By Abednico Siambombe
Conservatism politics describes the African presidency and their design of public policies seal a belief that every opposition political party has its roots in the West and is developed to advance the regime change agenda which threatens their interests and zest to enjoy the comfort and sweetness of power. The most disturbing component of African constitutions is that their countries are Republican state which give room to multiparty-states and on the other hand the presidents have a desire to eternally cling to power and subdue any attempt made by politicians from the left wing to challenge their leadership.
This analysis has been informed by the arrest of Hakainde Hichilema (HH) the leader of the UPND party in Zambia who is currently being incarcerated for treason charges. If this is real treason, the basis of the charges are baseless and void except to say that the ruling party has an ambition to sweep and get rid of opposition politics and establish a one party state which is a zest of every nationalist like Edgar Chagwa Lungu. As a common and often practiced norm whenever a president is on road, the law enforcement agents clear the road to avoid any inconveniences but during the Mongu incident, the Zambian police decided to give a leeway for HH to use the same road. Maybe Lungu has to question the loyalty of his watch dogs if he had not given them a command to trap and arrest HH, their loyalty is now questionable.
The arrest and charge of opposition leaders on treason charges did not commence with Zambia’s Edgar Lungu who after feeling insecure and guilty of jeopardizing the August 2016 election to go in favour of his candidature began a witch hunt on the famous and rich HH who challenged the electoral results. Is this a treason charge? Obviously no, Magistrate Malumani ruled that it was a bad charge and the state could not defend their merciless messy and false accusation on the opposition leader.
Did this begin with Lungu in Africa? Obviously one has to remember Africa’s mostly criticised president of Zimbabwe who after seeing the growing challenge and predicting the loss of an electoral challenge during the beginning of the 2000 era arrested Morgan Tswangirai on the charges of treason which the opposition leader won in the courts. As if nationalists share the same traits, Gambia’s Yayah Jameh had the same mentality of jailing and persecuting opposition leaders to thwart opposition in his country and the same was with Kenya under Uhuru Kenyata. The prolonging of the court hearing and adjournments made is a clear indication that Lungu’s PF want to inconvenience HH for the upcoming election and devise a strategy to put him out of play after inscribing a criminal record on his back. This is a fear of losing the upcoming elections by the PF ruling party of Zambia as they won the previous election by a thin margin.
The arrest of opposition leaders in Africa is not only a designed methodology to do away with electoral competition, but a poor philosophy which fails to recognise the importance of opposing parties and the value they bring to the state. Opposing parties help identify the weaknesses of the governance system of the ruling parties, help moderate the public policies which if not congruent and consistent may sink the state and economic downfall thereby sparking a revolution or an ambiguous uproar from the masses.
Although there cannot be a comparison of democracy in the North and the countries in the South, it is concise to take note that most of the Western democrats have encouraged the survival of opposing parties. Should the African states think of having such a progressive mind-set, they should begin with the sharing of roles in the government and reject the poor bogus philosophy of ‘the winner takes all’ which is spoiling the after-election situations on the African continent.
If Lungu was eager to move Zambia forward after compromising the elections and refusing the constitutional challenge made by HH, he should have appointed him into the governance system as what has been with America with the losing candidates in an electoral race. The necessity of such an action is the moderation of the policies for the benefit of people. Due to a fear of perpetual coups across the continent, this idea fall short of realisation although the leaders have not managed to notice that such coups have sprouted due to their failures in governance and poor performing economies.
Unlike in the West where people like Donald Trump Junior emerge from business to occupying the presidency vacancy, for African politics this is a graduation process where one has to languish in prison first and then into office. If one has not been in prison or politically persecuted, the occupation of the presidential post becomes a blared dream. Should an African deny or feel annoyed when the Westerner says the black person is not good at leading? In this case, there is need to seek correctional measures on how the states must be governed and how elections must be conducted. This entails that the African man would prefer to destroy the economy and seek for solutions to it in order to lure the attention of the electorate who stand in long queues in the blazing sun only to endorse the oppressive elites.
Comfort is one of the most intriguing aspects for the sitting presidents in Africa. Most opposing parties in this region are against such a conundrum which leaves the states with little and their expenditures are beyond the national budgets. To ensure that such comfort is enjoyed human rights especially political rights are trampled to the core. Such a move to victory creates victims especially when the governance system is questioned as with Zambia’s Lungu and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe who fly out of country for medication when they have already trained doctors in those countries where they go for treatments.
Politics in Africa is a game for old boys in suits whereas the young generation although it marks the majority of the population, are spectators in the terraces as they are gripped with fear of losing life and the cost related to the challenge of opposing these monsters dominating the political playing field. The youth have been socialised into a philosophy of accepting the old adage that ‘the boss is always right.’ This translates to the coming generations which will continue with the same political traits and development will remain a dream aspect for centuries unless prison is taken to be a home of criminals, not politicians.
There is a lesson that the African presidents should learn from the Western although they cannot copy everything from the currently lapsed American and French elections. For the progress of the state, it should be known that fighting for the liberation of the state does not mean that one has the skills to move the economy to better levels and a good fighter is not always a good leader. Therefore Edgar Lungu should not be in a race of pursuing private comfort, trump political rights of people but should realise the importance of opposition politics as well as uphold constitutionalism for the best interest of the nation. Above all, presidential candidates should not graduate from prisons into offices in Africa.
- Abednico Siambombe is an academic, a political analyst and social commentator