NASON Msoni says Zambian military wings must stop creating grounds which will make citizens perceive them as wearing partisan T-shirts and face-masks.
Meanwhile, Msoni, the All People’s Congress (APC) president, is shocked that President Edgar Lungu does not see an anomaly to be an everyday news source on ZNBC to the exclusion of others.
On Monday, July 26, ZNBC TV’s 19:00 main news showed Zambia Army Commander Lieutenant General William Sikazwe saying his officers are ready to move in and curtail any disturbance of peace and security before, during and after August 12 elections.
He said his officers are on standby to beef up the Zambia Police Service, in an event of political chaos after the election results.
Lt Gen Sikazwe added that the Zambia Army is fully geared to defend and protect the ‘lives of innocent lives.’
“When the results start coming out, that’s when now emotions will start and those that are seeing things not going according to their expectations, then emotions will start rising,” said Lt Gen Sikazwe. “So, we expect things to start sparking out, just when results start coming out. But for the military, we are ready. We have plans! For now, it’s the police that are in charge. But we are ready! We are on standby ourselves. As soon as we see that police are having challenges, then we shall move in to ensure that people are safe after elections.”
Lt Gen Sikazwe made the remarks when he paid a courtesy call on Northern Province permanent secretary Lloyd Chakaba in Kasama on Monday.
Reacting to Lt Gen Sikazwe’s commentary, Msoni advised him to desist from issuing statements which lack clarity.
He said military wings are the custodians of the land and that their allegiance of service is to the Republic of Zambia.
Msoni asserted that Zambia’s military wings have clear terms of reference and threatening citizens is not one of them.
“The moment they overstep their mandate to start issuing political statements or partisan statements or statements that will be misconstrued to imply that they are partisan, that is most fortunate. Theirs is to ensure that they maintain peace and leave Zambians to decide who their leader should be,” Msoni told The Mast. “We expect our Army to rally behind the people. Our military should rally behind the free will and choice of the Zambian people. They should support what the Zambians decide through the ballot. That is what they should do!”
He noted that the military’s role is not to take a partisan interest or to protect political statements: “which suggest that they wish to stand with a regime that has fallen out with the people, to protect their jobs.”
“I encourage them to be professional and being professional means that they have to resist the temptation to overstep their boundaries,” Msoni said. “Mind you, they (military) are the final arbiters also. They are the ones who have to protect the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia.”
He added that: “already, we are in this state where we have somebody who overstepped the boundary of the Constitution, but he is on the presidential ballot.”
“He used the courts to force himself to be on the ballot. That, in itself, is a serious shortcoming. Like I have said in the past, there is nowhere in Africa where a president who is barred has gone through courts, ignoring the people’s Assembly, the National Assembly – that’s where all of us are represented,” Msoni said. “But Mr Lungu bypassed that and went to arm-twist and influenced the outcome in court. That is exactly what played out and there is no doubt. Initially, he threatened those courts openly that if they rule against him, there will be trouble. So, those are the kind of troublemakers that we expect those who are mandated to protect the Republic to counsel or urge to respect the Constitution.”
He urged the military against creating grounds and threatening people or “openly showing people that they stand here because that, in a sense, diminishes their own standing.”
“In Malawi, we saw that the defence forces stood with the people – they respected the choice and the decision of the people of Malawi. They protected institutions! That’s what the military are there for,” Msoni said. “[But] the moment the military begins to wear partisan T-shirts, a partisan mask, then that becomes a problem. So, we expect the military to come out clearly to say what it is that they are saying. Their stance has left so many citizens wondering where the military stands.”
Msoni stressed that Lt Gen Sikazwe should re-state the position of the Zambia Army, on matters of partisan politics.
“If they are going to take a partisan position, we know what to do as citizens of this country. We’ve got recourse with the international community. If those who are charged to protect the interests of the Zambian public are threatening or saying that they will take this position, citizens have recourse with the international community where they can seek help,” he said. “We can seek help from the international community! So, we urge the military Commander who made that statement to issue another statement to clarify his position. Otherwise this is a matter that we are taking to the international arena; we are going to alert the international community that ‘this is the position that has been made – can you help.’”
