Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Jackals are howling: A rendition



“If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.”
- Albert Einstein

THIS week, I had intended to share with you my irresponsibility with respect to culture and gender. Why is it that, it was from our colonial menopause that the sorting of humans begun? I wanted to show you that my mother had an identity – she was not a Mrs. My Father! But in our poverty of reason and degeneracy, the Europeans through dog-eared agencies of Donor support ram gender and good governance dialectics down our throats. Like mangy dogs we echo inequities that are a creation of adopting their languages, religious practices, and development paradigms.

Lastly, I had also hoped to show that civil society leaders too need serious introspection. It is inanely hypocritical for them to have been hysterical about a change of government as in so doing they lost their guard. 

These issues unfortunately will have to wait, as yesterday I heard the howling of the jackals.

The jackal is a carnivorous species of animals related to the dog. The jackal is cunning, cowardly and always tends to form a pack with its kin. It is known for its discriminating mournful and melancholic howling, especially when the moon is full.

The fascination of the jackal is subject of much folklore. But one that approximates the jackals I heard howling yesterday, is that of a jackal that was so hungry that it got thin beyond recognition. When the other animals saw the mangy jackal, they could not recognise it and ran away in fright.

The jackal being a crafty and cunning animal soon realised that it could take advantage of its changed appearance. It rallied all the animals and thundered: “Do you know who I am?" All the animals were cold with fear, and could not utter a single word.

The lion however gathered some courage and mumbled: "No my lord, your majesty seems to have been sent by God to rule us and we request you to take the reins of power from me". The other animals consented and said in unison: “Yes, you are our Lord and please rule over us." The jackal accepted.

The jackal was however worried about the other jackals of the forest. He asked the lion to banish all jackals from the forest. Now the jackal was never hungry, became fat once again and enjoyed his newly gained power. The other animals tried to figure out who their new king was, but in vain.

One night there was a full moon, the few banished jackals that had hidden themselves, started howling as all jackals do when there is a full moon. The jackal-king could not control himself, but start howling like his kin. The secret was out. The animals discovered his real identity, and the lions had a feast.

Folklores are not a product of demented ancient minds. Folklores tend to have a moral lesson. The lesson of the jackal-king folklore is that it is very difficult to put on a facade for a long time.

It is important that we remain who we are and try to bring about positive changes in our people’s livelihood. But the tragedy of this God’s country, however is that there are those within the citizenry that continually put on a façade in the face of plain political and socio-economic degeneracy.

The jackals discriminate mournful and melancholic howling may be pitiful, and many may be moved to permissive and apologetic feelings. But it is irresponsible to feel pity, permissive and apologetic, for the jackal is no different from most politicians.

Our plague often is, when the howling gets louder it seems our legs take over the thought processes. We kneel, fall into an amnesiac state or jump into a transient euphoric stupor. We celebrate. We dance!

But to who’s good? Perhaps, we should listen and decipher the meaning in the howling.

Listen to the howling tonight, and remember that the Turks believe the howling of the jackal is bad luck. The person who hears it must spit on the ground, otherwise tragedy will fall like the vengeance of the gods.

Ora pro nobis.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Me, Michael Sata, and Country

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."
- H.L. Mencken

This year, this backwater country of my birth celebrates its 50th year of independence from the British Colonialists, though I don’t know what is being celebrated. And it is nearly three years since the Patriotic Front (PF) came to power, and already I see so-called golden jubilee billboards with Michael Sata on them.

Strangely, I really don’t remember reading about him in the grade seven or form five history books of our country. I remember reading about Lewanika, Kaunda, Nkumbula, Chona, Kapwepwe, Katilungu, and that famous lady who stripped to scare the colonialists, just to mention a few. Funny, I always forget her name. Perhaps, the history teacher was always so fascinated with Otto von Bismarck that he forgot to mention Michael Sata. Anyway, that is a discussion for another day. Sic!

I love my country even though I often refer to it as a backwater country. I know there are those who often argue that referring to one’s country as backwater is evidence of lack of pride in one’s country.

In my mind there is clearly nothing wrong in one always reminding oneself that the country of their birth is a place in which no expected substantive political and socio-economic progress is occurring. If anything, pretending the contrary is evidence of lack of pride in one’s country.

We must always remember that we can only change our circumstances, more so the circumstances of the multitudes of the poor among us (fifty one years from the day we celebrated our independence), if we accept that we are indeed a backwater country.

