[By Julius Kapembwa (PhD)]
The Patriotic Front will go into the political archives of Africa as one of the wickedest political parties to have held the reigns of political power on the continent. The wanton immorality has seen the party fail miserably in governing a country that has until recently been touted as an example of an emerging democracy, an emerging economy, and an oasis of peace amidst some warring neighbouring countries. The country is in virtual complete collapse in all key elements of governance. When a government fails to govern, the citizens who leased power to the political party to run the affairs of the state on their behalf must wrestle that power back. This action is morally justified and every citizen worth their salt must heed the call to defend their birthright against monstrous tyranny of the Patriotic Front. I will paint a general picture of the PF’s governance fiasco before offering a defence of the right of the citizens to resist an evil government. The cases are too many to list and so the catalogue below does not exemplify an exhaustive list.
The police and human rights
A necessary condition for citizens relinquishing their power to the state is the citizen’s protection against wrongful violence whether from outside the country or from within. Citizens possess human rights by virtue of being human and citizens. The police, as agents of the state, are guarantors of these human rights. These rights include freedom of expression or speech, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to security of life and property. However, the police have been reduced to the ruling party’s bulldog against us, the citizens. Many cases support this view.
Several innocent Zambians have lost their lives and limbs at the hands of a brutal police in defence of the wrong actions or inactions of the PF. Vesper Shimunzhila was teargassed in her university room by police commanded to exert excessive force against unarmed students. Daughter of poor peasant parents from Southern Zambia, she died a most painful death inhaling fumes of teargas fired deliberately into her room. Another student, Everette Chongo, terrorised by the police breaking into her room, jumped from a storey hostel suffering life-threatening spine injuries. The Human Rights Commission investigated the murderous attack on students and apportioned blame on the state. To date, the perpetrators walk freely enjoying life that they so callously snuffed out of a young girl that was a hope-bearer for her family and village.
When the police are not perpetrating murders and assaults on citizens and carrying out arrests of opposition leaders and rights activists on behalf of the PF, they are displaying utter incompetence, negligence, and unprofessionalism. A presidential political adviser committed a spate of thuggish assaults on many innocent Zambians in full view or knowledge of the police. They either did nothing or conducted cosmetic investigations. Only when his behaviour became too much a political liability did President Edgar Lungu at long last discharge Kaizer Zulu from his State House job. The police see two sets of citizens. Those who are PF and those who are not; and they treat them accordingly.
Recently, Zambia has experienced a number of human-made disasters. Arsonists targeted markets resulting in property worth millions of Kwachas being destroyed. Before the fires were even completely put out, the PF were insinuating the culprits were the opposition United Party for National Development, UPND. To date, to my knowledge, no arrests have been made. This has led to speculations the fires were by PF agents to put blame on the innocent UPND or to free the market land and auction it to some foreign investors. The police failed to prevent the fires, to investigate, or to arrest the arsonists.
Late last year, Zambians were yet again subjected to local terrorism. Criminals terrorised the citizens day and night gassing people in their homes and schools. The police, so good at attacking and arresting innocent people, were nowhere to be seen. The gassing stopped as suddenly and as mysteriously as it had begun leaving dozens dead at the hands of the police and suspected mobs, property destroyed, citizens traumatised and the terrorists free! Again, PF were quick to point their accusing finger at the UPND as gassers. But the apparent cover-up and police failure to bring to justice the real perpetrators of gassing leaves one thinking the PF had a hand in this or it was some of their major funders on the Copperbelt. Disgraced lawyer, Kabwe Central MP Tutwa Ngulube, who appears to be a curious case of moral neoteny, has the audacity recently of accusing the opposition of gassing.
