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Saturday, 16 July 2011

When the party equals government

“A lot of people are busy saying the MMD government is abusing ZNBC because ZNBC only covers the MMD government. Yes, ZNBC has to cover us because it shows government developmental projects...Even when Sata comes into power, ZNBC will be covering him alone. This time is our time. Those who want to be feeling bad about themselves when they wake up every day, they should be buying The Post newspapers because it always talks about negative things, saying things are bad in the country when the economy is doing well...”
Minister Siliya (Source : The Post)   

"You are loyal to the party, in particular. As you know he had indicated to stand once again on the MMD ticket. There are very few people who after helping us to step aside will still come back and want to stand on that political party, which is ruling. I, therefore, want to congratulate you for your steadfastness, your commitment to Zambians, myself and to the Constitution of Zambia. You come at the time when we are about to move on to new elections. Permanent secretaries are very important persons in the sense that you together with the Presidency will help run this country until a new Cabinet has been appointed after the elections.”
President Banda (Source :  Daily Mail,  The Post)

President Banda once again, alongside his minister, showcasing the intellectual and moral poverty of the current administration. The post of the permanent secretary is meant to be apolitical. We continue to see MMD cadres filling these positions and this has diminished the effectiveness of government. We have already noted this issue with respect to the foreign service. Similarly, Minister Siliya is wrong about public resources. Its not "your time" to eat. It is Zambian people's time to eat. Her statement amounts to plunder of national assets. 

But there's a much bigger problem here than many realise. The Banda administration (like UNIP) has equated the party with government / state institutions. They are very comfortable to do so - given a sleepy citizenry. They are quick to claim these national resources are theirs. They have used State positions to reward their party cadres (and foreign friends - in the case of mining taxation). They also continue to use legal means to plunder national resources as we saw with the NCC. The nature of government in Zambia is that the party and government has become one and the same. While this helps the Banda administration achieve its political aims it has two serious implications.

First, it puts ordinary citizens in an adversarial position  against their government. Consider a NAREP supporter who loves their party but also wants to support their government, as a patriotic citizen, to deliver meaningful development to its people. Unfortunately he / she can't do that because the policeman is now an MMD cadre instead of a legitimate Government employee. The PS appointed by President Banda above is not a legitimate civil servant but merely a political cadre. How is the PS going to relate to  NAREP cadres who in practice are his real employers?

Secondly, it is eliminates the legitimacy of  a sitting government. This is the more serious issue. When the party equals government, as the current administration wants, it essentially means the party in question has usurped state power and using it to reward itself at the expense of the poor. This of course has serious consequences. In some countries it would be considered treason, but in our country its the practical effects that are worrying. Consider the Barotse riots. It was clear that the riots were organised by those aggrieved by "government" actions / statement as reflected in the NCC proceedings. But were they? Or were they grieved by the actions of MMD ( as usurpers of state power)?  Was MMD acting as  legitimate government or acting as a bunch of cadres with a mindset of "this is our time" to eat in the Siliya mode? When legitimacy is gone it breeds chaos. Equating government with the party is therefore not a way to govern. It breeds violence which disproportionately affects the poor. 

The other point to note is that the coalescing of the party with government complicates issues for independent analysts like Zambian Economist. While we aspire to ensure that our take is as non-partisan as it can be, it virtually becomes practically impossible to do so because the party is the same as the government in Zambia. It is this point that the Banda administration seems to miss when they criticise the Post. They should recognise that those of us who stand in defence of the Zambian people will always side with our poor in our critique. We care about their oppressors. In doing that it will most certainly mean that we have no choice but to attack the misguided practices of the party in government because we look for government and we see only the image of MMD. Our friends in the Western world have an easier task because in real democracies it is clear where the government ends and the party in government starts. Not so with us. The MMD cadre is also the permanent secretary, he is also the police man, he is also the journalist, he is also.....[fill in the blanks]. 


  1. I.P.A. Manning (chosanganga)16 July 2011 at 13:11

    ...the receiver of money for housing plots which never eventuate, the D.C. - extension of the shushu OP - for ensuring non-development, the IMF guide, the tenga tenga of ballot boxes;...a man for all seasons; a man lost, waiting for a blanket.

  2. "the tenga tenga of ballot boxes" lol!

    A man of all seasons indeed....perhaps we should also add, he is an "accident already happening"! lol!

  3. Hi Cho,

    But there's a much bigger problem here than many realise. The Banda administration (like UNIP) has equated the party with government / state institutions.

