All hail the great leader!

While Facebook has many detractors, I, unlike several Facebook friends, have never felt the need to unsubscribe from it and leap into a virtual wilderness.

Facebook, while acknowledging that it has many flaws, allows me to stay anchored in Zambia – to remain in touch with friends, acquaintances and to follow its events and also its politics.

And the gloves are off and groins thoroughly pummelled.

After the death of a president, we are now in the midst of campaigning for presidential by-elections. My Facebook contacts give me a constant narrative of the events surrounding the elections. Facebook is far more detailed than the traditional Zambian media - the candidates and their attributes have been described and debated, from the clothes they wear to their ex-wives and wayward children.

When looking at the list of aspirants, it’s repeatedly asked, why are there so few women willing to stand, why are so few young people participating and why such apathy towards politics?

Even before the election dates were confirmed the shenanigans began. In the process of trying to woo voters in an election no one foresaw (seemingly) there are no depths that haven’t been sunk to, no ploys that have not been played or bottoms that have not been scraped in the pursuit of power.

A Zambian politician must have an unshakable desire to be in office if he is to get through the process of trading insults, concocting stories and making promises that he has not the slightest intention of fulfilling, in order to get into power.

Here lies the problem. An issue that when one reads Facebook or other social or formal media you find repeated over and over “in power” or “ascend into power.”

In Zambian politics the prize is too great. We elect candidates into power – we actually leave our homes one morning to stand in a queue to cast a vote in order to give someone power. Our use of the word is not a exaggeration.

Power – not office, or responsibility. In Zambia a president becomes almost omnipotent - giving orders, disregarding laws and constitutions, ignoring not only election promises but also the electorate themselves. Our presidents still rule by decree, harking back to the days of Kaunda’s banning mini-skirts, once spoken his words may as well be law. Our presidents are protected by impunity; the concepts of accountability and responsibility have yet to be demanded by the people.

As for the financial benefits, they are unlimited it seems (taking three generations of a family on holiday at the taxpayers expense) but those pale in comparison to having an entire airport on hold each time you wish to fly on holiday. You experience the motorcades, the dancing women and the constant bowing and scraping of those wanting to be in your favour.

This is what causes the unfettered battle to become president. Unfortunately the Zambian electorate have yet to understand the true concept of democracy – simply voting is not enough to call a system a democracy, just like not having been at war doesn’t mean we are a peaceful nation.

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