Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Unlawful assembly, unlawful cops

just, watched the video of GBM arguing with cops in Kasama on what constitutes unlawful assembly. The argument really cracked my ageing ribs. GBM clearly put unlawful assembly under the microscope. And I no longer have doubt in my mind that the police in the country of my birth do not only misapply archaic colonial statutes, but they also simply do not understand them. Can’t blame them anyway, the British colonial masters that understood them left a long time ago. Sic.

I have here transcribed the argument.

Cop: You are addressing the people. You are addressing the people. There is a gathering there.
GBM: If you see. How many people?
Cop: There are many. Because if….
GBM: How many? What is a rally?
Cop: Unlawful assembly
GBM: Unlawful assembly?
Cop: Unlawful assembly. Three or more than people when they assemble.
GBM: When they assemble?
Cop: Yes.
GBM: So I will not be greeting people even right now in the hospital. Even if they greet me I won’t stop.
Cop: If it is greeting people, you can greet people. But not mean gathering people like that.
GBM: But its you, you are saying I am a public figure. So wherever I stop, even now wherever I will stop they will come. So what should I do? So I should lock myself in the house?
Cop: No, no. You should not lock yourself in the house.. Any way let it be off camera. What time? Maybe we move to the office.
GBM: No. I am not coming.
Cop: Because I am trying to explain…
GBM: I am not coming to your office. If you want, come and arrest me at my house. Thing is that I know that addressing a rally without a permit is an offence. But going in a market to go and buy, I am not supposed to get permission.
Cop: Buying honourable is something which is different.
GBM: Yes.
Cop: That is what I am trying to say. But where you carry, you have a very big following, people. All these people are following.
GBM: Precisely, its only under five minutes now. Even wherever I will go. Unless, maybe I should ask for fifty permits, because even (muffled) if I go to Shoprite now it will be the same. But people want me to greet them, so I should just say no because of..
Cop: No. Honourable greeting is different. Where you go and just greet someone, but here you were addressing people, you were talking to them.
GBM: Yes.
Cop: Yes, that is unlawful assembly.
GBM: So I should just say hello and off I go.
Cop: Yes. Better that way.
GBM: Okay. We will do that.
Cop: But, not now, here you know
GBM: No, no, we are going.
Cop: Yes, honourable.
GBM: We are going somewhere. But the gist of the matter is that we are going to stop where we feel, because I feel that it’s my birthright to stop wherever I want to. No one will stop me. If you want, you arrest me for stopping where I want to stop.
Cop: And that is what we are saying about (muffled), not assemble and start addressing
GBM: Yeah, but I am going to, no I won’t address people but I will greet people.
[End GBM remarks part inaudible]

Something about this conversation was clearly odd, if not absurd. So I decided to revisit the law on unlawful assembly. And here is what the law says:-

Section 74, The Penal Code Act CAP 87 of the Laws of Zambia
Definition of unlawful assembly. (1) When three or more persons assemble with intent to commit an offence, or being assembled with intent to carry out some common purpose, conduct themselves in such a manner as to cause persons in the neighbourhood reasonably to fear that the persons so assembled will commit a breach of the peace, or will by such assembly needlessly and without any reasonable occasion provoke other persons to commit a breach of the peace, they are an unlawful assembly. It is immaterial that the original assembling was lawful if, being assembled, they conduct themselves with a common purpose in such a manner as aforesaid.

The key terms in this law are threefold: - intent to commit an offence; intent to cause fear as a breach of peace can be likely; and, likelihood that the assembly will provoke others to breach the peace.

On all three counts, the senior police officer did not at anytime in the conversation allude to how in talking to people or addressing a gathering, GBM intended to commit an offence, intended to cause fear or that there was a likelihood that the assembly would provoke others.

 Exactly, why didn’t the officer do so? Is it because he does not understand this law? Or perhaps, he knew that GBM did not commit an offence, but was simply acting on instructions. And in his rush to please, he got confused and cited the wrong statute.

The correct statute he should have cited is the section in the Public Order Act which regulates the right to assemble. The Act, as now amended, provides that any person intending to assemble a public meeting, or procession, should notify law enforcement authorities in writing of such intent seven days before the meeting. This GBM knew and he ably educated the police officer. Though, he too, misinterpreted “notify” to mean “seek permission”!

