[By Melvin Chisanga]
Both the gassing and killing of gassing suspects are very unfortunate acts that have no place in this nation and should be condemned in strongest terms. I can hardly come up with any excuse that can justify someone’s involvement in such acts of terror in their right frame of mind. Without sounding like I am condemning these evil acts on one hand and trying to justify them on the other, please allow me to decode and put my wild thoughts about this whole ugly situation in prose, will you?
Unlike the bounty-seeking trio of GBM, Andrew Ntewewe and the ever yapping Tayali, I shall not dare to give a go at the tempting reward because I have no clue who is doing it. To be specific, my endeavour will be to look at variables that could be incidental to this ugly turn of events. Anyway, enough of these disclaimers, lest I lose my thought in my unsolicited apologies. Let me get down to business.
Looking at the dark cloud of terror that has stretched across the breadth and the length of this land, from a realist’s vantage point of view, I want to take full responsibility of the devil’s advocate role that I have chosen to play, even as I submit that I think it has been out of sheer luck that it has taken up to now for us to find ourselves in this kind of a situation. For some time now, this country has been pregnant with emotions which people have been forced to bottle up for different reasons. Some have not found a suitable platform while still others who do not have the ability to decode their grievances for redress seek a shoulder to cry on, but in vain because there is no platform.
Because desperate situations call for desperate measures, I will say though it is not the best, it is a good thing to call upon the army to come and help arrest the worsening situation. If you ask me, the best approach to sort out this kind of situation is to go with the curative approach in the long run because the palliative measures that we are increasingly becoming dependent on are not only unsustainable but also costly in the long run. As long as our leaders will keep ignoring the real cause of the problem and keep trying different methods of addressing the outcome, they can be sure that they will try a thousand times and still get the same result. What has gone wrong?
Save for a few isolated cases, Zambia has by and large been a peaceful country. And I mean peace both within her borders and outside with her neighbours. Locally, Zambia has until recently enjoyed the generally placid DNA of most of the ethnic groups that make her populace. We Zambians have always known ourselves to be a peaceful people, and so it is spoken of us even by outsiders. To that effect, Zambia has for a long time been viewed as a beacon of peace, which narrative I feel no longer holds and needs revisiting in the wake of a spate of ugly sceneries that have engulfed mother Zambia.
When the PF took over power from the MMD, the celebrations that followed were of national character. Nearly all the districts nationwide had their highways and byways thronged with scores of victory celebrants. The hope that the victory brought transcended all party and tribal lines. For many Zambians, including some from the then ruling party MMD, who had grown tired of the MMD’s increasingly incorrigible attitude, this victory was viewed as a watershed moment in the political landscape of this country. But where and when did things start going wrong?
From where I stand, it was not until shortly after President Michael Sata’s death, may his soul rest in eternal peace, that things started to change in earnest. As could be seen from the way PF cadres usurped the police, the post-Sata PF seems to have found party cadres more handy and convenient to work with than Zambia Police. This was the beginning of the break down of rule of law cancer that has festered to pretty much all the facets of governance. From my vantage point, what we see today is merely a shell of the formerly decisive PF, playing hostage to its own creature in the name of political cadres because of, God knows why, the excessive powers the party conferred on them. I hope someone is beginning to relate.
As if taking over their duties by the cadres was not enough, police have been used as tools of suppression of any dissenting views, much to their further alienation from the masses. Apparently against their will, as has been seen from their facial expressions during some gatherings, police have been used to deny the citizens platforms to express themselves such as peaceful demonstrations and political gatherings, inter alia.
All this has mostly been at the backdrop of the many injustices that those in power have committed against us. Maybe what the police should know is that our knowing that they are just being used against their will does not make their rivalry with us any better. Stopping us from expressing our views is enough to view them as accomplices.
Our leaders should not forget that they are governing human beings who have emotions, keep records of the injustices they are subjected to and in most cases are even more smart than them. Negatively exploiting our peace-loving nature, politicians have taken every opportunity at their disposal to satisfy their selfish agendas at the expense of national interest. With their conscience seared by the fact that they have managed to keep as quiet for so long and it be business as usual.
It has been quite frustrating, to say the least, to see our leaders stealing in broad daylight on so many occasions. How many times have we as citizens raised red flags on many transactions that the government had done, only to be told to adduce evidence. There is a Bemba proverb that says,“ubucende bwamwaume tabutoba Ng’anda”, which I will translate as saying the infidelity of a man never breaks a marriage. Well, I do not know under what circumstances and to what extent this belief may hold true.
