By MUBANGA LUCHEMBE
IN ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another; is the Wikipedia dictionary’s definition of yin and yang.
Call ethno-politics, if you like as Zambia’s yin and yang. For every gut-wrenching atrocity and calamity that Zambia faces there is an equally powerful reaffirmation of all that can be right.
In 2016, the “non-Bantu Botatwe” people from all over the country were harassed and hounded out of their dwellings around Namwala in a sickening post-election wave of xenophobic violence. But ultimately it was the rest of Zambians themselves who quelled the fires. Going back a few years – four to be exact – moderate “Bantu Botatwe” who provided shelter for those internally-displaced “non-Bantu Botatwe” in this rural setting risked and sometimes got attacked as a result.
Zambia produces intraparty political dictators and tribalists, but it also produces non-tribal political activists and all-embracing leaders. It is this balance between the capacity for destruction and affirmation of life/livelihood that has kept us at the table of common humanity.
So the question is: Why have we failed to translate the good that comes from us in times of elections into a prolonged period of peace?
Zambians have to find the strength and the will to break away from this precarious and costly balance. If the suspected 2017 post-election arson attacks on public markets and other state infrastructures; recent criminal acts of chemical gas attacks and scores of killings of suspected-gassers by instant justice mobs, have taught us anything, it is that one day soon things may have gone too far. Something will have to give. Then there will be no place at the table of common humanity for generations to come.
The good in Zambia comes to life when people struggle for it. The bad, however, emerges when they relinquish their freedom to choose and react to a political leadership quick to slap on the chains of ethnicity and swift to elicit cultish personification.
In the middle of last decade, the first intraparty winds of change were blown by the death of UPND founding father Anderson Mazoka in 2006, only to be hijacked by ethnocentric leadership.
Later on the apparent democratic spaces that emerged in the party were paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of the general members. Yet today these spaces remain open, only to the extent that the elite can keep massaging their post-election bruised egos.
But the UPND’s scheduled general assembly has been described by many as a sham which offers nothing new because it will still retain the same ethnocentric leadership.
The writing on the wall is ominous, but in it there is also hope: the yin and the yang. The warning is linked to the long-serving ethnocentric leadership, the hope to eligible members of the party. The UPND would do well when its eligible members, forced by circumstances, look into themselves. It is then that they will begin primary elections in all its party structures from the branch level to the party presidency to struggle for justice.
UPND’s definition of leadership has to change. True leadership does not come from the top or only from the elite. True leadership does not need the experience of serving in the corporate business entities or ruling party that you are trying to oust. It does not prey on fears or make expedient promises or seek populism in place of popularity.
Current members of the UPND National Management Committee (NMC) were not born leaders; they were made possible by a national convention seeking succession to the late UPND founding father and his team.
In 2006, UPND eligible members did that, and soon afterwards their elected ethnocentric leaders’ political imagination ran out. These leaders have undoubtedly overstayed their welcome.
If genuine leadership is going to emerge from the ranks of UPND’s eligible members at the forthcoming national convention, they have to create the conditions that make this possible.
Let them cast a vote of no-confidence in the serving NMC leaders and the sitting party president, for the whole lot is part of Zambia’s ethno-political problem.
It is inevitable that when thousands come together to refuse participation in the charade of choosing the lesser of two evils new leaders will emerge.
Besides, our times call for new, young and dynamic UPND leadership which does not see Zambia as a puppet partner in a globalised world. UPND needs leaders that reject foreign handouts from international companies that are reportedly donating millions to the coffers of the party for future favours, in the unlikely event that it formed government next year.
Tellingly, there is no doubt that Zambia’s largest opposition party has significant resources to boast about.
In spite of this, the long-serving UPND leadership has outlived its usefulness, it too should be left by the wayside with a polite note of thanks.
The past should not continue to bear down so heavily on the present. The past has to free the future. Used to the yin and yang of destruction and affirmation, youths have come to believe that this closed cycle is the best they can do. They depend on the old guard to keep themselves afloat, but they only succeed in limiting the youths’ imagination. It is time to let them go for good. It is time to break free.
Finally, will the scheduled UPND national convention be a cleanup sweep? Or the good followed by the bad – the yin by the yang perhaps? It depends.
By MUBANGA LUCHEMBE