    This isn't just Rupiah Banda. This is a problem that has not been remedied since the reinstitution of multi-party democracy in 1991.

    Democracy is not merely about elections, it is about mature democratic institutions, which have constitutional protection.

    There is no constitutional division between the powers of state. The constitution is a very threadbare document, which mainly concerns itsel with who is elligible to vote.

    There must be a constitutional separation of hiring and budgets, between the three powers of state - judiciary, legislature and executive; between the party and the government; between the government and the state.

    To some extent, the opinions of Dora Siliya and Rupiah Banda merely reflect the current legal state of affairs.

    Of course, if they had the good of the country at heart, they would delimit their own powers, but what politician is going to do that? They came to power by accumulating power and wealth, not giving it away.

    So that is the problem. Who can step in and give the country a great constitution that works for the people, not the politicians of the day (see the NCC fiasco, and the heavy hand of VP George Kunda).

    The question is: is there anyone in government or the state who can suggest a change to the constitution that is not merely an abuse of state funds like the NCC, either the most recent one on the one that happened under (if I remember correctly) Levy Mwanawasa? Because this NCC has happened before, with the same results.

  4. MrK,

    It is certainly true that this has happened since 1991 but in my view this government has been more open in its personalisation of state functions and usurping State power.

    Consider the unilateral reversals of mining policies. Consider Dora and Tetamashimba's openness that this is MMD property.

    It is the sheer nakedness that has been most unfortunate.

  5. What of the sheer protruding evidence that Sata could outdo and break all records, to personalize government machinery, extrapolating actualities of his deeds in history? If Sata could personally ( as he actually did) spearhead the campaign for an unconstitutional third term, what else could he do, when it is absolutely clear that he is not prepared to apologize for that misdeed? The Sata mistake in office will guarantee Zambia a place on the list of nations described as failed states.

  6. Anonymous,

    Obviously you have nothing positive to say about Rupiah Banda or the MMD.


    Consider the unilateral reversals of mining policies. Consider Dora and Tetamashimba's openness that this is MMD property.

    It is the sheer nakedness that has been most unfortunate.

    In politics, business and life, arrogance generates stupidity. The MMD has been in power too long.

  7. MrK
    'In politics, business and life, arrogance generates stupidity. The MMD has been in power too long.'

    Using your logic - RB has been in MMD for only 5 years while Sata stayed for 10 years. What are you suggesting? That RB be given another 5 years and then he can get to be as equally arrogant ?

  8. Those of us who have been with this site since it's inception are in no doubt of it's non- partisan creditials.As far as I can see , it is the only Zanbian site that has consistently raised the level debate to a higher stadard in an accesible and non-condesending manner.It is easy to dumb down in the pursuit of popularity(or a seat on the table of bakabolala) but I believe the ZE has stayed true to his word as he argues in this post.

    I can not recall any instance were the ZE has lobbed personal insults at any zambian politician neither do i see any uncritical cheerleading of any political party or idelology... But there comes a time when a man/organisation has to take a STAND switzerland is nice...but no one respects it.

  9. Pandawe,

    I am grateful for your compliments and your long time readership.

    The site is not perfect and I will make mistakes from time to time. But I try and make sure that what is written here does not bring shame to our country.

    I have also told people that if there's something they don't agree with, they can always email me and explain clearly.

    Finally, I should say this website is read by members of my local church, my work work mates, my in-laws, my wife, my family members..and many other people. Most importantly, God always watches what I write. My goal is to make sure whatever I write does not demean people I know. Most importantly, does not bring insult to the Lord I love.

  10. Kaiba,

    Using your logic - RB has been in MMD for only 5 years while Sata stayed for 10 years. What are you suggesting? That RB be given another 5 years and then he can get to be as equally arrogant

    Some people start off that way. That is why I saw straight through GW Bush back in 2000. Leadership and swagger are not a good combination.

  11. The attitude of the current government concerning the running of state media has done more harm than good to RB's image in the eyes of the public. I honestly feel that with all the many projects undertaken by the current government a loosened grip on the state media would have made RB more marketable to the citizens. The prolonged absence of a board at ZNBC leaves one wondering whether these boards are seen to be necessary at all. The issue of constructing fly-over pedestrian bridges that wait for a very long time before they can be used leaves one wondering if these projects are necessary. If something is a necessity wouldn't one make sure it is operational in the shortest period of time...


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