In retrospect, this issue is a travesty of reason and simply a case of police harassment of opposition political party leaders. It was the perfect evidence of the unnecessary batrachomyomachia (silly altercation) from State agents that individuals in this country frequently face.

My verdict - The police were unlawful.

Pax vobiscum.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

And Mulusa wept

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
-  Kahlil Gibran.

SATURDAY, May 9, 2015 or there about. Lucky Mulusa’s posse drove into Ngabwe district, Central province. The whole spectacle was reminiscent of John Wayne riding into a new western country frontier town. I can imagine Mulusa sitting low in his brand new shining government vehicle, dreaming of the welcome he would get. Healthy looking school children with flags lining the neat tarmac road into the town; civil servants in double breasted suits ordered from Oxendales, eagerly waiting at the new district offices; and, a raised podium where he will deliver his speech. I further imagine Mulusa going over his speech, how he will walk up the steps to greet the District Commissioner and what jest he will utter to reduce the tension. There surely was going to be tension. After all Mulusa is a simile of the inspector general in that classic satirical play, Government Inspector, by Nikolai Gogol.

But unlike in the Government Inspector, there will be no Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, rushing to inform the District Commissioner and his officials that they have seen the government inspector staying at the local inn.

Mulusa will enter the town in grand style! It’s a new town after all and he has to savour it first. There was no way Mulusa could not dream all this. After all, Michael Sata had said, let there be a Ngabwe district. And abracadabra, there was Ngabwe district!

But lo and behold! Mulusa entered Ngabwe and he wept. There was no new district called Ngabwe. Instead, he stumbled upon a district and a people living in Shaka Zulu times!

The question then is, why did Lucky Mulusa weep? Did he weep because of doubt about a truth he observed? That “abracadabra, and there was Ngabwe district” was a lie? Or did he weep because the reality he observed was surreal, to the extent that he was ashamed? We may never know the answer until we ask him, but the latter seems more likely.

Mulusa knew there was no Ngabwe. For him to have expected the contrary is foolery. And this is why.

On August 24, 2014 in a blog article titled, Be responsible voters, never be cheated again, Mulusa writes: “It is strange why the PF in its governance chose to adopt political methods that have been proven through scientific and social studies, that such methodology of governance makes development less likely. The PF from inception lied to the people about its 90 day deliverables…. As if to ensure that development should never be delivered to the people, the party adopted undemocratic and bad governance characteristics[1].

He further observes that: “Both the PF and those that voted for the party are guilty of the calamity that has befallen our land. May be an appreciation of our challenges, would make us more responsible voters who in future, should get concerned, be responsible voters and refuse to be misled again!”

In another article, Mulusa writes: “Future generations will wonder how such an educated, experienced and exposed generation failed to take advantage of a wealth of mineral resource endowment, rich soils and great tourism potential. They will wonder why they were born in a country whose fore fathers left it in a mess several years after the dawn of civilisation – boy we will be cursed.[2].

Clearly, Mulusa wept because he was ashamed. Guilty. He even wrote about it. Sic.

Perhaps, we should thank Mulusa for weeping? After all, when he shed tears over Ngabwe, we later read that government has disbursed 24 million kwacha for the construction of a district administration block and staff houses.

In hindsight, we can’t thank him. We do not want him to go and weep over Sioma, Nkeyema, Luano, Shiwang’andu, etc. He will surely run out of tears. I, for one, wouldn’t want that for my good friend.

But let us not deceive ourselves, it is not only Lucky Mulusa’s shame or guilt, it is our shame and guilt too.

Over fifty years after political independence, us the privileged - The ones who have never known the hardships of open defecation, the hardships of walking long miles to a health centre; and indeed, the hardships of watching our children die of curable diseases, choreograph our lives like that that is how all Zambians live.

Mulusa carries the shame of our governance irresponsibility. Like Mulusa wrote in 2014, our political governance choices are tragically becoming an incarnation of the unthinking. This, we need to free ourselves from.