Notwithstanding, however, I want to submit that in my opinion, the stability of such a home becomes very compromised. Husbands should try as much as possible to show some respect to their wives and children by concealing their extramarital affairs for their wives’ dignity. Remember, some wives will not show their displeasure about your infidelity when they discover it. They will simply keep quiet and treat everything as normal. Beware! As the saying goes, calm waters do run deepest. Never take her quietness as given, you might just wake to find your “set” severed.
Just like it takes a smart man, and I mean smartness in the head, to be a successful cheating husband, may I take this opportunity to admonish the PF to devise better ways of cheating. Do not behave like a foolish man who is so careless with his extramarital affairs that even his five-year-old child knows his concubine. Come up with better excuses for the public funds that have publicly vanished in the thin air. This habit of stealing without a proper cover-up could be one of those reasons that may have heightened the tempers of many people which we are now seeing being vented on purported gassers.
I hope the PF will find opportunity, even in this unfortunate situation, to realise how bad a husband they have been to mother Zambia. With no regard to either mother Zambia or her children (the citizens), they have had no qualms to go about committing adultery with other women using mother Zambia’s resources, even in full view of her children. Because they are in control of the bank account, the PF have been able to silence anyone who dares to speak, much to the escalation of the tempers of the Zambians.
As if their reputation is not dented enough already in this country, the police’s response to the current situation has received criticism from a cross section of society. Looking at how well they have played the role of being a security wing of the party in power, those that are more blunt than I am have rendered Zambia Police moribund. Whilst it is common knowledge and we sympathise with them that their teeth are kept with someone, who only gives them back their teeth only when he himself wants to go hunting, we shall continue blaming them for incompetence for the way they have behaved on this matter of gassing and several others in the past. As long as you as police will continue wearing those uniforms, we as citizens will not care whether you will use your gums to bite. Our expectations will not get any less.
There are so many times Zambia Police have conducted themselves so unprofessionally and we have cut them some slack, knowing their difficulty situation. It is, however, surprising how they will go about groping in the dark asking themselves why people have resorted to mob justice. People can no longer trust them. In any case, how can we trust you when even your investigations and arrests have mainly ended in silence or secret releases respectively?
Look at the way they have accepted to be reduced below political party cadre status by condoning nonsense! Today if I want to drive a car that is nowhere near being roadworthy from Livingston to Kitwe, I will simply put on ruling party regalia and display a chitenge material on the dashboard and I am good to go. A bit of vulgar language will keep Zambia Police even further away from my car. And these are the same people you expect citizens to trust their lives with?
Look at the way they have been downplaying these gassing cases as mere hoaxes, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the cases themselves. Is that not another source of not only worry for the people they are employed to protect, but also suspicion that the police could be accomplices themselves. If you are still struggling to glean for some sense in what am talking about, do you remember the bounty that the president placed on the head of the gassing master-minder? Two hundred and fifty thousand kwacha is huge amount of money and, unless otherwise, I want to believe it is commensurate with the huge interest the president has to know who the terrorists are.
No sooner had the president’s bounty pledging words died down than one of his reinstated lieutenants raised his hand and said he knew the culprit. What I do not understand is why the president has not taken interest to lend our “savior” an ear. But two things immediately come to my mind. Could it be that the bounty is a hoax or the president knows the source of information as a desperate and shrewd politician, who will do anything for recognition and is not worth the president’s attention? It has been one week and we are still counting, have the police summoned him to help with investigations?
One may say the police are scared of him because he is a big fish. Fair enough! What about the two PF surrogates that have, unlike GBM who just ended at allusions, gone ahead to mention HH as their lucky bet for the bounty? As far as I am concerned, both Andrew Ntewewe and Chilufya Tayali are mere pawns on the political chess board, that if not protected by the king himself, could easily be followed by the police to help with investigations.
If peradventure the police have not called any of these people up to now, is it not an offense to blow false alarm? What more evidence can one produce to show that our police are literally manually operated by an invisible hand. From the foregoing scenarios, it is clear that even for them to save you from either the gassers or an angry mob where you are suspected to be a gasser, the invisible hand should be consulted, by which time it will be too late.
Going by the gassing reports that I have heard so far, it is clear that if not only to instill fear and panic in the victims, the motive behind the gassing is a mystery that is yet to be discovered. To date, both the name of the much talked about gas and the first aid steps to take once exposed to the suspicious gas, have remained shrouded in some secrecy of some sort, to whose interest only the police know.
Does this kind of behaviour not constitute double standards by our police? Going forward, may the police be given back their powers. Oh, point of clarity, not supernatural powers, but official powers. As for the excessive reactions we have seen from “peaceful” Zambians, perhaps this presents our leaders opportunity to realize the dangers of suppressing citizens from venting their displeasure for a long time, it may come out in a way you fail to contain. This is just my vantage point, remember?