[By Julius Kapembwa]
Edgar Lungu and his minions were diabolical – they deserve to be studied for many years to come. A completely heartless creature from the darkest corner of the world. His regime killed, maimed, terrorised, ravaged, rampaged, and mocked. He came, he saw and left a trail of destruction. Thrusted upon us as a stopgap president by a group of schemers trying to avoid a Bemba ‘inheriting’ the dead Michael Sata, Lungu became his own man, more or less, and evil came to the fore. The veneer of humility quickly fell off as the monster was unveiled. All whom Sata shunned or expunged from the presidency trooped back in. Like and like attract. The PF was about to throw a party like no other.
Thugs, academic quacks, Christian charlatans, defilers, musicians-for-hire surrounded his presidency. Morality and intelligence were visibly in short supply. With such an ensemble, Lungu did not need enemies to lose on August 12, 2021. On the fateful day, Edgar Lungu stepped out of Andrew Mwenya polling station like a man who had just come out of the funeral house for his own body viewing. In stark contrast with his main rival’s voting, it was so quiet one would be forgiven for trying to unmute their unmuted phone on which they watched the sorry proceedings. It was a sombre mortuary atmosphere. The police were frantically shielding a man from the people when the real danger to Lungu was himself. If he had any hungover of hope when he woke up on 12 August, Lungu must have felt a cold chill run down his spine of the impending doom. In Bemba, we have an excellent word for that: ukulokwa. Lungu lost to Hakainde Hichilema by a whooping one million votes. This was to me not a surprise. Only the most naïve would believe the opinion polls churned out by pseudo and morally bankrupt academics. The miracle is that nearly two million people still wanted Lungu pa mupando till 2026, and perhaps, with a little help from the so-called Constitutional Court, for a little longer.
Edgar Lungu is an extremely insecure man. If he was not insecure, why would he cow down the University of Zambia senate into awarding him an oxymoronic honorary doctorate, a mockery to the institution that bizarrely called him Alumnus 1, but one that he obstinately refused to fund? An insecure man lives a life of desperation in perpetuity. He lusts for power because without it, he feels emasculate, naked. The impotent man goes for the most curvaceous woman only to conceal his inadequacy. And when he gets power, his insecurity grows. Hence, he is willing to maintain it at any cost. Dictators kill opponents; that we know. The body count of Lungu’s rule is extremely saddening for it includes girls and children. Pupils and students.
Justice for the dead?
Hakainde Hichilema and Mutale Nalumango have their work cut out for them. The duo has had an inauspicious start in government with some underwhelming appointments, some gaffes, and treating us to church attendance shows and a barrage of memory Bible verses. I am so happy to see the back of Godfridah Sumaili and her anti mini-skirt Ministry for Pentecostal Churches. In any case, at this rate, we do not need the Ministry; the competition between President Hichilema and Madam Nalumango for best preacher is as stiff as it is irritating.
But what about the dead? What about Vespers Shimunzhila? I did not know the girl alive. But it is particularly the brutality, harrowing, and completely gratuitous nature of her death that brings immense grief afresh to many. What regime would permit teargas canisters being fired into our students’ hostels? What justification could former Inspector of Police Kakoma Kanganja, Lungu’s heartless bulldog, give for such ghastly acts? I would gladly choose the coldblooded murder of Nsama Nsama via an unexpected bullet to the head. Unfortunately, as Head of State, the cold cases of Lungu’s murderous regime now rest on Hichilema.
Many people entertain the belief in a life after death that I find quite bizarre, comic, deluded, and irrational. One upshot of taking such a belief seriously is that, God, who is the guarantor of the afterlife will settle all the unfinished business there. This is the spirit of a true Christian; turning the other cheek and otherwise leaving vengeance to God. In real life, few take that seriously. Belief in the afterlife is also irrational because nobody has died and come back to report to us. Further, when we look around us, the principle of life is the same in all living things. Sexually or asexually, we are involuntarily thrust into existence from nowhere. Like a tree, a fly, an elephant, a mouse, we come into being, and a very few flourish. But sooner or later we all perish. What about the soul? That is just a feel-good theory. A redundant appendix to a sad story. Confronted by existential absurdity, to cope, humans begin clutching at straws. The soul is one such a straw. Think of purveyors of the soul as movie or story writers who can’t deal with a sad or tragic ending. So, for me, we have to right the wrongs we can here on earth. The universe is vast and it does not care.
So what must the Hakainde and Nalumango administration do about the dead via state violence, the state they are now at the helm of? What is the just thing to do? Unfortunately, there can never be justice for the dead for the simple reason that the dead are dead. The dead have no interests; they cannot be harmed or benefited whatsoever. Some people also think future generations possess rights. Rights, which are the full scope of justice, exist to protect and promote legitimate interests. Since dead people have no interests, they cannot have rights. So there’s nothing the Hichilema government can do for Vespers and others whose lives where snuffed out under Lungu, Kampyongo, and Luo’s watch. But something can and must be done as a matter of justice and other moral considerations.
Firstly, when one kills another wrongfully, which is homicide, she violates his right or claim to not be so killed. This is an injustice and the killer must pay. In this regard, the responsibility is for the new government to complete current and cold cases of those whose blood is on Lungu’s administration. No murder should go unpunished. Mr Remmy Kajoba should ensure no stone is left unturned to flush out the culprits. Don’t forget the gassers who terrorised us night and day while the police chased after cats at night and mounted speeding traps during the day.
Secondly, the killings of Vespers, Nsama, Mugala, and others traumatised their relatives and many of us. With the perpetrators walking freely amongst us, we won’t have healing and closure. To see justice done will be therapeutic and will re-install our confidence in our justice system. Of course, functional systems are in themselves important instrumentally for our wellbeing and happiness.
Thirdly, the Shimuzhila family made investments into their child’s upbringing and education. Generally, poor parents make these sacrifices to drag themselves out of poverty. The State must compensate adequately families of those who lost their loved ones thanks to police brutality and/or incompetence. In addition to financial payouts, I believe the State should add compensation in kind. Building them decent basic shelters and their siblings or children assured of government sponsorship up to Master’s degree. This goes for the innocents who lost their lives in the gassing.
Fourthly, with the rollercoaster of scandals, the PF way of making us forget about the new scandal was to quickly create another one. So the deaths are covered beneath a heap of scandals. We need remembrance and monuments just as they do in Germany for the holocaust or Rwanda for the genocide. The Hichilema government must quickly finish the abandoned hostels works at the University of Zambia and name one block after Vespers Shimuzhila with an epitaph for her at the entrance. Minister of Education, Douglas Siakalima, must treat this as a matter of urgency. Telling the sad story of Vespers to everyone who enters the university will have an everlasting impact on the university and the country. Quite a few roads and buildings have been named vainly after corrupt politicians with nothing to teach posterity. The Vespers story is worthy casting in stone, literally. Remembrance is not for the dead but for the living. To remind us no more holocausts, no more genocides, and no more carnage in university premises, and no more police brutality everywhere. No more university disturbances.
Edgar Lungu headed a criminal enterprise barely masquerading as government. Life of the poor, of the opposition members had become brutish and expendable. Party cadres became indistinguishable from State police, PF members of parliament preached tribalism and breaking citizen’s legs. We have a new dawn; smiles have returned on people’s faces. There’s some hope. The new government will and must right the wrongs of the PF. As Mr Hichilema heals the land, he must not forget the dead lest we repeat the same behaviour that resulted in so many avoidable deaths and in eternal anguish for friends and families. The guilty must be punished, the surviving victims compensated. There’s need to immortalise those who died from injustice so that, in and through their death, they may teach us the living a valuable lesson.