In Zambia, we have unfortunately become quite used to opposition figures speaking out both sides of their mouths. They tell you it is raining when it is dry, they say they’ll give you riches and development but decry debt and spending, and then they deny the scientific facts of climate change while at the same time mocking the faithful.
It is seemingly incoherent, and it is insulting – but make no mistake, there’s always a coded message for the base inside the ranting and raving.
This was the case in point during Hakainde Hichilema’s recent doubled-edged comments on political violence to UPND cadres in Kaoma, where he is campaigning for their by-election candidate.
On the one hand, to an outside observer or a foreigner, HH pretends as though he is rejecting violence. He says in his statement: “We say no to violence,” and that “a wound against one Zambian is a wound against all of us.”
But is that really how he feels, and is that what he is really saying!
Unfortunately it is part of his clear pattern of dishonesty, for in the exact same statement, he makes his coded call to incite violence, telling his cadres to go on the attack using indirect suggestive language.
In his statement, HH says that anyone “standing in the way” of his party’s agenda to seize power will not be “allowed.” He goes further – “we call on all our people to defend themselves when they are attacked by PF thugs.”
This is completely unambiguous call to violence, for as we have seen many times in the past, this “self-defence” is nothing short of a signal for an attack order. Look at what happened in Sesheke when HH made a very similar statement – UPND cadres attacked and injured dozens of unarmed voters, and even killed a defenceless PF supporter.
Let us also not forget the grave irresponsibility that HH has shown in deploying the language of violence, often without reason, and almost always without evidence.
How many times has he claimed that people are trying to kill him? No fewer than five times since 2014 Hichilema has held press conferences, conducted foreign media interviews, and issued statements. He pretends he is in a constant state of siege to protect himself.
But what harm really has ever come to this billionaire who got rich privatising our industries? He appears to be in rude health, if not a bit over-fed, while others in his constituency have trouble accessing food.
This pattern of behaviour of course predates the presidency of Edgar C. Lungu.
On April 15 2014, Hichilema held a press briefing at which he claimed, without any evidence, that President Michael Sata was attempting to “assassinate him.”
Then State House spokesperson George Chellah accused Hichilema of exaggerated outbursts alien to Zambian politics.
“He doesn’t surprise Zambians and the President because assassination is not Zambian and his claims are laughable and extremely exaggerated,” Chellah said at the time. “Mr Hichilema thrives on inflammatory remarks. He thinks he can improve his political party by provoking the Head of State.”
Even Chishimba Kambwili, back in 2015, publicly denounced and disregarded HH’s false claims of victimhood as an attempt to stir up further violence.
There is nobody that HH won’t drag into his rhetoric of violence. In 2017, Hichilema’s wife, Mutinta, was forced to join the bandwagon narrating in an interview how her husband was nearly assassinated.
“They never came to arrest Hakainde here, they came to kill and they are still determined to kill my husband. Anyway my God is watching. The same God that saved my husband that night is the same God who is going to save him even now,” Mutinta told journalists.
But as usual, what happened? Absolutely nothing.
Evidently the amount of times Hichilema and his cohorts have decried violence while at the same seeking to promote among their ranks makes Zambia a much more dangerous place.
Zambians have the right to vote in peace without fears of violence. Unfortunately if HH were truly committed to these principles, he would not be so ambiguous and he would stop using all the doublespeak.
Unfortunately that is clearly not the person he is, and that is why he is, as has been proved by Zambian voters on 5 separate occasions, unfit for leadership.
The Author of this article is a leadership expert and Leader of the Young African Leaders Initiative.