Useful Allies and Useful Idiots:The unchanging face of Zambian Politics

By Naver Chayelela

It has often been said that in Zambian politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. Friends and enemies simply change their designation with the changing political fortunes of individual politicians.

Thus, friends can simply become adversaries overnight, while enemies become useful allies in a similar fashion. Such “miraculous” transformations are more often than not a common phenomenon during election periods.

However,one aspect which seems to be a permanent and constant feature on our political landscape is the ubiquitous availability of “useful idiots” i.e. people who unwittingly support a malignant cause or a cause they do not understand but which they naively believe to be a force for good.

Such people are very vulnerable to brazen manipulation by even the most mediocre, morally depraved and intellectually bankrupt amongst our Zambian politicians.

And this behaviour has increasingly characterized Zambian politics since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991. Principle, integrity and character are treated as inconsequential attributes or secondary traits when one’s political survival is at stake.

Today, many people who supported the PF during the 2011 elections are crying foul because President Michael Sata’s PF government has not delivered on most of its campaign promises.

Instead, what the country is witnessing is simply more of the same old and mediocre post-colonial style politics of tribalism, nepotism, regionalism, blatant opportunism, gross intolerance to divergent or dissenting views and opinions, bootlicking, policy and governance decision-making based on arbitrary personal whim rather than on factual and rational analysis of issues, etc.

This kind of mediocre politics has only served to grossly undermine the basic principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance. In short, like others who have ruled before them, it is just “business as usual” for this PF government too.

It therefore comes as no surprise that many people feel “cheated” and “deceived” by President Michael Sata and his PF colleagues who now seem to have focused their attention, energies and resources at destroying their political enemies – both real and perceived – rather than fulfilling the campaign promises they made to the Zambian people.

While the PF’s few useful allies (whose identity is an open secret!) are reaping and enjoying the full benefits of the party’s victory with rewards of government appointments and jobs, business contracts and deals etc, the many irrational “useful idiots” are however still languishing in the abject poverty from which they had naively hoped to be rescued “within the first 90 days” of the PF government’s rise to power.

In this unfortunate but hardly surprising turn of events, the average voter and person on the street would do well to realize that in Zambia, as is generally the case in most of Africa, some people are more equal than others, more especially when it comes to sharing the national cake.

There are the few – the useful allies – whose reward is eating with the king at his banquet table and enjoying the full benefits of his success as they stuff their mouths and bellies with extra large chunks of the national cake. And then there are the many– the useful idiots – whose reward is an uncertain, indefinite and painful wait to feed on the crumbs falling from the king’s banquet table.

And even when the crumbs finally trickle down, many will not manage to get a morsel as the fight for this “precious” resource is fierce, with only the strong and ruthless among the cadre of blind followers hardly succeeding to get anything at all!

The many “useful idiots” in Zambia who are susceptible to brainwashing must learn important lessons from what happened under the Kaunda regime, the former MMD government and what is currently unfolding under the ruling PF.

These politicians and their allies will not hesitate to exploit the vulnerabilities of the people to the fullest extent possible in order to advance their own narrow vested interests.

Once they attain their goal or objective of gaining power, the victorious politicians and their useful allies will be the ones to share and enjoy the spoils of victory.

The politicians will have little or no tangible immediate concern other than paying lip service to the plight of the many impoverished but enthusiastic people whose irrational exuberance and discontent they exploited to rise to power.

The prevailing political events in Zambia therefore clearly highlight – yet again – a very sad and longstanding reality about the problem with brainwashing, which is basically this: Once washed, it is the victim that gets hung out to dry!