Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Why Our Politicians Don't Resign

American president Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate Scandal was exposed; British MP Patrick Mercer MP resigns over lobbying scandal, Australian MP Scott Driscoll resigns after sending explicit images from his phone, and in Zambia Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport, Steven Masumba....

Former American President Richard Nixon

The Member of Parliament and minister was convicted of obtaining pecuniary (financial) advantage by false pretences in a case in which he is accused of forging a NIPA certificate. I can safely predict that we will huff and puff, crawl and roll on the ground, protest and quack all we want, but to see Steven Masumba resign from his post on a moral ground is like waiting for the ocean to run dry. It will have to take something extraordinary for that to happen. I doubt he is going to resign; it is either he will be shoved out of the office or the courts would have to nullify his position as Member of Parliament. Any way who can blame him, people who have gone before him and have been found in graver scandals have not stepped down, so why should he.


The difference between us and developed countries is that Mr. Masumba would have resigned the moment the allegations were made. He would not have waited for the courts to find him guilty. The courts would have found him guilty when he was already out of the public office.  Politicians found in some form of scandal resign from public pressure, media outcry and the usual moral grounds. Try telling that to a Zambian politician. Truth of the matter is we are two worlds apart.


I think we put politicians on such a high pedestal and we pretend like they can do no wrong. This is the first blunder that we make. We make them our pillar of strength and our shining example of what a model citizen should be. This is one of the reasons why our friends in the western world will resign from their political positions after a scandal because they feel they have let down those who looked up to them. They will go in front of the press, offer a sincere apology, shed a tear or two and then resign to the expectation of everyone. Here in Zambia, it is the exact opposite. We do not hold our politicians it such high regard apart from the notion that they live lavish lifestyles on tax payers money. It is a general belief that politics is a dirty game and if a minister or MP does not have a blemish, we begin to wonder why.


In Zambia, for some reason the public pressure and media too is not as strong as it is in the western world. We do not make enough noise that someone out of their own guilty conscious will step aside so that they can sleep in peace at night. Honestly, we often forget too quickly and we move on with our mundane lives until another scandal or Chipolopolo take over our discussion. Trust me Hon. Masumba has nothing to fear, he will be out of the headlines in a few weeks time. We enjoy forgetting and get easily destructed, if you want to be a politician in this country that will always work in your favour. People will not always hold you accountable for your past and present mistakes. When that constant reminder that a holder of a public office is not acting accordingly is not available, the consideration of giving up the seat should not cross politician’s minds.


There are many small pockets of groups who try to be heard but it is hopeless rhetoric and it feels like an attempt to appear in the press. There is no consolidated voice and usually even though the noise will be talking about the same politicians many will be speaking from different points of view. When some speak we conclude they are speaking from a bitter place, others because they are donor funded, and for the rest we do not care. It is hard to gauge who is really shouting from a genuine place and is making valid points. Then there is my fellow youth, even though we make up the bulk of this nation’s population, we are not interested in politics. We develop our opinions from morning breakfast shows and then we assume that we are experts. The unfortunate part is that when some begin to speak their shallowness in understanding politics is exposed. Few read policies, the constitution, budgets, listen to BBC or take up the mantle to be better politicians.


Politicians who are involved in some form of scandal should not be automatically called upon to give up their seats. Each case needs to be considered as a separate case and sometimes the gravity of it too. However, if we want politicians to be more accountable for their actions and resign on moral grounds, there should be people to demand it. It is not enough to have one headline in the papers and hope that someone will resign. You need to make sufficient constant noise and probably the most important, a valid reason to leave their seat of privilege because someone wants to impose their moral ideas on them.