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Sunday, September 1, 2013



Dr Katele Kalumba MP
Deputy Minister of Health
Jan. 14, 1993

As MMD matures into a political institution capable of wielding real power, the relations amongst its constituent political elements are being re-negotiated.  Rules about its organization, resources, strategies and tactics are being redefined in the most delicate way.
Recent political events in both Southern and Western provinces, and the challenge from Labor Unions, Women’s groups etc may lead ordinary zZambians to question whether the national democratic consensus is breaking up at the seams and uglier forces taking over.
I would like to argue that the apparent political distancing that seems to be emerging amongst elements within MMD, far from ruining it, will in the long run strengthen its capacity to negotiate a continuing national democratic consensus.  To appreciate this political process requires, a priori, the need to  deconstruct the concept  of political unity that lurks from the past.
UNIP  governance institutionalised the concept that the core problem of Zambian politics was how to maintain national political unity. In its pursuit, Zambians enshrined this quest in the constitution through the one-party state.
As MMD seeks to maintain its national democratic consensus, there is a danger that it will ignore a fundamental political and social reality.  That is, if the great coalition that MMD coined has to survive, its constituent parts must be allowed enough space to withdraw into local concerns and  yes, even local level strategizing for national stakes.
What MMD leaders must realise is the fact that patterns of coming and staying together imply counter patterns of withdrawal and disaffiliation which, as modalities of political action, are worthy of institutionalising in their own right.  If things are to be joined they must first be separated. 

It is the case that separation subserves integration.  MMD came together as a coalition of undeclared interests. As it matures, these interests are seeking further definition and articulation. They cannot do so safely under the aegies of the NEC. We all know that the strategies of the Young Turks, the Unions, and Business interests during the formative stages of MMD were not defined under the aegies of the MMD national interim committee.

Those of us who were at Garden Hotel knew that the coalition was being put together in a great compromise that survived because it ignored the details. The first MMD  convention at Mulungushi further reasserted this fact that compromises were possible if the underlying interests were not publicly articulated.  When in one instance, this positive conspiracy of silence was challenged during the election of the Party Chairman, MMD,s survival looked delicate.
What I want to stress is that the unity of MMD coalition can be most effectively sustained by allowing for some degree of malintegration, of political distancing that keeps the myth of secret political agendas thinkable, fuelling for each coalition member, a sense of a practical political purpose... a dream.
Individuals as well as sub-groups are bound by taking leave of one another as well as by their coming together.  It is a process made possible by the social institution of privacy - a highly institutionalised mode of withdrawal.
In personal terms, withdrawal into privacy is often a means of making life with an unbearable person possible.  If the distraction and relief of privacy is not available in such a case, the relationship would have to be terminated if conflict is to be avoided.  There is a threshold beyond which unitary forms of political interaction become unendurable for constituent members.
The strength of MMD is not seen in the coercive consequences of its democratic idealism. If it were, the Convention floor at Mulungushi would have spent more time discussing its programme of action. Nay, its unity has been possible because constituent members maintain their secret agendas for which only MMD has provided an all accepting environment. The more these secret agendas are revealed, the more difficult it will become to compromise them. It is precisely because there are private, that constituent members can sacrifice and trade-off their apparent values.
It doesn't matter whether these interests or agendas are backed by real material or political muscle. It doesn't matter whether a G7 group exists as a real political force or the Young Turks, the Southern Lobby, the women lobby, the ANC, the UPP or UP exists as political entities. What is real for MMD is that it offers a political structure under which the hopes or fantasies of its members can become thinkable and political action possible. To survive as a coalition, these "interests"-- real or ephemeral must be given enough political space to indulge in their own dreams. They must be allowed privacy.
It is also a related feature that guarantees of privacy, i.e, rules as to who may or may not observe or reveal information about members, must be established in any stable social system.  If these assurances do not prevail, every withdrawal from visibility may be accompanied by a measure of espionage.  "Surveillance" is the term which is generally applied to institutionalized intrusions of one's privacy.  It is true, that dangers of internal disorder reside in unconditional guarantees of invisibility against which many administrative arms of justice have aligned themselves.  On the other hand, surveillance may itself create the disorder which it seeks to prevent.

MMD as a movement, must define its on rules of political disengagement. Rules that would allow, for example, its union members under its own strong union leadership, to retreat into their local concerns, contradictory as they may appear, without being afraid of Big Brother NEC. Women's Lobby should not be made to feel that it is betraying the national consensus if it appears to withdraw into anti-government, local level rhetoric. Only by so doing would it be a mobilising instrument for MMD. Similarly, if Luapula or Southern MPs do not have opportunity to articulate for the interests of their localities, they would be irrelevant to MMD because they  will be irrelevant to their "consituencies".
Where there are few structural provisions of privacy, social withdrawal to local concerns is equivalent to political hiding.  But the fact is that the disassociation ritual presupposes (and sustains) the political relation.  Rules governing privacy then, if accepted by all parties, constitute a common bond providing for periodic suspensions of central political interaction.
If privacy presupposes the existence of established social relations, its employment  may be considered as an index of solidarity.  Weak social relationships, or relationships in the formative stage, cannot endure the strain of disassociation.  By contrast, members of a  stable social structure feel that it is not endangered by the maintenance of intergroup boundaries.  "Good fences," as the Frostian dictum  goes, "make good neighbours."
Yes, we must recognize that privacy also opens up opportunities for such forms of deviance as might undermine its stabilizing effect.  But this problem is sorted out by the role of effective local leadership... a kind of super-ego. Any private moment allows for submission to ones own conscience.
And perhaps even more important, privacy admits of invisible transgression and therefore, serves to maintain intact those rules which would be subverted by the public disobedience that might occur in its absence.  All social groups require some quotient of ignorance to preserve unity.
It is only as a Southern MP talking to other Southern MPs can one say he fears the Northerners are dominating without creating a national crisis for MMD. And, real or not, it is only through withdrawing to this level of political construction, can any group talk about strategies to subvert the dominance of other groups.  Through this private political discourse,  MMD is strengthened by the potential that groups can check themselves out. Whether the threat is real or not is immaterial. What is real for practical political  purposes is their perception that another group is seeking dominance.
As I said at Garden Hotel and was vehemently attacked for by a now non-MMD participant, individuals should not be made to feel guilty for being Bembas, Lozis, Tongas, Kaondes or Bwiles etc. They should not deny themselves in order to be Zambians or MMD. Our unity is possible because as MMD, we respected our diversity. That will remain not only our party's strength, but our country's too.

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