, not by showing whom to vote for, but what to vote for.
Certainly time has come to call a spade by its name, but we must do so with a measure of fairness by debating the merits of both sides of the coin.
And yes, everybody must divorce themselves for personal gain and strive for national good. We must stand up against any attempt to illegally influence the vote by either the state or opposition –through acts such as intimidation, violence, bribery or any other crooked way.
While the desire should be an issue-based campaign, character should also be scrutinised because it’s integral to performance. While we must stay away from trivia and personal, truck records are fair game.
And we must punish those who have failed to deliver and vote in others so that we make it clear to this generation and the next that government is not just serious business, as Muluzi rightfully reminded us at the turn of the millennium, but also run on trust.
So yes, the chickens are coming for roosting and they are not just from the executive but in parliament too.
It’s high time we made it clear that football and netball trophies alone, free t-shirts and coffins should not be enough to win anybody a seat in the all-important August House.
Let’s scrutinise each candidate for Parliament and demand a clear action plan on what they want to achieve for our constituencies and on national level.
And yes, as the day of reckoning comes for those who have squandered their mandates to usher to a new era of prosperity and hope, let’s remember that integrity, hard work and discipline are the values that will take this forward, not any person or party’s pocket.
This is the trick for bringing the change we desire; and ending the current state of malaise which wish as we may, remains sad and abysmal; unexaggerated too. But we cannot achieve this if the process of selecting is flawed and the institutions that support the electoral process—the electoral body, civil society, media, police, courts—are failing in their duties. Time has come again for a higher calling, not just for the citizen but institution, too.