In the near three years of PF being in power, there are many of us who are now subjected to uninformed, infantile and unreasoned flak whenever we criticize the Government. Perhaps, what these nihilist protectors of the State do not really know is that our position has never changed.

Lack of respect for civil liberties, dictatorial tendencies, abuse of public resources for political hegemony, lack of transparency on governance issues, and unreasoned submissiveness were vogue then. They are still vogue today, if not more abominable! How then can any right thinking citizen expect us to shut up?

We criticize, because we love country and we hope for something better as a people. And if what we are criticizing today is what we criticized yesterday, all the more reason that a government and its crawlers should listen. This is simply because PF could not have been the incumbent ruling party, if it did not in any way campaign on the basis of our criticisms of the previous governments.

This is not to say we are not cognisant of whatever infrastructure development strides the PF and previous government have undertaken. But we must always remember that political parties contest to form government to, not only build roads, hospitals, but more importantly to uphold the liberties and dignity of individuals in the country.

Whereas there are those that believe we should shut up because Michael Sata is building roads, etc at unprecedented (if not fiscally unsustainable) levels, I vehemently believe my civil liberties, the right to express myself is more important as that is what can determine what country we need. Shutting up is not a solution. It is merely evidence of hate of one’s country.

It is unfortunate that the intensity and perversity of the inability of today’s ruling party supporters and government itself, to stomach any form of criticism is now reaching dangerous levels. Any form of criticism, which is often well intended, galls them to the extent that they actually turn blue with rage like a Bunsen burner. The now frequent sadistic use of the State to violate civil liberties attests to their perplexing rage.

However, in hindsight today, I realize that their rage is not perplexing after all. It is simply a question of trying to be more holier! Most of today’s PF goody-goodies were not actually there in the formative years of the party.

Thus, our position is unlike some of the self-anointed megaphones of truth on governance in this country. These megaphones now seem to be always eating their own vomit of what they always said about Michael Sata and the PF when in opposition. They are now fawning around Michael Sata like they always idolized him. But I don’t buy into their fawning. It’s a façade! Things are not right. Period.

Exactly, where were these goody-goodies that are now so holier than the incumbent President Michael Sata himself? Do they know him politically? Do they share his passion for country? Michael Sata’s love for country, we have never doubted, but for his means.

Even in the formative years of PF there were times Michael Sata would show evidence of disrespect for process and procedure as he deemed that abiding to these were mere retardation of progress. We never witnessed any evidence that can convince us that Michael Sata revered civil liberties, in particular freedom of expression and freedom to impart one’s ideals. He just always had to have his way!

Further, these are times in which the likes of Charles Chimumbwa, Edward Mumbi, Sylvia Chalikosa, Chisenga, Chileshe Mulenga, Paul Lumbi, Faustina Sinyangwe, Bernadette Mvula, Elizabeth Phiri, Guy Mulenga, Given Lubinda, and uncle Guy Scott stood up to his off-the-cuff decision making in an attempt to better develop and democratize the party. Today, we don’t hear much of such individuals from the PF’s formative years. Wonder where they went! Perhaps, if some of them were the ones closer to Michael Sata today and not the present goody-goodies that were never there then, they could have made a difference. Just perhaps, or is it wishful thinking?

Michael Sata loves country, as much as we do. Possibly, Michael Sata’s love for country is an infatuation that breaches expected norms in a democracy. Could be, he seriously needed the people from the formative years of his political party. These would, perhaps today, mitigate his historic “man-of-action” off-the-cuff tendencies. Off-the-cuff decision making, is regrettably dictatorial. It does not allow space for reasoned participation.

In wishful thought, during these trying times of us not having any irrefutable evidence of how he is, if some of these individuals of PF’s yesteryears were still around Michael Sata, may be we would not be subjected to the now unbearable suspense of why the President has not been seen in public for close to over two months now. A good number of these individuals loved Michael Sata and country, just like we do. They would do what is best for him. And not what is best for themselves, as can be suspected from the current Michael Sata crawlers.

Thus today, we ask: show us Michael Sata. We may have differences with his approach to democratic governance, but he is our President too. Verbum satis sapient .

Ora pro nobis.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Salome’s song



"Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings..."
- Patrick Henry


The day is Saturday. The date: Unknown. Place: The country of my birth.

Salome looked up at me with her milky beautiful eyes. Now that the excitement of my presence among them after a month or so had ended, it was time for the interrogation. I always get that. And the dialectic excuse that I am a prodigal son never washes with the little angels. Perhaps, they are yet to know what a prodigal son is.

