Ambulances and the politics of tokenism
In recent years, Members of Parliament and those aspiring for the coveted seats have turned the buying of ambulances into a qualification for them to claim support from voters.
In Lubaga South, Kampala for example, one contestant called Mukasa Aloysius invested in an Ambulance more than a year before he could even get nominated for the contest.
The conventional wisdom is that when they do so they are seen as angels who’ve come to rescue the community facing poor health care.
As expected, such politicians stop there and do not go ahead to pay salaries of healthcare workers at least in government hospitals or even pay for sundries used in hospitals.
This precisely exposes the danger of tokenism politics, which has unfortunately become so insidious and yet apparently very powerful and widespread across the country.
In other places MPs are donating sets of saucepans, plates and tents to village LCs to support them in communal activities such as burials and parties.
The danger with tokenism politics is that it turns the logic of being an MP or a councilor on its head.
Politicians are supposed to monitor and supervise service delivery in government institutions such as ensuring availability of drugs in government hospitals. They are supposed to put hospital administrators to task to explain why the government ambulance is not working etc.
And of course they are supposed to make laws that create a secure and prosperous environment for all.
Instead, politicians have abandoned this cardinal responsibility of being the watchdog of the government.
As a result, the outcomes of the health sector continue to worsen with women dying in labour for lack of enough well-paid nurses, and other basic items.
The consequence is that society has redefined the qualifications of an MP from one who can be tough on government by questioning how it invests taxes, to one who can leave as much as possible behind as he climbs the ladder hence the otulekera kaki (what are you leaving behind) syndrome.
And as Fredrick Golooba Mutebi, a renowned social research and academic has observed, why wouldn’t such MPs want to recoup their investments?
Surprisingly, when the MPs allocate themselves fat salaries, the same voters cry foul forgetting that they abandoned the very principles of governance when they sent an investor in the place of a representative.
The solution to this terrible trend lies in deliberate and consistent civic education by both state and non-state actors such as the media and non-government organizations.
And truth be told, a lot of this sensitisation is sorely lacking.