Kamlepo Kalua, one of the fighters for multiparty democracy, shares his experiences in Parliament with our Weekend Nation. Excerpts:
How would you describe your time in Parliament so far?
It’s been enriching although disappointing sometimes; disappointing in the sense that the spirit of multiparty democracy is not being followed. The ruling party feels they are the owners of democracy and they prescribe whatever they want without even due respect.
Why do you think this is the case?
This is the case because the House is full of ‘aganyu’ [hired hands]. The ruling party is playing politics of robots where most of its members of Parliament don’t clearly understand their roles as people’s representatives but support everything even though it is against their conscience because they fear that if they do anything against the spirit of the Cabinet they would be in trouble. The culture of fear and silence which we wanted to clear in 1993 is coming back and we can see it in the National Assembly.
What do you mean by ‘politics of robots’?
A robot functions according to the wishes of the programmer and this is exactly what MPs on the ruling side are doing—behaving as if they have been programmed. For instance, the Cabinet can say here is a Bill you may not understand but support it all the same! MPs on the government side should be able to freely scrutinise bills and set a direction for government so that what passes in that House has everyone’s sense of ownership. I am also concerned with the behaviour and conduct of some UDF MPs who have abandoned what people wanted them to do and instead they have embarked on politics of appeasement; they want to appease the one who is benefiting from the process.
So, what should be done for the so-called ‘robots’ to tow the democratic line?
It’s very difficult because fear is also at play here; when a robot is gripped with fear it panders to the whims of the master. But I don’t understand how someone elected by the people in the village can be compromised like that. It’s important for them to realise that the electorate are expecting a lot from them than towing the party line with tails between their legs.
You also once or twice described some MPs as ‘strangers’; what did you mean?
Most people who fought for multiparty democracy are not with us today and what you see in that house are strangers. It annoys me to see them behave in the manner I have described above. Most of them don’t understand what we invested in this process; most importantly the blood our colleagues shed.
Would you be so blunt if the PP were still in power?
Yes! If they were to come up with something that I don’t agree with I would have disagreed with them because democracy is about agreeing to disagree. I would show those in opposition that this is what democracy is all about, but it’s unfortunate that I am in the opposition. Sometimes I don’t want to comment because I don’t want to be misunderstood. But sometimes I do just as I did the other day when I saw that all Cabinet ministers were not available in the chamber, yet we were debating very serious issues of national importance. That demonstrates that this government doesn’t conform to the spirit of democracy which we fought for.
Why do you think you won the Rumphi East parliamentary seat after five attempts?
I was voted because the people were tired of some political chancers and opportunists. The people wanted somebody who is serious and believes in democracy and, I should also say, perseverance has helped.