[By Melvin Chisanga]
If hypocrisy was a person, Zambian would have been their nationality in the way we have reacted to the racial remarks spewed by the Chinese investor last week. Having followed the development of the whole story from the time Kalani Muchima reported it, I was shocked to see his Lordship the mayor of Lusaka flex his constitutional muscle and swing into action to close the restaurant with such speed, especially on such grounds as was stated.
After reading the many messages of congratulations that the mayor received, my immediate thoughts were, so we Zambians can also unite to fight a common enemy such as racism? For some time, I could not believe what my eyes were reading and my ears were hearing, from a cross section of society condemning the racist remarks attributed to a Chinese with all the contempt they deserved. I was like, really?
Fair enough! But in my discourse on Vantage Point today, I want to take my stand in the court of public opinion as a devil’s advocate to defend the Chinese in this case that has attracted attention from a cross section of society. I shall endeavour to defend my client from two points of view namely the stare decisis and our dependency syndrome.
My submission is that the Chinese should not be condemned like they have murdered someone, and even if they did, aren’t murderers allowed to hire advocates to defend them no matter the gravity of the case? Let us take a chill pill and do a bit of some retrospection before we hang anybody, shall we?
Going by the Biblical principle which demands that only one who has not committed a particular crime reserves the right to cast a stone at another for the crime, most, if not all of us Zambians fall short of this requirement because we are guilty of the same crime either by commission or by omission.
If stare decisis, which is a legal doctrine that obligates courts to determine points in litigation according to precedent, is also binding in the court of public opinion, then the Chinese deserves an outright acquittal from the racism count.
Like I have already alluded to, it is interesting to see how many of us Zambians have come out to condemn the Chinese for uttering racial remarks, when we did not come out with the same vigor against Christopher Yaluma’s tribal remarks not very long ago. Does this not convict us for double standards in the way we look at things?
In an effort to understand why a matter bordering on discrimination has left many tongues wagging, when we Zambians have entertained tribal talk for the longest time, one fact I have come to understand is that we are just hypocrites, aren’t we?
If not for the fact the Chinese in question is a foreigner, how else would their case be the one to set a precedence, when so many people who have committed a similar offense in the past have been left almost unscathed?
I have heard people say the Chinese had no right to call a Zambian foreigner in his own country. Fair enough, but how about some known Zambians who have declared their areas as no-go areas for other Zambians, and they have gotten away with such discriminatory utterances, are they not equally guilty of the same offense?
Furthermore, just like no one deserves to be discriminated against, there is absolutely no one who reserves the right to discriminate against another. To say that the Chinese was wrong to call a Zambian foreigner in his own country, therefore, is to insinuate that it would have been okay if it was the Zambian who had called the Chinese foreigner, isn’t it? Doesn’t this make us the racists we so much condemn, by justifying some vices as long as they are committed by citizens?
One thing I want to remind our leaders is that all the foreigners in this country don’t live in the vacuum but within our societies. Seeing how some individuals amongst us have been propagating tribal segregation without any consequences, the Chinese could just have taken social discrimination of any sort as our adopted modus operandi.
Therefore, may I remind us of our requirement to remove the log in our own eye even before we point at the spec in our neighbour’s eye. Only when we deal with our own tribal discrimination shall we have the audacity to criticize others for exhibiting anything of similar nature.
The other reason that could have caused the Chinese to behave in that way is our dependency syndrome, and here is how. Our dependency on China of late has made us less of an independent state, but more of a province of China.
Has anyone ever had a boss or rich relative with a stupid child? I mean a child who will do all sorts of provocative things because they know that they are more privileged than you are? If you have been in this situation before, you must know what I am talking about. That is exactly how some Chinese behave.
How else could one wrap their head around the behaviour of some Chinese in this country other than from the viewpoint that there must be more to Zambia’s cooperation with China than meets the ordinary eye?
Maybe instead of fighting this Chinese with the energy that we have so far shown, we need to hold our horses a bit and evaluate all the rumours we have heard about our government’s dealings with China with a bit more intent this time around. Otherwise we could just find ourselves insulting the legitimate owner of the country we have grown up calling ours.
Has anyone ever lent or borrowed money against some property? What of against a postdated cheque? How about signing a postdated sale or purchase contract which would automatically come into effect if and when the borrower fails to meet their end of the agreement? There cannot be anything more enslaving to a borrower than that kind of a contract. What kind of contract exactly Zambia has entered into with China remains to be seen.
Our indebtedness to China, through the Government of the Republic of Zambia, who are our proxy, is by and large a no brainer. However, the exact terms and conditions that have been agreed upon still remain shrouded in some secrecy. So much so that some citizens who care to follow national issues closely have expressed concern that we could just wake up one day only to find we have no country to call home.
I have heard some leaders try to argue that the Chinese cannot buy this country, how naive! With all the borrowing that has been done against such a strategic quasi government organisation as Zesco, the rumoured sale of another in the name of Zamtel and many other lawn agreements that our government has entered into with China that only they know, what more will open their eyes to make them see that this country is fast becoming a colony of China?
Clips of international media mocking Zambians for the way we have allowed China to take over our means of production and alerting us that we are at the verge of becoming the first colony of China, are all over the internet. Unfortunately, we have not taken such news seriously, but simply dismissed it as merely one of those social media jokes. What else do we await to open our eyes, a complete take over? It will be too late to make amends.
Apart from the issue at hand, how many times have we heard of Chinese employers committing all sorts of crimes against their Zambian employees but have gone unpunished? This is why for some of us, such PR as the closure of that Chinese restaurant doesn’t amount to a thing at all.
I have heard a lot of people congratulating the Lusaka mayor for the measures he took against the Chinese offender. That is commendable. But from where I stand, it is more of a palliative than a curative measure. The Chinese problem in Zambia is too big to be solved by such placebo measures motivated by a knee-jerk reaction.
Are these not the same Chinese who have been busy harvesting and exporting mukula logs in partnership with high ranking government officials? And today you think you will close their businesses just like that? The only way you will do so is to sever their links to the high places, but how? It is as difficult as fighting to end a relationship between one’s mother and a potential stepfather who has brought happiness in her life.
Without sounding like I am in support of the racial remarks that were uttered, may I therefore make an appeal that instead of vilifying this Chinese restaurant owner, let us take occasion to seek to understand what could have led to this behavior by the Chinese.
If we take this issue on face value, chances are that we will only be tinkering around its corners without addressing the real issues. There is more than eye can see. Let us not be hypocritical! I rest my case.