He vowed that no one is going to stand in the way of change by threatening citizens.
“You found those offices and you’ll one day leave those offices. There were other people before you and even you coming behind, you are going to leave when your time comes,” Msoni said.
“You cannot threaten people because you want to maintain your position, and throw all the professional ethics to the wind, in order to champion partisan interests. It doesn’t work like that!”
He reiterated that everybody, at some point, would have to account for their behaviour.
“You can’t have a country like this where police can issue a threat to say ‘we are going to cause havoc. We are going to use maximum force.’ You can’t have a country like this! The question is who is urging these people to make such reckless statements?” Msoni wondered. “Mind you, you could be indicted to the International Criminal Court, needless for me say that these statements you are making, should anything go wrong, you could be indicted to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.”
He pointed out that Zambia was not an isolated island where one could: “misbehave and issue all kinds of crazy and lawless statements, purposing that you are going to do this or that.”
“You are also accountable! You may think that you are above institutions in this country [but] there are other international institutions that will bring you and hold you to account. This also goes the Commander of the Zambia Air Force; Zambians are watching. Zambians are listening!” Msoni cautioned. “When you make these statements as the people responsible for the maintenance of peace of our country, you have to make sure that there is maximum clarity in your statements. So, what are you saying?”
He noted that there must be carefulness when one makes a statement, “lest one of our brothers or sisters is extradited to the International Criminal Court for trying to protect their position.”
Msoni added that an idea whose time has come cannot be postponed.
“That’s the plain truth about life. Good things don’t last forever! Good things have got an expiry date. So, you cannot threaten everybody because you want to remain in office. You can’t!” he said.
“As matters stand in this country, the dynamics have shifted. And to arm-twist these sensitive institutions by those who are desperately clutching on straws will not help matters.”
Msoni told President Lungu that being re-elected was not just about being on the ballot paper.
“It is not just about being on the presidential ballot paper; citizens have the final say. You can stick all your posters, including in the toilets, but when citizens have made up their mind that you are going, then you are going. There is nothing more you can do,” he emphasised. “Using State organs to threaten people is not going to work. You found a peaceful country [but] why can’t you have the decency to leave behind a peaceful country, and thank people for giving you an opportunity, for God’s sake?”
He cited an example of Kenya where: “opposition political leaders own helicopters and they fly when they want to go anywhere, without these foolish restrictions which our opposition is being subjected to in this country.”
“Why can’t you learn from Kenya? That’s why we say this man, Mr Lungu, is not up to the job in a country that has embraced democracy. He lacks the required civility of what a leader who is piloting democracy ought to have. You need the credentials of tolerance, respect for others,” Msoni said. “That’s why he has no shame to see that he is the only one appearing on ZNBC. A normal person will question themselves, ‘why am I the only one on TV? Where are the other leaders?’ Ask ‘why am I always on ZNBC TV as if I pay for it?’”
Msoni continued, saying: “but when you are selfish, with a narrow mind, you can’t see anything wrong with appearing on TV every day.”
“Even the few people that wanted to vote for you will not because of your behaviour. That is a public broadcaster that must cover everybody, including people who Mr Lungu doesn’t like. That’s what democracy is all about!” he said. “Zambians will certainly never miss this man after this August. He is selfish and has hijacked all institutions. But the worst he can do is to try to use the military for his desperate pursuit to keep power. That’s a very dangerous ruse for everybody. Everybody must behave themselves!”
He underscored that State institutions which are mandated to protect Zambia must remain put and non-partisan.
“It might help; otherwise they will be in a very awkward position. You can’t be defending people who are not voted for by the majority! How are you going to do it?” Msoni wondered. “You can’t take over power with a person who has lost power. So, we are asking the Army Commander to make a clarification on the statement he made in Kasama. You cannot take advantage of legitimate State violence to use it on citizens.”
He indicated that Zambians were the owners of any Zambia Army apparatus.
“Let them exercise maximum restraint from making such provocative statements,” said Msoni. “We have had strong, powerful commanders like [Slobodan] Milosovic and the other criminals; where are they? They are in prison? What more of an army commander in a Third World country! Who is he that he cannot be held accountable at the international community? The international community is closely following his statement.”