PF cadres viciously disrupted a Bill 10 discussion at Intercontinental Hotel in full view of the police. Known PF thugs have threatened media houses for hosting opposition political parties. All to the full knowledge of the police. The police have effectively been reduced to a militia wing of the PF. How would you explain every Jim and Jack ordering the police to break the bones of protesters? Tutwa asked the police to commit a crime and is still a free man. Clearly the message was well-received by chief of police Kakoma Kanganja who, in a similar tone to the underbred PF government deputy chief whip has been threatening violence against anyone planning to exercise their political rights of assembly and protest. Contrast with the PF freedom overdose to assemble anytime, anywhere, for any purpose.
The right to rebel
The police have failed to protect the lives and property of ordinary Zambian citizens. They have failed to guard our gold or arrest those implicated in illegal mining. Instead they have harassed the opposition, illegally ransacking, and occupying their homes. They have used brutal force against innocent citizens and denied them the right to assemble while abetting PF criminality – violence, theft, or hate speech. The PF have disrespected the police, who are also victims of the PF misrule, by using them against the very people they should protect. This is because, and evidence of their economic sabotage and plunder. President Lungu must fall like a tonne of bricks on anyone that will expose the corruption that has made him, his daughter, and friends rich beyond measure. And while Zambia day by day ticks the failed state check box, Britain which left us the obnoxious Public Order Act, and Trump’s America are quiet. This is even when egregious violation of citizens’ human rights justifies international intervention in a country’s affairs. The buck stops at us citizens and especially the youth. The youth have the most to lose from bad governance.
We must rise up for our slain brothers and sisters. And for ourselves. And for posterity. Bob Marley’s revolutionary music calls us to rebel when the system fails to provide people with equal opportunities and begins to take away our freedoms. “Why do they fight against the poor youth of today? And without these youths, they will be gone,” he sings. And the philosopher Henry David Thoreau tells us: “All persons recognise the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” Even Thomas Hobbes, a proponent of authoritarian rule, arguably allowed that citizens may revolt against a government that failed to ensure their security and survival. There is evidence galore of PF’s sheer incompetence, corruption, and thuggery.
The PF, using the police, have killed and maimed before. They will kill and maim again to perpetuate their stay in government. For many of them, it is the only way they can see to avoid prison and poverty that surely awaits them. The PF have armed the police to the tooth against us. They have turned youths whom we suffer with in the community into thugs that will kill and maim on their behalf for a bottle of chibuku. In view of this, we have to be a little bit smatter and find perhaps safer and more effective protests than, or alongside, the street ones. Rebellion we do not need Mr Kanganja’s permit to carry out.
Mid-1950 USA, a black lady, Rosa Parks refused to vacate her bus seat for some white folk. This sparked the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that resulted in the end of racial segregation on buses. We could start there. Boycott public buses. Boycott certain days of nightclubs. Pray from home and boycott Church. No one should be allowed to feign tranquillity while our country is turned into a cesspool where no good person flourishes. Until the Pentecostal churches take justice and wellbeing of their congregants as the true calling of the Church. We cannot have pastors thinking the gospel is a way to get them eating with the corrupt. The way of satyagraha has worked in the past and will work again. They will listen.
Fear and revolution are irreconcilable. Many are suffering quietly or quietly watching suffering going on because they are afraid. Afraid to lose a job, afraid to lose their place on the PF pecking order for shady contracts, afraid of going to jail, and afraid of losing life. Thoreau said, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison”. This great insight can be taken a little further to yet another inexorable logical conclusion, under Edgar Lungu’s tyrannical government, the right place for a just person is the grave.
The fear of poverty, of prison, of death is the fertile ground in which seeds of injustice germinate, flourish, and multiply. Granted, many people have no morality or can eat with a troubled conscience. I have in mind Ms Godfridah Sumaili with her ‘national values’ in the midst of corruption, ruthlessness and all manner of ungodliness. One thing she and her kind must remember is our interconnectedness and the precariousness of our situations. Chishimba Kambwili is a case in point. He helped to create this PF monstrosity and participated in it, and it has come to haunt him. Uushilwiila mutembo wamubiye, nowakwe wine upokwa!
Lecturer in Critical Thinking & Ethics