18 December 2012

Zambia: The Fallacy of a So-Called One Party State


INSINUATIONS by some political players that the Patriotic Front Government is veering in the direction of a one-party State are not only patently false but preposterous in the extreme because such a situation is legally untenable in Zambia.

Zambians embraced political pluralism in December, 1990 when President Kenneth Kaunda formally assented to the constitutional amendment Bill that expunged Article Four from the Republican Constitution to pave way for the reintroduction of multi-party democracy.

The one-party State political system was entrenched in Article Four of the Constitution which proscribed the formation of opposition parties.

Its removal from the supreme law of the land marked the dawn of a new era, and Zambia's political landscape has never been the same.

The full import of our current democratic political dispensation is that Zambians enjoy absolute liberty to associate freely with political parties of their choice. This freedom also means that they are free to repudiate links with any party if their conscience dictates that they switch their political alignment.

There are no legal encumbrances to prevent any person from opting out of a particular political party or organisation since freedom of association is one of the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Constitution. It is one liberty that is cherished and guarded jealously by all those who subscribe to the dictates of a democratic dispensation.

The MMD, whose leaders are crying foul over defections from their party, was in power for 20 years, and many of the founder members left the party after the near constitutional crisis of 2001 when the second Republican President Frederick Chiluba hatched a plot to run for a third term, a move that was thwarted by the party as it was unconstitutional.

Twenty-two prominent MMD members were subsequently expelled from the party for opposing the third term bid. That was a good ground for many of them to quit the party on principle, although some of them drifted back to the MMD after the third term bid flopped.

The events of 2001 clearly showed that the MMD was veering off-course, and nobody could blame those who decided, on principle, to leave the party and form their own political parties whose aspirations would be consistent with their political beliefs.

Endemic corruption and other vices that characterised MMD's two decades in office are among reasonable grounds that forced some founder members out of the party. Some opportunistic elements remained in the party until it was voted out of power in 2011.

Some of the prominent members leaving the MMD today cannot be forced to cling to a party that has since repudiated most of its original ideals and its leaders have been badly besmirched and blinded by corruption and avarice.

Membership of a political party is not a life-time occupation. Those who wish to redeem their images have a right to dissociate themselves from the rot that has been on brazen display in the MMD for a long time.

The notion that by-elections are expensive lacks merit because democracy is an expensive undertaking. To the extent that by-elections are a product of the dictates of our current Constitution, there is no way of circumventing them until the supreme law is changed.

We concede that every viable and functional democracy needs a strong and robust opposition to provide the desired checks and balances. But that is only possible when the opposition is guided by the right principles and values.

The MMD is on its death-bed, and most of the members are aware of the fact that its impending extinction is a distinct possibility. The party is in a dysfunctional state, if not in total disarray. It has no capacity to provide effective checks and balances.

Few will mourn the MMD's demise because it is not the same party founded by the "True Blue" members in 1990. In its present form, the MMD is a party comprising political degenerates who merely jumped on the band-wagon since they viewed the MMD as their gravy train. They have no clear vision or ideology. Little wonder, so many of their members are leaving.

If some MMD members, wittingly or unwittingly, 'kill' their party, other political parties will take the place of MMD because Zambia is a vibrant and robust democracy. It will NEVER be a one-party State again!

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