President Lungu’s State of the Nation address was opportune and touched on a number of national issues that deserve sincere reflection and debate, nevertheless, should have been more instructive.
At a time when the nation is besieged by a number of issues from many fronts, social, economical and political. Providing direction to the nation on how the Patriotic Front Administration will marshal the country out of these challenges was eminent and calls upon the stoutest leadership acumen.
The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) 2015, Article 91 clause (3) (c) obligates the President to promote democracy and enhance the unity of the Nation. In his State of the Nation (SONA) the President emphasised the need to coexist despite having divergent ethnic, social, religious and political backgrounds. Indeed this is needed it is both in the interest of the Patriotic Front Administration and indeed the opposition political parties that Zambia maintains her peace. No electoral mandate can be effectively delivered in a divided nation. National unity calls for action than anything else.
The President ought to have articulated clear steps on how his administration was going to deal with political tension in the country. Precedence is already there on how national unity was achieved after an election, for instance in 2011 President Michael Sata pardoned all people arrested on charges of instigating riots in Mongu and indeed many others arrested for political sacrifices such as Judge Ngoma, George Goma, George Lemba and Ashwell Kampengele to mention but a few. In this regard, in order to unify the Zambian people the President should undertake practical steps to reach out to all the opposition political parties through dialogue on pertinent political challenges.
We are glad the President acknowledges that ours is a fledgling democracy that needs to be sustained, supported and nurtured for growth by all political players. Firstly, there is need to ensure that fundamental intraparty democracy deficiencies across all political parties are dealt with. Beginning with embracing a democratic culture that encourages nurturing and grooming of leaders within political parties , a culture that abhors the use of youths as tools of subverting political opinions, ideologies of the other and indeed instilling fear on those whom they do not agree with.
Access to information law is long overdue. With sufficient political will by now Zambia would have joined a number of growing democracies that have embraced a political culture that inspires accountability and transparency in its political leadership through access to information laws. This is one major step to enhancing our fledgling democracy.
Besides emphasising the principles of separation of powers through independent establishments such as Electoral Commission of Zambia, Human Rights Commission, and Office of the Public Protector .The President should have also taken advantage to inform the nation on practical steps his Administration was taking in supporting these important constitutional establishments. For instance there is need to plan for the decentralisation of these institution to provinces and districts. Over and above, to ensure there optimal and independent operation without undue influence from any quarter of society.
Issued on behalf of FODEP: