More than ever before, the 2016 election campaign is exposing the bankruptcy of ideas of Zambia’s petty bourgeois democracy. Political aspirants continue to subject the Zambian masses to never ending promises of “development”.
Yet this cohort of neo-liberal politicians is far detached from the real needs and aspirations of the masses. It is political elite not primed to serve the masses, but rather itself through corruption, patronage and outright fraud.
The masses, as voters, are being lured with empty and outrageous promises of a better life. However, after 25 years of such promises, voter cynicism is creeping into our country. The voters know very well that they are being lied to. Rallies are therefore being attended for the sake of entertainment – if not to benefit from the hand-outs being dished out by the politicians.
In turn, the politicians seem to know this fact and have reduced their campaigns to sloganeering and to platforms for dishing out cash, food items and other material gratifications to those attending. The hurriedly put together party manifestoes are not providing the required campaign narrative. Most candidates have not even read their respective party manifestoes. The fallacy of petty bourgeois democracy in an impoverished society like ours cannot be more explicit and clearer than this.
My interactions with communities on the Copperbelt, North-Western and Western provinces over the past weeks all point to similar patterns. The Zambian masses are not getting answers as to how macro-economic stability will be attained, how poverty and hunger will be eradicated, how the polarisation of our society will be reversed and violence stopped. They are not even getting answers as to what the pending referendum is all about – let alone what the respective political aspirants are recommending! In other words, the campaigns are shallow and superficial.
The question is why is this election campaign process this empty in content? The answer is that neo-liberal democracy has failed to deliver in Zambia. The promises and statements provided since 1991 have made their round. They are no longer captivating. They do not give hope and aspiration to the Zambian masses. Hordes of performing artists have to be hired, expensive billboards erected, entertaining adverts produced and every opportunity utilised to capture voter interest. One gets the impression that the election campaigns process has become an extension of the dominant culture of capitalist consumption – it is pure show and drama minus conviction and principles! It is hollow, empty and without substance.