The Political Oxpecker

Filed under: Politics,Special Comments |

By Hope Nyambe

For some of you that may not be well vested with creatures of the wild, an Oxpecker is a bird that is mainly found in Sub Saharan Africa. They have a notorious reputation of spending almost their entire lives on their hosts, which in this case happens to be large, hoofed mammals such as Giraffes, Zebra, Buffalo and Rhinoceroses. Riding on the backs of these mammals, they feed off Ticks and other insects feasting on their hosts. The Oxpeckers are also known to eat diseased wound tissue, keeping wounds clean as they heal. This what is known as a symbiotic relationships, as it denotes a mutually beneficial relationship between the Oxpecker and its host.

From the outset, this relationship looks beneficial to both parties, and yet a close scrutiny of the Oxpecker reveals a much darker, sinister, semi parasitic relationship. The Oxpeckers disposition to eat the blood and wound tissues of his host is argued, slows down the healing process as it keeps the wound open. This in essence provides a constant supply of wound tissue for the Oxpecker to feed on. Prolonged open wounds then become susceptible to bacterial infections that might be fatal to the host. This analogy can be used to describe the relationship between politicians and the electorate.

You might not have realised this, but there is a great resemblance between the behaviours of the Oxpecker and that of politicians. Just like a buffalo will entrust an Oxpecker to remove parasites from its body thereby improving its welfare, citizen generally also entrust politicians to take care of them through good governance and the provision of public services. And yet the relationship between politicians and the citizenry the serve can also either be symbiotic or parasitic.

Symbiotic when politicians consult, report, explain and are answerable to the general public for the consequences of decisions made on behalf of the communities they represent. This accountability to the public is a fundamental requirement of good governance. Citizens on the other hand should contribute to decision making either directly or through legitimate intermediary institutions that represent their interests. The onus therefore is that these institutions are independent, and free from any political or individual influences. The rule of law, accountability and transparency should therefore be the cornerstone of this symbiotic relationship.

On the other hand, the political Oxpecker can have a parasitic relationship with the very citizenry that they are entrusted to serve. This is when politicians fail to identify with the society that they purport to rule and instead pursue individual or insular interests. It is a common fact that there are major frailties in most political leaderships that have given ground to conflict and corruption. Most leaders become parasitic to their electorate when they treat their offices as personal property and avenues of personal gain or enrichment. The malignant results of such a parasitic relationship are evident: misapplication of national resources; rampant and unchecked corruption; a lack of strategic planning and direction; lawlessness and eventually DEATH.

The irony of the either relationship (symbiotic or parasitic) is that, it is actually the host that allows or has the authority in the relationship. For example, it is argued that Elephants can identify the parasitic Oxpeckers and brush them off with impunity. It is the same with politicians and the citizenry. In a democratic dispensation, it is the citizens that define the relationship in terms of choosing leadership that will serve their interests firsts. When the relationship is at variance with the needs of the citizenry, they have the right to ‘brush the off’ either through elections, protests or any other legal avenues available.

The onus therefore lays heavily on the citizens to define the relationship they want with their politicians. Whenever citizens elect their representatives, they have to critically analyse and ascertain as to whether their relationship with be symbiotic or parasitic. The one thing to bear in mind is that every politician is an Oxpecker.


2 Responses to The Political Oxpecker


    January 17, 2018 at 5:15 pm

  2. Its a shame that most politicians in Zambia, both in the ruling party and the opposition are simply parasitic. Most of these politicians simply want to get into government to ‘eat.’ The element of serving the people is long gone with the one party start.

    Victor Mulenga
    January 18, 2018 at 8:41 am

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