Gabriel C Banda
HOW, and why, do some nations and governments collapse while others keep on being strong? Some societies keep on being relatively stable even where the same forces affecting them, with similar weights, could have led to some societies and governments collapsing and destabilized?
The recent case of Zambia after the passing of President Michael Sata October 2014 shows us the principle of the foundation greatly affecting the resilience and stability of a society or group. Following the death of Michael Sata in London, and the expected presidential by-elections, his ruling Patriotic Front, “PF,” party became embroiled in internal hostilities.
Of course, part of the foundation of the infighting was to do with cracks and defects in the party’s leadership style, structures, systems, and practices that were evident even when President Sata was alive. There was a lot to be healed even when President Sata, regarded as a very strong person, was alive.
With his passing, the centre removed, as W B Yeats would have said in the poem “The Second Coming” in words used in writer Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart novel’s title, things began to fall apart. Only refinement and healing could strengthen and stabilize the party.
A concern by many of us was that the PF difficulties were bad enough for any political party but for a ruling party, the stability of the whole national governance is shaken.
For in the weeks of late October, November, and mid December 2014, there followed acrimonious actions by differing groupings and interests within the PF. Party officials, cadres, and their supporters openly differed. There were even violent protests.
Guy Scott expelled from the party Edgar Lungu, PF Secretary General who was minister of both defence and justice ministries. In response, other senior party and government officials resisted Guy Scott’s action and Scott announced the re-instatement of Edgar Lungu.
As further infighting happened, Edgar Lungu’s popularity with sympathetic members of the public was rising. Eventually, with various further incidents between the Scott and Edgar Lungu teams, it was announced that Scott was removed from party roles and even acting as state president. The majority of cabinet ministers passed resolution for Scott stepping down from the position of acting president. All this while Guy Scott was playing role of Zambia’s president.
Officials of the PF went to court for rulings over positions and party elections.
In the differences, some officials of the PF left the party while others openly supported some presidential candidates from the opposition. The whole internal PF hostilities were affecting the stability of the government and the nation.
Members of the public were concerned about reaching the point where we could have witnessed:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,…”
Eventually, the pro-Edgar Lungu side became the one more recognized by the wider party membership and the public. Some in the pro-Scott team eventually came along to the Lungu campaigns and supported their party.
Greatly driven by public support, the Edgar Lungu team had pulled through and were the official PF front driving the party. Although slowed down by weeks of internal quarrels and litigation, PF was now fielding Edgar Lungu as one of the by-election’s prominent candidates.
But the whole experience of the ruling PF party had shaken Zambia. But still, Zambia was standing. Zambia had been resilient where other places would have experienced a general instability which would have taken a lot of time and effort to heal.
It seems the reasons for stability and instability are greatly linked to the foundations of governments and societies.
The foundation factors are around policies, systems, structures, processes, relationships, and practices that have been made in support of social cohesion and harmony. What was first put into place and how it was nourished over the period to the present time is important for our current state of health.
It is evident that the seeds of the past affect the state of fruits of the present. The seeds of the past affect the strength and stability of the society today. The past has a strong link to the strength and resilience of the current situation.
How could such recent events in government have occurred in Zambia and, while people have been worried and concerned, the nation did not fall? Many of the actions would in many parts of the world have led to a failed government.
A key explanation is that Zambia did not fall because of the foundation which had been laid from Independence time. There are many aspects of the foundation. But key amongst them have been first President Kenneth Kaunda and his colleagues’ early independence time emphasis on social cohesion and togetherness.
There was constant focus on the national motto “One Zambia, One Nation,” which emphasized the togetherness, unity, equity, and participation of persons of various backgrounds, from all over the country.
And while it had its critics, the implementation, from the 1960s up to 1990, of the “Philosophy of Zambian Humanism,” a “Ubuntu” forerunner based on traditional and Christian values of co-operation, welfare, and Common Good, contributed to the relative cohesion and stability of Zambia.
Another major contributor to the future stability was the “One Party Participatory Democracy, ” which also had some critics. Then, Zambia’s was more of a unified political system covering persons that previously were from many political parties. Members of the key opposition party ANC, led by Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, made an agreement with UNIP to have one party, using the UNIP name, under which parties would be united.
Active from 1972 to December 1990, Zambia’s “One Party” was different from that found in some other countries where the opposition was banned. In Zambia, members of opposition signed an agreement, with the ruling governing political party, to be in one party. Members of the opposition were taken into governance roles.
When the one party state system was in place, fights, violence, and injuries linked to inter-party conflict stopped.
Quite early, from independence, there were policies and programmes for people in all areas of Zambia to have relevant basic needs, infrastructure, facilities, and services. Zambia had resilience because of the foundation laid by those who played various roles in politics, government, and development.
Also affecting Zambia’s social cohesion was the situation of being a major centre supporting independence and liberation movements. Zambia was under military siege from neighbouring forces of racism and apartheid and, besides active defence by its security forces, its citizens had to get together in support of the cause.
Many persons, in various sectors, have over the decades contributed to building the resilience that Zambia has exhibited.
Because of the foundation, from October 2014, when there were pressures on the nation through conflict within the governing Patriotic Front party, Zambia was alarmed but still resilient. The foundation helped. Many, from various political lines, where concerned and, remembering the social cohesion built in the society, wanted stability.
Sometimes a person may not be thinking about the vaccination or immunisation that their parents gave them many years before. Yet the vaccination has contributed to what the person is today. But when unexpected health challenges come, as happened in HIV and AIDS, the person has to find ways of surviving something they are not immunized against.
Of course, during Zambia’s fifty years of independence, there have been some challenges. Yet lessons for all is that the deeper the social cohesion and togetherness in societies and teams, the easier, and longer, it is to be resilient and withstand pressures.
For the health of societies and teams, it is important for political and governance systems and practices to continuously support social cohesion, creativity, inclusion and participation, and respect for human variation. Respected should be persons of various political leanings.
We must respect as part of our humanity the variation of colour, ethnic link, cultures, language, origin, religion and spirituality, and location. We must embrace young and elderly, female and male. We must accept persons living with disability. We must respect persons in various material and financial situations.
We actually need policies, structures, systems, processes, and practices that nourish social stability. Instead of sitting back and expecting things to happen in whatever way they may turn out, practically working on them makes things happen.
Resilience is a situation of stability under pressure and great challenges. Resilience is linked to social cohesion and togetherness. Stability is linked to the foundation laid. The foundation of the past has contributed to our current situation just as our actions now lay the foundation for the future.
The future arises from Now. The future is Now. The future is here. Societies, nations, and teams are affected by past and present foundations.
Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the writer is involved in social development work, writing and the arts, and is a keen observer of conflict and peace issues.
Author email contact: <email@example.com>
– GCB, December 2014/January 15th, 2015, LUSAKA.