Towards a democratic culture in Zambia : An assessment of inter-party communication during the Mwanawasa regime (2002-2003)

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Nakazwe, Salome
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Zambia is governed by democratic principles, which find expression in rule by the majority. As such, opposition parties are an important element of democracy and a person is free to belong or start a political party according to the system of governance that that person ascribes to. In a democratic society, those in opposition hold the party in power accountable and this ensures the principle of good governance is upheld. This is because when in opposition, a political party monitors the performance of the ruling party and acts to remind the same of the promises it made to the electorate. This means the opposition parties act as a pressure group for the sake of upholding democratic values. Though they are there to provide an orderly system of changing government, they do not exist as an enemy to the government but have a responsibility to keep in step with the operations of the government so that they continue with development projects should their turn to be in office come. Thus, a free flow of communication between the party in power and those in opposition as well as among those in opposition is important to provide continuity of development projects. To ensure smooth flow of information, there is a position of General Secretary to the Party who acts as a link with other parties. He or she is like an ambassador of the party. Through the General Secretary, political parties articulate their agendas to other parties. Therefore, the different parties are able to find a common ground with other parties. Inter-party communication is built up by this office to a point where it is easy to sit on a 'round table' and discuss issues of national importance that promote the interests of the country. However, in Zambia, the situation is not ideal in as far as free flow of communication is concerned. This is evidenced at times when there is a function of national interest such as Independence Day Celebrations, African Freedom Day or some other function of national importance. The opposition normally are not involved. When queried, they claim not having been invited while the ruling party alleges it had sent out invitations to all political parties. This raises the question of whether the political parties are using an effective way to communicate among themselves or not. What channels, if any, are they using and how effective are they? Due to this lack of communication, political parties are suspicious of each other and especially of the ruling party. They accuse the President of using underhand methods in the way he is relating to them. They cite examples of his poaching MPs and party leaders of smaller parties, for example, from Agenda for Zambia and National Christian Coalition. In these cases, what channels were employed to merge these with the ruling party and what alternatives can be provided so that the outcome would not result in anarchy and despondency among political parties? At the same time, among themselves, opposition parties seem to have reached a deadlock on whether to work together or not. They are suspicious of each other and any attempts at forming an alliance falls through. An opposition party that comes out as pro MMD is accused of selling out and is thus viewed with suspicion. This is resulting in some MPs floating from one party to another oblivious to the system of principles the target party stands on. This situation is not winning the faith of the electorate. They now question whether a one party state is not better than a multi-party democratic rule. This is because the democratic kind of governance seems to concentrate on party bickering at the expense of the country's development. One factor that is giving rise to these confusions on the political arena is a lack of communication between and among different political parties. Since President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa came into power, there have been no inter-party meetings per se. No wonder he is not receiving co-operation from the opposition parties. Any attempt by him to extend an olive branch to the opposition leaders is thwarted as it is perceived to be a gimmick by the ruling party to serve its end. It is difficult to have trust unless there is easy communication among the political parties using the right channels. Hence, a research to find out the mechanism in place for communication among the different political parties was done to help to address the hostility existing among them. At the same time more effective means of communication were investigated to ensure that Zambia's young democracy is nurtured.
Political parties -- Zambia , Communication -- political aspects -- Zambia , Politics and government-2002-2003 -- Zambia