May 20, 2010

Real Change

I have generally steered clear of the Obama bandwagon. No, I am not a naysayer who can’t recognise or acknowledge the significance of what he accomplished with his election in 2008. I have reserved judgement because it’s been my thinking from the beginning that Congress would be the biggest stumbling block in his endeavour to deliver CHANGE. 

I think the inherent weakness of the Obama doctrine is that it was not fully matched with the infusion of new blood in the U.S. senate and congress. He can talk about bringing change in Washington until he’s purple in the face, but as long as the players that hold the power remain the same, they will continue to throw hurdles in his path, and that’s exactly what has happened.

So, as African pundits rant on and on about the need for an Obama-like leader in Zambia or Kenya to bring transformational change, I respond with this:

How about we start thinking about becoming Members of Parliament (MPs) instead of just shooting for plot one (the presidency) and thinking everything else will fall in place after that?

The responsibilities of Zambia’s Parliament include “making laws (Acts of Parliament), approving proposals for taxation and public expenditure, and keeping the work of the Government under scrutiny and review”.

Being an MP isn’t as glamorous as being the President or a cabinet minister but there is so much that can be accomplished in that role. An MP is elected every 5 years and represents a specific constituency and in theory represents the interests of his/her constituents, and doesn’t just act as a rubber stamp for the President’s agenda. 

An effective Parliament works on the people’s mandate and doesn’t abdicate its role to the president and his inner circle. Here’s an illustration of what I am talking about. Earlier this week, former Finance Minister, Ng’andu Magande joined the re-instate the windfall tax for mining revenues bandwagon. Which is all well and good, it’s a good argument and sound minds are needed in the debate (see here & here for more reading). However, what I would like to know if why he, as an MP, doesn’t introduce a bill and gather support to reinstate the measure? Isn’t that part of his responsibilities as an MP? Or maybe I am too far removed from my civics lessons to remember this correctly. J

If we start to shift our thought processes of how to enact effective change through decision making bodies such as Parliament I believe we have a better chance of achieving our goals. Yes, the presidency holds a lot of power and clout, but it should not be the be-all and end-all to decision making and bringing change into the lives of people.

In order to have a truly effective grassroots movement (for lack of a better term) we need to not only engage people in the political process but actually get representatives who will speak and work on their behalf in Parliament.

A charismatic leader can only go so far in meeting the needs of the followers. There has a supporting cast of people working in collaboration (not in secret) to not only deliver change we can believe in but change we can see


"However, what I would like to know if why he, as an MP, doesn’t introduce a bill and gather support to reinstate the measure? Isn’t that part of his responsibilities as an MP? Or maybe I am too far removed from my civics lessons to remember this correctly"

Surely the obvious answer is that such would not succeed.

Many private members bill are defeated in Parliament. I should know because my brother is a Parliamentarian and Whip!

Chola, you’re most likely right that such a bill would be defeated in parliament. However, I think they should at least try. There is a lot of ongoing discussion on this matter among Zambians fueled by a genuine interest in how the mining sector is operated. Perhaps it’s my naiveté that envisions MPs educating their constituents on the benefits of re-introducing the windfall tax and gathering their support when a bill is introduced to apply pressure on the rest of the 'herd' to pass such a bill.

Is the will simply not there?

I'm taking this debate one step further and emailing Mr Magande. I got his addy from the parliament web site and will pose the question on what he plans to do in this matter. And if I have some toko time, I'll follow up with phone calls. :)

I forget a recent incident where I think Hon Jean Kapata tried to undertake a private members bill regarding establishing some medical desks of some sort. I can't remember precisely the details, but it had all the votes of people in the Opposition but all the MMD MPs lined up and defeated it!

But actually this might be one of those that passes. Worth definitely following it up. I wonder though what happens with Ascent.

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