Sophocles says, “if it were possible to cure evils by lamentation and to raise the dead with tears, then gold would be a less valuable thing than weeping”.  

So unlike Mulusa, let us not weep. Weeping won’t help those we always leave behind. We can leave that to Mulusa for now. We can ease our shame, our guilt by always demanding of those we choose to govern on our behalf, to honour their promises. If they don’t, show them the door, as often in their ego trip they sometimes forget where the door is. Period.

Verbum satis sapienti - a word to the wise suffices.

[1] http://www.luckymulusafoundation.co.uk/be-responsible-voters/
[2] http://www.luckymulusafoundation.co.uk/lamentations-from-posterity/

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Robert advises the return of the hyenas?

"They are behaving exactly like Hyenas, these are animals that go about looking for faeces. The MP’s ditching their parties are like Hyenas looking for fecal excreta.”
- Dr. Francis Manda (Lusaka Times. January 6, 2013)

Lately news, and indeed social media postings from the ifintu ni Lungu side of the political pendulum, has become mentally eliciting. Just the other day, I was treated to a picture of H.E. President Edgar Lungu in a boogie mood on arrival at Harare International Airport, again. I grant him that. He can boogie. Reminded me of my younger days, when we would walk singing, “I got the power” after Shupi had allowed us to simply touch her hand.

I wondered why H.E. was so boogie. Could be, he was also remembering his younger days. But, I read he had again gone to consult Robert.

There surely must be a new Robert around. The Robert I know is no different from my grandmother. You see my grandmother always has an upside down view of democratic political choices and governance. In the January 20, 2015 presidential elections, when she heard that the incumbent won, she rounded us up to find out who the culprit among us was.

“How could he win, when I had crossed him out? He personally told me he had no vision, so I put a cross against his name to show my displeasure”. What could we say? She is grandma, a very wise elderly. Sometimes, not very different from Robert.

In case there are those who do not know who Robert is. Robert Mugabe is that firebrand African president we so admired this side of the world. He became president of Zimbabwe in 1987. This is one of the very few African presidents who could tell Western world leaders to disappear if they did not like him or how he was governing his country. The one that talked more Karl Marx speak than Karl Marx himself. The one that claimed he fought and suffered for the independence of Zimbabwe more than any other Zimbabwean so he has to be president for life. Remember Ian Smith claimed he fought for the independence of Rhodesia, too. But I guess he was delusional.

We admired this fellow Robert then, but not now. Not because he has over stayed as president, but because his relevance was then, not now. Some may disagree with me, but this is one fellow that nearly brought Zimbabwe down to be a basket case. But thanks to the vibrancy and functional literacy of Zimbabweans, they persevered and still do.

We seriously need to ask our president what exactly he hopes to learn from this fellow that upholds visages of dictatorship. Perhaps, it is to do with his admission that he does not have enough wisdom, so he has to consult elders. But, surely Desmond Tutu or Uhuru Kenyatta would be more appropriate.

Or is the insatiable hunger for political hegemony the lessons he is getting from Mugabe? The pursuit of political hegemony necessitates that one attracts every sundry of political opportunists even if they disgusted one a minute ago, as long as they can help sustain one’s dominance.

It surely does not make sense that a political party in government that petitioned some parliamentary seats on the grounds of electoral corruption, can today embrace the same persons it alleged are corrupt. This is a party in government that even re-opened some closed corruption cases against the very persons that are now being accepted into the party.

Is the, “Only God who appointed me will remove me" mantra from Robert a lesson we are witnessing as learnt? If not, how else can we understand the fact that the return of hyenas does not seem to worry our ‘corruption averse’ president?

Sorry! According to Dr Francis Manda, though offensive, MP’s ditching their parties are like hyenas looking for fecal excreta. And who am I not to quote a very eminent person on our political landscape. After all, Dr Manda is a master in symbolic expression.

So for now, let us watch the hyena show. But be heedful that, like I observed in “Of hyenas and fecal matter”, the best I know about hyenas, is to run when one is in sight. We, the voters, should always take to our heels when a hyena is in sight! Let us not be prey to political hegemony.

Verbum satis sapienti - a word to the wise suffices.