In view of the issues I raised last week, I need to state from the word go that I am so humbled and happy about the fact that first, all the readers who called me agreed that violence is such a bad tag for Zambia, second they all without exception agreed that nobody is above the law.
Three callers went to state very forcefully that, authorities should never discriminate between those known to be ‘powerful’ and any other in enforcing laws. The list goes on and on. The point is, I acknowledge with humility, the act and fact of engaging. This is how it should be.
Let me hazard an opinion and therefore advice. In the dock as at now, is Republican President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. He is the Commander in Chief of all armed forces, who is expected to put an end to political violence. Now, under normal circumstances, the Commander in Chief can simply give instructions to relevant authorities to put an end to this act of senseless. But it is clear to me that the scenario is not as simple as has been reported. There is another political dimension which is not part of this write up.
A point of great concern therefore, is how we in Africa knowingly or unknowingly, give birth to despotism and dictators. Nothing, but self control stops President Lungu from ordering an uncompromising halt to the crisis. But it would be this response that will give birth to so much cries and finger pointing that “President Lungu is not tolerant and has allowed security agencies to respond in a rather draconian manner”. We have seen it elsewhere and from what I have seen, even the loudest have escaped fast and at best found their way out of the country; seeking asylum, as if to confirm who has been behind their civic irresponsibility!
It is common knowledge that others have contracted “loans” to pursue an electoral victory and tell their masters that their loss is as a result of “rigging” and making a case for what the Bembas say “Kufilila Munsenga”. Together with my colleagues in the Committee for a Clean Campaign (CCC) of 1996, we monitored all activities, prior, during and afterwards. Remember a ZADECO (Zambia Democratic Congress) Press conference held at Pamodzi Hotel which clearly was laying the foundation for a rebel movement?
The challenge for President Lungu and certainly many other civic leaders is that, a political trap has been set up pretty much the same way the electricity tariff increases were done a few months ago. A proposed gradual increment at the Presidential press conference was made immediate with so many consequent “cries” and I ask, in whose interest was this done? I am not calling for witch hunting. All I am saying is that individuals must learn to take responsibility for their actions. In any case, when an axe falls, directly or through visitation by the law, it will visit that individual ONLY and very rarely the Counselor! We have seen many politicians with so much support go into oblivion not by their own choice but circumstances and their supporters nowhere near to offer support.
The few that do so are desperately out of synch and soon fall in serious trouble as their posture resembles the traits of an “enemy of the state” if at all there is such a term.
My view and advice to fellow Zambians is to hold, cherish and defend the peace that we have enjoyed for a long time. It is possible that those who are expressing themselves violently are on opposed ends of dangerous belief systems. How can a normal person believe that they are a better human being than the next person? My submission is that such extremists and fundamentalists, leave in their own world and require love, understanding rather than condemnation. What we should condemn are their dirty activities and not the person.
The Social Media is awash with a kind of negativity that works against a united Zambia. I have experienced people opt out of certain social media forums not because they want to opt out, but because their continued participation leads to humiliation and I can tell you, no person on this earth will stand and accept humiliation.
In the political ‘game’ however, you may be pushed very hard for the other person to have their way as well as to make you look extremely bad. How can a violent or panga wielding person look good? How can a person who deliberately uses provocative and foul language not contribute to violent ways and behaviors? How can a person whose middle name is “hate” be innocent of inciting violence?
Lets briefly go back to memory lane and see the crisis that visited Rwanda and begun on 7th April 1994. As a result the crisis created more than two (2) million refugees, leaving almost a million dead. I am certain that when this violence was born in the minds of the leaders, no one at the time imagined that there would be a blood bath, which the international community had to directly or indirectly deal with.
For avoidance of doubt HATE speech, is universally defined as “any speech, gesture or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.”
Colleagues and fellow Zambians, speech that attacks, threatens or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability, is totally wrong and unacceptable. It can neither contribute to the mandate of the United Nations nor contribute to a Smart Zambia. Put simply, it is barbaric and an enemy of development.
In fact, most of the participants in the buried violent schemes here in Zambia, were no were near in the construction of most of our societies and could really not be bothered by the long match to constructing a functional society.
As a way forward, I am happy to note that President Lungu has openly, forcefully and categorically denounced violence stating clearly that the rule of law is the way to go. I am looking forward to hearing other political leaders to make the same passionate appeal to their followers. I am also looking forward to what will follow the Church driven peace talks, which have since been commended by stakeholders. There are positive vibrations in the air!
The challenge that often comes up, is finger pointing. A strong “finger” holds the view that the most violent parties are the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND). Here, there is something to be said as bluntly as it should be.
It is not a secret that the peak of intra party violence was when then known individuals held key public offices in our land. I wish I could say more but I cannot because I want to be part of a solution and respect the powerful discussions led by our Church leaders.
It is a notorious fact that a former Secretary General of the PF now heads a political party where many who supported him in the PF followed him. Another former PF leader who was actively involved in a Church violent saga in Matero has since left the PF and is also heading a political party. It does appear that we need to be concerned about such because other than causing trouble and other than preaching love, their actions and attitudes invite negative feelings as opposed to positive vibrations.
So, on another note, how do citizens and residents alike get to know about challenges of violence? Simple: Through the media, and the media simply carries news! One of the dangers of freedom of association and freedom of opinion in this context is that these freedoms can very easily be abused, knowingly or unknowingly. It is possible for one to actually engage in activities that will promote violence. We all know that people with criminal minds have attempted or have defrauded insurance companies by setting either their car or building on fire and then making a claim! In this our context, we run the danger of a person manufacturing a “violence” story or reporting out of context, since before the Church led peace talks the political air was pregnant with vibes of violence and all because of political space.
This particular criminal conduct presents a double sword. On the one hand, it presents a clear crime, while on the other it presents a serious dilemma for the media. The media would have carried a false and fake story that injures society and there has been an un ending debate around moral issues and the duty to report.
What this points to in my view is simply that the Media is able to either promote or lower the political temperature that promotes violence. Every Editor of a Newspaper or electronic News bulletin has a serious role in this regard. Editors are gate keepers. They can either allow or reject the usage or printing of certain hurtful words that are eventually responsible for violence. I wish many people could understand how a Newsroom operates so that one appreciates the checks and balances that social media for instance totally ignores.
During the serious problems of the “black on black” violence in the run up to the first all race democratic elections of 1994 in South Africa, it became clear that when the media reported an attack somewhere; and as soon as others knew of the attack, even without verification, there was a counter attack.
The Church in that country, played a critical role of lobbying the media Heads and requesting that the media “stops” covering violence in one part of the country where it was so serious. The net result was that there was a significant drop in violent incidents and ultimately leading to a violent free and fair election. We do have a challenge which choice can cure. I choose PEACE. What do you choose?
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