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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Tribal Zambians? Revisited

The Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has a new report where it argues that tribalism in the Zambian voting pattern is "a false consciousness peddled by desperate politicians than a reality". I am trying to get hold of their report (its not on their website). So we only have SACCORD Executive Director Lee Habasonda's summary :

This study concludes that to a large degree 'tribalism' represents false social consciousness. It is used by desperate political elites with an insatiable lust for attaining or preserving power at all costs and with little regard for the social consequences that follow the championing of such a retrogressive ideology.

It is meant to build the political capital of elites by projecting a social mentality of 'them' versus 'us' among ordinary citizens. Politicians who run out of ideas find it much easier to appeal to nebulous 'tribal' sentiments that address concrete social class issues that affect peasants or workers....The study notes that 'Tribal' consciousness was fomented and encouraged by the colonialists through their policy of divide and rule to maintain dissent under control.

Unfortunately it has become a favourite strategy of our politicians to raise the bogey of tribalism in reference to other opponents as a way of concealing the same activities which they condemn in others. In the post-independence era, the ideology of 'tribalism' has become a handy weapon among the arsenal of desperate political elites jostling for power.....
One certainly hopes there's much more than set out above, which amounts to the obvious. At face value though this does appear to confirm the tribal findings previously discussed in this academic paper. Incidentally, in the same article, Mr Habasonda suggests that the best policy for dealing with this is : "to equally distribute political and economic benefits in every province" ; and, the "need for the law makers to introduce an electoral formula of proportional representation which will ensure that all the tribes in Zambia are represented in electoral outcomes". No mention of devolving more powers to the local level? or pursuing more robust structural alignment that brings chiefs to the centre or reorienting the education system by mandating cross learning of languages? There are many things that can be done....but one gets the sense tribalism suits some political actors wishing to maintain the current political configuration. So the SACCORD report will go to the bottom of some shelf or used by the cadres as smoking paper.

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