Speaking during a Labour Day event earlier this week, Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda on Wednesday shocked the audience by claiming that former United Party for National Development (UPND) member Edward Mumbi and renowned freelance journalist Chanda Chimba III “should have been arrested and thrown into jail” for insulting President Michael Sata when he was in the opposition.
Mr Shamemnda, who claimed that President Sata was the most democratic leader Zambia has ever had, said that “if Sata were a dictator” as portrayed by some members of society, he would have already jailed Mr Chimba III and Mr Mumbi.
President Sata’s democratic credentials, according to Mr Shamenda, lie in his decision to only persecute Chanda Chimba with a rather dubious charge of unlawfully publishing a newspaper (trial still ongoing), while Mr. Mumbi has faced repeated arrests by the police without explanation.
Mr Shamenda said President Sata, as a democrat, had even appointed into government people who were had previously engaged in insults and personal attacks against him during the presidential campaigns.
Some of the cabinet ministers poached from the opposition had “verbally abused” Mr Sata when he was running as a candidate, Shamenda says, but the president has still appointed them nevertheless.
“Some people have been saying that President Sata is a dictator. Where is Chanda Chimba III and Mr Edward Mumbi? If President Sata was a dictator, Mr Chimba and Mr Mumbi could be in jail for insulting the President, But they are moving freely in Lusaka. And not only Lusaka but anywhere in Zambia,” Mr Shamenda said.
Opposition sources contacted for this article by Zambia Reports declined to be named, however one source related to the UPND said that “no president should be considered a democrat just because he hasn’t gone to far as to hold political prisoners.”
The Labour Day celebrations this past week in Zambia were the scene of a number of antagonistic remarks between the government and the opposition. President Sata himself used his speech on May 1 to attack UPND President Hakainde Hichilema and his counterpart of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) President Nevers Mumba, accusing them of peddling lies about his health and “wishing him dead.”
During his speech, President Sata again suddenly lashed out an attacked several baldheaded men in the audience, saying that they were trying to “starve to death the women who are in the business of selling combs.” On several other occasions, President Sata has similarly displayed an irrational fear of people with shaved heads.
The Labour Day event his week represents only the second public national event that the president has personally chaired in more than a year and a half of government. Many previous state functions on national holidays were missed allegedly due to the President’s poor state of health.
Speaking directly with regard to the rumours surrounding his health, President Sata told the audience that if he were to get sick again, that he has already chosen many other members of the PF to succeed him as PF party president, which is the first time that Sata has directly referred to a succession plan.