Press Statement Issued on Tuesday 5 April 2011 in Respect of Various Issues Affecting The Nation
Introduction and Welcome
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press. I welcome you all to the National Restoration Party (NAREP) press briefing on important issues affecting the nation.
We meet at a time when our country is troubled by several challenges and crises:
- women in our rural communities still lose children in child-birth
- our local government system has broken down and is in urgent need of repair
- residents in rural and peri-urban areas still die of curable and preventable diseases
and yet we can spend billions on a failed constitution-making process; a process that should have united the nation but ended up with no resolution and wasted resources. It is fair to ask the question: to whom are our leaders accountable?
We have so called “leaders” that will unite to amend the law to provide gratuity for an ageing president but these same leaders cannot find it within themselves to offer an olive leaf to the opposition in order to pass amendments to a constitution that would have answered the cries of a nation.
The failure of the constitution-making process is a failure that we cannot sit by as a responsible party and allow to go unchallenged. No patriotic Zambian can allow this failure to simply pass on as another example of failed leadership. It is time that we rallied round to together as a nation to finally make the adjustment in leadership that has been long overdue. We need to look to the future and not to the past. We need responsibility and not recklessness. Sacrifice not selfishness.
After having spent billions of Kwacha on trying to come up with a new constitution, it has become clear to the Zambian people that there was never any real political will on the part of the MMD administration to develop a constitution that would reflect the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zambia. We have wasted time, effort and money on a process that should shame the country.
In the nearly 50 years that we have been an independent nation, it is nothing other than shameful that we have failed to draft a constitution that is people-driven and that will be able to stand the test of time. Each time that the constitution has been revisited, it has generally been tampered with in order to achieve narrow political objectives.
But there was on this occasion – and in spite of a shaky and controversial beginning – an opportunity to offer the nation a constitution that could have had the backing of civil society, politicians and the public at large. But it was not to be. The process seemed doomed from the start although it could have been salvaged with less selfish leadership that had a commitment to a common cause and a heart for the people.
A sad and often overlooked reality of this messy and undignified ending to a mulit-year process is that the cost is far greater than reported cost of allowances and materials used by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC). There were billions in lost productivity – parliamentarians and civil servants whose time and attention was diverted from the normal course of duty to attend to deliberations at the NCC. All of this effort has now gone to waste. All the investment has been in vain. The wasted resources could have been used to build maternal shelters in all wards for pregnant mothers in rural communities, or to construct drainage and roads in high density communities, or to reconstruct markets across the country.
The Zambian people should not forgive this breach of trust from those that took part and from those that had the responsibility to provide the nation with the best of leadership at a time when we needed it most. But of course leadership in Zambia is sorely lacking and has been lacking for far too long. And this is why we cannot continue to recycle the procedures, approaches and ideas of the past. This is why we cannot ignore the reality that the youth of our nation form the majority of the voters in the nation. This is why we must arise together as a nation and say: “Enough is enough”! It is time that we ushered in leadership that will not take the people of our long-neglected country for granted anymore.
Parallel Voter Tabulation
We have seen this lack of leadership arise in the debate surrounding the issue of the proposed Parallel Voter Tabulation (or PVT). Now let me point out from the outset that there is already an informal Parallel Voter Tabulation that goes on with every election. When you have independent monitors in polling stations recording results as they are announced and monitoring the process, these results can be, and often are, relayed across the country by those that are present in these polling stations. The difference with PVT is that it would allow for these unofficial tabulations to be officially declared.
Now, given the concern that election results from the outlying areas of our country are often delayed and reportedly adjusted at the last minute in order to “balance out” the result in favour of an incumbent party, the system of PVT would greatly reduce any threat of last minute manipulation, if not eliminate this factor completely. If the MMD administration was really concerned about ensuring that the results of elections really reflected the will of the people, they would engage in this debate in a more constructive manner. Sadly, however, we see the familiar reliance on the mediocrity, corruption, greed and neglect that has derailed our constitutional process and that is threatening to derail the debate on PVT.
NAREP supports PVT and we believe that a process can be agreed that will ensure that there is an objective means of ensuring that the tabulated results can be safely published by independent observers in order to provide confidence to the general public that the results announced by the electoral commission will reflect the true will of the people in each polling district.
Yet again, the country has been forced to witness the horrible spectacle of political violence. It is clear that there are elements within our political system that will go to any length to either gain power or hold onto power. In a normal society, such elements would be weeded out and banned from the political process – not just by the law enforcement agents, but by the parties whose members have been accused of having perpetrated the violence. We have seen none of this type of leadership in our political parties – a clear indication that some would rather sacrifice law and order at the expense of power.
As NAREP, we have consistently called for the drafting of a memorandum for violent free elections in 2011 to be signed between all political parties that seek to participate in the upcoming polls. Given the extent to which this problem has continued to blight our politics, the lack of willingness on the part of those engaged in the violence should speak volumes about what type of leadership we can expect after the polls in 2011 if we continue to rely on recycled leadership.
If parties are really concerned about preventing violence from becoming a permanent feature of our political landscape, they must set out a clear agenda that:
- condemns violence
- puts in place a mechanism to punish violence within its ranks
- allows for independent investigation into the causes of the violence with a view to setting out clear recommendations for reversing the current trend
We do not believe that the current MMD administration has either the political will or inclination to accept this way forward and we call upon the churches and civil society to continue in their efforts to draw all parties into this issue and to mobilise all efforts to ensure that no injury to person or property will be tolerated.
Let me turn finally to an issue that has been dominant in our headlines recently – the issue of homosexuality. Our stance as NAREP on homosexuality is simple: we follow what the bible says and the bible is as clear on this matter as it is on adultery. In the passage of scripture in which a woman is about to be stoned for having committed adultery, Jesus makes one simple statement: “let he who is without sin to be the first to cast a stone”. We are then told that all of those that wanted to punish the woman dropped their stones and left – starting with the older ones.
According to the bible, homosexuality is a sin. But before we rush out in condemnation, let us remember that we are all sinners and we all need forgiveness before god. Let us also all remember that the real problems confronting our country have not been the result of homosexuality. They are the result of mediocre, incompetent, corrupt and greedy leadership. Because of this:
- the youth of this country remain marginalised and have no jobs or opportunity and no platform on which they can have their voices heard
- the chiefs in our rural communities are treated as second class officials and are bought second hand cars as a mark of how little respect this government has for them
- our women are both neglected and disrespected and yet they hold our nation together as mothers
- our churches are treated as enemies of the state unless they sing the praises of powers here on earth
Zambia’s developmental problems are not the result of homosexuality; they are the result of leadership that lacks the type of values that can better guarantee a commitment to growth and prosperity for the many and not just the few. And that is why we need real and meaningful change in 2011 and not recycled leadership. That is why we need NAREP.
I thank you all.
President – National Resoration Party