“Where did you go?” asked Salome with the serene innocence only children have. The other little ones never really have insightful time for questioning my absence. But Salome is different. She exudes inquisitiveness that I always seek in my students and indeed most of my country folk. As far as Salome is concerned, I am not the kind that just disappears and re-appears without justification. I belong in her world. It seems the little thing has this thing in her that I always owe her an explanation. I do anyway, so I had to.

“I was in school,” and with that I hoped the interrogation was over. Not knowing I had just opened a can of worms.

“Boza,” (lies) she screamed. And she turned onto her friends. “baMbinji is saying he was in school. Huh! He is too old for school.” And for a while a debate among them commenced, with “boza” being the most pronounced word I could hear.

Perhaps, I got caught up in my own lies by not explaining exactly what I meant by being in school. Should have told them what school I really was in. To them school is a kindergarten. And I am surely too old for that, except as a teacher. It didn’t matter, I had already lost the ploy.

In hindsight, Salome’s lament[1] was not really that I had lied. No, it is simply that I did not accord her the dignity she deserves. Salome and I dwell in the same world. We are each other’s keepers. We celebrate joy and success together, as this builds on our understanding of each other. And we lower our heads in sadness, shame and remorse together, as one’s misfortunes, failings or thoughtlessness, gives us the strength to always seek to walk paths on the bright side of the moon.

And as it is so between Salome and I; in a democracy it is so too between a people and those that they choose to lead on their behalf - the valets de chambre. Those chosen are after all the employed. We are the employers.

Democracy is about mutual respect between the led and those that lead on their behalf, thereof. But, democracy places a higher price on the dignity of the valets. More so because the valets should always remember that a people do not queue up in the scorching summer heat, just to throw pieces of paper in a box so that they reduce their worthiness as keepers of those among them that become valets. Look, we can’t all be valets, someone has to do the dirty work and for that we respect them. And they too should respect us for giving them the honour to do so.

However, the events of the last few weeks in my country have filled most with foreboding and uncertainties as to the worthiness of some of our valets. This is a period in which, instead of humbling themselves in recognition of the fact that the positions they hold are because a people decided so, they on the other hand diminished the worthiness of the very people that in multitudes queued up to cast the ballot for them.

There surely is nothing wrong in saying the chief valets de chambre is not feeling well, and hence has gone for a medical checkup. Doing so, is in fact a demonstration of evidence that a people are respected as that is what a democracy demands. In addition, there is nothing not African in saying the chief valets de chambre is not feeling well, as some would want us to believe.

And if the contrary is the case, which is the chief valets de chambre is actually well, then mutual respect demands that the chief valets de chambre should walk into the cool July sunshine and greet the people. The people will jubilate, not only because the chief valets de chambre is indeed well, but much so because the chief valets de chambre and his deputy valets do indeed respect them.

For deputy valets to instead, threaten a people for simply asking of the chief valets de chambre’s well-being, as has been the case lately, is simply callous and not deserving of a country that prides itself of being a democracy. It is disrespectful. Sic.

The chief valets de chambre, is like Salome and I. I owe Salome an unhesitating answer. An answer that will soothe her lamentations, as this is what Salome expects if she is to continue respecting me. In lying to Salome, I have injured her dignity.  I have to restore the mutual respect we have.

In Salome’s song lies the one lesson our valets always have to learn – “We simply ask for and deserve mutual respect”. And that is not asking too much. Or is it?

Ora pro nobis.


[1] Song

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The PF did not lie?



“Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away."
- Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things)


Every day, I walk into different human class spaces in this country. Upper, middle, lower classes and, the forgotten class that we only see when they stretch their hands seeking alms or when they pee on our comfortable lives. The beauty is that as an anachronistic, I don’t blend, but I learn. The lamentations are symmetrical. “Gosh! RB times were not bad at all; Times are so rough now; We were cheated; PF lied; Where is the more money in our pockets; How come we now seem to be a province in China”.

Yet when, I browse print and online media, glaring discrepancies hit me in the face. The public media and the past newspaper, seldom echo the lamentations that shriek in my ears lately. From these media perspective all is well. “The economy has improved (so they should be more money in our pocket); RB was a rogue, “alleged corrupt leader”; The Chinese are sacrosanct; The Public Order Act has been relegated to the ashes of our colonial history; The current Constitution is perfect; MMD was evil”.

This is, surely, a media that lives on Mars as it seems they do not know that media freedoms are now under threat. Radio stations, journalists are now and then asked to “pay an unsolicited visit” to some police station to answer some frivolous questions on news likely to alarm the nation or some alleged theft of a library book.

