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Friday, 3 May 2013

A Shameless Enterprise

The recent National Constitution Convention adopted Article 88 (g) in the Draft Constitution for Parliament to enact legislation to provide for funding of political parties. All the NGOs joined the political bandwagon to support this most reckless and shameful of proposals.

Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said “funding of political parties is not a new phenomenon because several political parties across the world are funded and this can help our political parties to foster democracy and multi-partyism”. Eddie Chombani from Anti-Voter Apathy Project (AVAP) said funding would assist political parties to establish themselves valuably and be able to compete favourably while championing democracy.

Unsurprisingly MMD chairperson for women affairs Faustina Sinyangwe supported the clause, saying political funding was an essential component to empower most of the political parties with effective financial capacity.

Organisations like AVAP and FODEP continue to prove that they serve no useful role in our democratic process. This is a misguided proposal. Whilst one appreciates the difficulties facing opposition political parties in Zambia today, public funding is not the solution.

If these NGOs really want to Zambia to expand its democratic space, they should focus their attention on lobbying for tight regulation on existing sources of political funding - particularly ensuring the party in government is kept in check and is not held hostage to big business - as was the case with MMD. It appears to me that instead of putting more money in greedy politicians pockets (who specialise in the politics of poverty) the best thing is to ensure that there’s a level playing field. That is all we need.

The lack of effective and transparent party funding regulation has distorted governance priorities in Zambia. There are no rules regulating where the money comes from and how it is spent. This lack of regulation presents economically powerful actors with an opportunity to exert undue influence on Zambian politics – perpetuating further the politics of poverty.

Asking poor ordinary Zambians to give their hard earned money to political parties who in turn keep them in poverty is morally wrong. Why should poor people fund political parties? These NGOs and their politicians have no morality. It is also poor economics. Political parties are private clubs. They are not "public goods" because in the truest sense. So there's no economic rationale whatsoever for this. We are not short of political parties. How long will this clique of self appointed experts continue coming up with the most foolish of proposals?

If people want to create a pot of fund to aid the democratic process, the fund needs to go to the people directly or support platforms that provide information to people and helps them hold government to account. Ignorance is what has kept our people trapped in political systems that don’t work for them. The greater the level of information injected in the system the more information people have about their true condition, as well as choices available to remedy it. Indeed, there can be no serious civil activism without information.

What these politicians and their NGOs are doing is very wrong. We should not allow this happen. The current draft of the Constitution as passed by the NCC is broken. It really makes no difference if the Cabinet or Parliament significantly edits and write their own version. It is not pro-poor or pro-people enough. 

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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