A power change

I’ve been a bit quiet for a couple of weeks, to my shame. Soon the summer holidays will consume me and I will be even less interactive than the non-interactive I have been (honestly: I recognise my failings). I plead your forgiveness.

If I’d written the political shenanigans of the UK these last few weeks in a book, you wouldn’t have believed it. Now we have a vote for Brexit, a new Prime Minister and an opposition in disarray. I could write an essay on my views on each of these (and related) matters, but I try to restrain this blog to bookish matters rather than enter into political diatribe. There are plenty of other forums for that.

I also try to keep in touch with what happens in Zambia and to share some of that here. Despite two books that would give evidence to the contrary, I don’t live there any more. Nevertheless, I read online of events that shape and mould it, and hear occasionally from friends. Like the UK, it is in a time of transition.

Zambia is due to hold Presidential elections this summer on 11 August. Elections are every 5 years, but can be at any time during that year, subject to the incumbent President’s whim. (I never fully understood the electoral system, so if this wrong please accept my apologies.) President Lungu has been in office for approximately 18 months, having been elected leader following the untimely death of President Sata in October 2014.

There are reports of violence in the run up to the elections – people shot and killed, people beaten and punched, because they express opposing views. One of the national newspapers, The Post, has had to close its offices (it being the only one that attempted to be independent of government control). In the UK, we had the horrific murder of Jo Cox MP in the week prior to the EU Referendum. Nothing justifies violence in place of political debate.

As with all politicians, Lungu wants to hold onto power: he wants to be elected for another term. And I am fascinated by this love of power – not just for Lungu, or the Conservative and Labour Parties in the UK, or Mugabe in Zimbabwe (another topical issue!) but within businesses, or in religious organisations. Power can be such a corrupting force. It can offer so much! A good man (or woman) in power can change the world; if bad, then a country or business can be destroyed. Too much power goes to the head, thinking that others are not worthy of one’s high estate. Too little power, and leaders can be ‘puppet kings’, merely acting out the policies of their cronies.

Power is addictive: once you have it, you want more. We observe that in the extended reigns of many dictators (usually African) who change the constitution to allow them to lead for longer, or refuse to stand down, or use violence and intimidation to suppress opposition to their rule. But I’ve also seen it recently in leadership elections in the UK – not the violence, perhaps, but certainly deceitful and backstabbing.

It can also be manipulative – coercing innocent bystanders into a way of life that in the cold light of day they would not agree to. How else did Hitler manage to persuade an entire nation that his Aryan ideals were right?

power-corrupts-lord-acton

It is a time of change. For the UK, and for Zambia, I pray for peaceful times. For those in power: be open to differing opinions, allow for change and put the weakest first. May our leaders rule with grace, dignity and humility.