This is a media that is so closeted that it is not aware that some opposition party leaders were “frog marched” from the very town were a ruling party official had the “freedom of the town”; that some gun-totting police officers raided an in-door meeting by some opposition party leader; and indeed that some opposition party leader had to find a hole in the roof to escape from some panga-wielding party cadres of some known party. It is fortunate that the fellow is not dumbly fat, else he would not have fitted in that hole in the roof.

With the most classic being that this media did not see the military-type truck and hordes of police officers blocking a road so that some opposition party leader does not pay respect to the King in some province to the west of the country.

The rogue media (as it is governmentally alleged), on the other hand, echo the lamentations that shriek in my ears.

The public media and the past newspaper is however, not all that bad. At least, it was able to tell us of human rights abuses in our country when some so-called eminent persons from some Western embassies issued statements on the very observations that the rogue media have consistently being communicating.

Rather absurd, that it is only when hypocritical voices[1] from the West say what is known that the public and past newspaper deem it worth our news reading. And I thought the editors and journalists in these media live in the same country as we do. Perhaps not. Could be their newsrooms have now shifted to Washington DC. Sic.

About it all, the question that in the end vexes me is: did the Patriotic Front lie during their campaigns leading to September 20, 2011. With much thought and reasoning, I have come to the conclusion that, perhaps, the PF did not lie after all.

To understand whether the PF lied, we must first unravel what the PF is as a party. From our knowledge, we know that the PF is a wamuyayaya party, it has no defined membership (well unless now it has) only followers, and has never had internal democracy. Democratic values and practices are alien. This is a party that has had no impersonal or neutral rules and procedures to avoid the arbitrary control of party functioning and internal elections (if they occur) by individual leaders or groups.

Critical of all, we knew and know that the PF is founded on two paradigms of political domination and privilege-seeking. These are patrimonialism and clientelism.

Patrimonialism is inbuilt in power relations within one’s heritage, and is strengthened by an individual’s rhetorical or financial prowess. Patrimonialism permits negation of rules, procedures and processes by the almighty leaders as the followers or membership often tends to hero-worship them. Well, we knew it was more rhetorical prowess. Could be we love folklore so much, that we seldom ask how an impossibility can be possible.

Clientelism is when we close our ears and offer our political loyalty to those we hero-worship for promises of material rewards (more money in the pocket) and security (donchi kubeba).

The PF is irretrievably soaked in patrimonialism and clientelism. This we knew, and perhaps today we should accept to learn. We can retrieve our footprints in the sands of democracy.

And this is because as Arundhati Roy writes in “Not Again”, “Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means”.

To which end, the PF could only have lied if we never devoured life in a democracy. But we did, and gluttonously.

Hence, I argue here that the PF could only have lied if we fail to muster our numbers and call them to account for their political rhetoric, and the now evidenced numerous human rights abuses. And it is not about making them account by not voting for them during elections. That is inane, in part. It is now. Like Wilson Pondamali’s observes, “This is not the time to weep for mistakes made three years ago, rather it is time to roll sleeves and get tough”.

Our PF members of parliament should be humbly and respectably questioned whenever they meet us in our constituencies or in whatever forum, and even when they are having dinner somewhere in public. Consistent and persistent questioning for accountability by us the citizenry, in addition to groups like the Grand Coalition, rogue media, and the Church, can to some extent lead to redress of our legitimate lamentations.

We know, they will give us the dog-eared excuse of “we are busy with infrastructure development”. But say unto them that “but, but.., the previous government was also doing that, anyway; or that why then did you set up this and that commission”.  Let us humble them, for I believe there is some good in every human. They surely should have a conscience. Sic.

Seeking accountability from our leaders is both legitimate and legal. It is our right. That is what democracy demands of us. We did not ink our thumbs at the ballot, drop it in the box and go home thinking democracy, and more so the demand for accountability is for those we voted for. Or did we?

Oh! And don’t forget to hold our church leaders accountable too. They too, are political power wielders. In any case, God is a just God.

Lastly, although, we know we were pointed in the wrong direction; we know we are trapped outside own history (well mostly because of our deliberate historic amnesia); we are able to retrace our steps because our footprints have not been swept away. Ours are not footprints in the desert sands of dictatorship. Ours are footprints in the white clear sands of democracy. We can overcome, if we do not continue sitting under trees lamenting while sipping katata.

Ora pro nobis.



[1] Take the case of the US government’s stance on gay laws in Uganda, and yet such laws exist in oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE. Has the US imposed sanctions on these countries?