Opinion

A Government We Deserve?

Sata-LivinstoneFor all our good qualities, Zambians continue to suffer from one major character flaw: we are gullible to the point of self-destruction.

When Michael Sata contested the presidential campaign in 2011, promising to magically deliver more money to our pockets, many voters believed him, however ridiculous that promise looks now. We thought we would have it all – that milk and honey would flow from the heavens, and the honeymoon with the PF would last forever. In our blurred memories, we rejected Rupiah Banda, and look what we have now. We have never felt so deceived before.

The authoritarian actions of Sata’s administration are there to remind us all of this deception, because you can’t trust freedom when it’s not in you hands. It’s unbelievable that Zambians have now lost the basic freedom to associate and assemble. The dark days are back.

Many people went numb when word went round on Monday December 10, 2012 that Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) President Nevers Mumba and four MMD members of parliament had been locked up by the Zambian Police in Kitwe for having a meeting with a traditional ruler.  They were forced to spend the night in police cells not for breaking any law, but for displeasing the president.  It was even worse the following day when it turned out to be that Mumba and his co-accused were to continue being incarcerated, this time at Kamfinsa State Prison, because of “certain” administrative procedures which were not in place regarding bail that had been granted by the Kitwe magistrate court.

Rewinding back the whole event, it is quite clear that it was a well orchestrated move to have Mumba appear before court in the late afternoon. As it turned out, there apparently was very little time to prepare any paperwork, and as the clock struck 17:00 hours, the official in charge of processing bail decided to knock off. No one at court seemed interested in doing any overtime. But if Mumba had been taken to court in the morning, surely there would have been time to accomplish all the administrative formalities. The police in Kitwe were either being overzealous or were being directed by an invisible hand.

Footage on Muvi Televison news actually showed one police officer threatening a reporter, Mwaka Namfukwe, as she was roughed up and pushed around. The police officer is heard in the footage taken at the police station saying something like this, “If I had a shot button I was going to use it, you are lucky I don’t have it.”

Harassment and intimidation of members of the press was part of the modus-operandi of police officers, the de facto enforcers of President Sata’s will. They created an impression like they did not want the private media to inform the Zambian public of Mumba’s arrest and subsequent detention. Namfukwe and others were just doing what they know best, gathering the news as it unfolds for onward transmission and relay to viewers, listeners and readers.

Whether or not you like Nevers Mumba – whether or not you agree with him on issues or believe he is the right leader for Zambia – we simply cannot allow ourselves to become a country where innocent people can be thrown in jail on a whim, a country where opposition political gatherings are routinely banned, or, in the case of Hakainde Hichilema and the beleagured UPND, a country where the police enjoy total impunity to deploy violent beatings against unarmed protesters.

Just where is Zambia headed? Who is going to liberate Zambia from the lawless chaos created by the Patriotic Front?  Who hears our cries each time we pray, who makes tomorrow want to be yesterday? Where is Zambia going, and who will show us the way? When your soul is searching whose name feels good to mention? For the prayerful faithful, the answer to all these questions is the good God almighty.

The MMD ruled Zambia for 20 years, but it took about four years for people to become disenchanted with it. However, it took just a few months, less than a year, for Zambians, especially the youth that voted en-masse for Sata, to see that all that was promised to happen within 90 days was not to be. Fifteen months in office the PF administration with Sata at the helm has mealie-meal shortages and price hikes to its name, bringing back memories of Kaunda’s worst days.

Yes, the shortages and exorbitant prices of the staple food, mealie-meal, in most parts of the country including the capital Lusaka are real. Sata’s meeting with millers on Monday January 7, 2013 can only be described as a way of intimidating them in what is a liberalised set up. Food shortages and queues for other essential commodities were largely responsible for booting out Kenneth Kaunda and the United National Independence Party (UNIP) in 1991. Sata is said to have acknowledged this at a State House function to swear in a permanent secretary on Monday January 7, 2013.

The gullible youth, some of whom stripped naked to celebrate Sata’s victory have come face to face with reality. Fifteen months in office, Sata still has not given them more money in their pockets and they do not have the jobs he promised them in 90 days. They were duped, and now they are angry.

Now with regard to political rallies, Sata has done what he knows best through the Zambia Police: deny the opposition the right to hold any rallies, and with 2012 over, there is no real hope in 2013 that the opposition will be granted their right to hold public rallies. For the larger part of the last quarter 2012, opposition parties in Zambia had been trying to hold public rallies, they tried and tried. Sata knows that if the opposition parties have rallies today they will talk about all the PF shortcomings including the issue of mealie-meal.  Rallies are the only way to communicate the real news about what is happening to the people, especially with Sata’s media monopoly over the garbage published in Fred M’membe’s Post.

Well, it looks like he will do everything to ensure that opposition parties do not have any such platform because he knows they will talk negatively about him, much the same way he did when he was in opposition. It was alright then for him to do so. MMD, UPND, ADD, ULP and others should keep up the pressure. You see when everybody is fighting for the promised land, we certainly know where we are coming from but surely do not know where we are heading. Under the PF administration this is the grim reality!

Change will come to Zambia when we can achieve a higher level of awareness and consciousness of just how the PF has mismanaged our economy, enriched themselves and their friends, and mortgaged our future.  Once we break through this media blockade imposed by the PF, there is no telling just how quickly our path toward the future can change.

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