Thursday, November 19, 2015

From prayer, churches to ‘ukutumpa’

"The vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.” -  Kahlil Gibran.

OCTOBER, to November this year has been a rather Byzantine time for Edgar Chagwa Lungu, and God just had to be a national agenda. Some rat somewhere must surely have been messing up our beloved leader’s acumen to solving problems. Well, that is what my grandmother told me in defense of her good friend.

Seems the severity of socio-economic and political governing fell on the man of the “An officer, gentleman, lawyer and politician“ acclaim, like a ton of bricks! Our beloved president’s recourse was to call for national prayers, and later proudly telling us he is going to build us a very big cathedral!

Our beloved president did this, because he knows life is now frighteningly scorching for the majority of us. Whenever, we go to the katemba to buy tupamela or a tot of cooking oil, we only just come back with the pamela or nothing. We prayed, but the katemba chap still increases his prices. The first day the chap claims he increased the price, because of the dollar, the next day the excuse was load shedding, then later, he said God did not answer our prayers. The Halo sun was fake, the opposition put it up there.

Well, yesterday I lost it. “ukutumpa[1]. And careful, I can nationalize you,” I told the chap.

Sorry, this is about Edgar Chagwa Lungu. In the run up to the January 2015 presidential elections, we had a profile that sought to educate us on Edgar. “An officer, gentleman, lawyer and politician”, so it pronounced. This profile told us a lot about the man we have for president, but in the end told us a hidden truth. He is wanting, is the conclusion those that read would have derived.

 This profile attempts to unravel the mystery and enigma that is Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the Minister of Defense, Minister of Justice, until recently, Chief Executive Officer of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and President of All Political Parties in Africa to mention but a few”, the profile reads. (I wonder which political parties in Africa, Edgar was president of).

The most discerning on how Edgar is wanting as a president are the accolades in the profile.

He bagged his legal practicing certificate without trouble... Many lawyers have to sit for the Law practice certificate exam, a dozen times before they can get the legal practicing certificate because it is not the easiest exam to take… As a former military officer, Lungu is sometimes likened to others such (as) Ariel Sharon of Israel who served with the Israeli military from 1948, rising through the ranks until retiring as a Major-General in 1973, became defence minister in 1981 and elected prime minister in 1999 but was initially a Lawyer” (not forgetting we are never told what rank Edgar attained, what prominent law firm he run or even what publicly cited case or precedent he set in Court, since he was so good at law). 

Edgar should surely have not allowed such unsubstantiated toadyish accolades. But he did, because he knew the majority of our people easily believe.

Edgar is undoubtedly a good lesson in the fundamental failures of judgment we make in choosing our leaders. In hindsight, we need to forgive ourselves for lack of foresight. Could be we look at ourselves as humble individuals. And we know God more than God himself. But of course! Poverty, misfortune is often the humble mask for some of us.

But, when suddenly political or economic power befalls us, it is “Abracadabra!”

We become the kind of individual that takes to heart Saville row suits, Stetson hats and ‘break-dancing’ at foreign international airports, short of scribbling “Mbinji was here” in the loo of the Emirates Airbus flight to New York. Not forgetting, we always assume a posture that shows our shinning handmade Italian shoes. We also now glow in being the talk of township weekend binge and admiration. “Wachimumona, Mbinji? Mujoza boyi. (Did you see Mbinji. He is the guy). Simplistic, in its purity.

Predictably, Edgar is today failing the nation simply because the high acclaims and accolades were inane, unfounded, and most of all toadyish.

If they were not toadyish, why else was one of his first major proclamations admission of a lack of vision. An officer, gentleman, good lawyer and insightful politician cannot, first, tell us his vision is that of the dead, then seek asylum in prayer, a church, and now telling us ‘twalitumpa’. Sic.

“Ba Edigar” (as we are told he is fondly called) was never up to the challenge of leadership. His stay in office is simply that of like me writing “Mbinji was here” in an Airbus loo. I do that because, being in the Airbus is a black swan event. It may never happen again.

Edgar's glow in the talk of township weekend binge and admiration has been checked. The verdict from a growing majority, teachers, Unions is, “failure”. 

Things are not looking good for him anymore. Our socio-economic abnormalcy is self imposed, and he knows he has no solutions but take popular asylum in God.

Edgar knows God on October 18, and the building of a church is a façade. An attempt to hoodwink us that he is indeed a God fearing humble individual, like us. Seems he forgets that, we know that sometimes the run to God is libidinous when the dark closet in which we are hiding our deficiencies is opened.

The unsung Edgar in the sycophantic acclaims in the run up to the January elections has come to roost. Political grandeur is now a very threatened illusion, and he won’t allow that to happen. He will seek recourse in what he knows best. Threats, undignified and uncouth language. And of course, the mangy dog eared promises, we believed before.

“I have not failed. I just came into office. (Thought he is PF?). Anyone, who says the contrary, Kutumpa”. How godly!

In retrospect, the journey from prayer, churches to ukutumpa of the unsung officer, gentleman, lawyer and politician and his eventual choice is simply a dialectic of the unthinking.

We think. And, clearly, it is time we said, “Sorry, your Excellence, chachine twalitumpile, nomba ta twakatumpe nafuti” (we where stupid then, we won't be stupid again)! We are not entrapped in a degenerate state of democratic irresponsibility. A leadership should respect us, work towards sustainable livelihoods, and not insult us.

Verbum satis sapienti - a word to the wise suffices.

[1] Ukutumpa is ichibemba, in this context meaning don't be stupid

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Paul Tembo decides to die" - A dialectic from the past

Friday, July 6, the year 2001, Paul Tembo's decision to die becomes a metaphoric parlous reality. The questions and explanations reach a crescendo. It was a politically motivated execution. No, he was killed by armed robbers.

The opposition party spokespersons will have a field day. Paul Tembo was executed. He knew too much. The same day, July 6, he was supposed to "tell it all" at the tribunal investigating how K 2 billion of government funds ended up funding the MMD convention. 

May be he was going to say things that could have led to his death. This discourse will show that, the bottom line is, Paul Tembo was not going to say anything of criminal proportions. Perpetrators and victims do not rape their comfort zones.

Government and its police will say and continue to say Paul Tembo was merely another victim of the armed crime wave now sweeping Zambia.

The Sata-likes and Mwaanga-likes will clutter us with requests for calm. They will, as is usual with high profile murders, request outside assistance with the investigations. In a way requesting us to wait until their police force has finished with the investigations in the year 2099. 

The opposition will be told not to make political gains out of a simple case of murder. They are always simple cases of murder these deaths of high profile political persons. So simple that we still do not know how Ronald, Wezi, Baldwin died. And indeed whoever decided to have sniper target practice at the old man and Rodger will only be known in the year 2099. 

Rodger decided to scamper far across the oceans. He did not want to die. But who does? Paul Tembo did.
No matter how we try to explain and understand the death of the 41-year-old loved and hated politician, the only rational explanation lies in his less informed decision to die. 

Paul Tembo decided to die the day he made up his mind to have communion with a political entity he least understood. Defining this political entity is easy. One does not need to be a political science student or analyst. It is called a multi-political party system, in its simplicity. 

In market or commodity terms, it is referred to as plural democracy. This is the 90s most sold commodity in the North-South trade and ideology flow. To access multilateral and bilateral loans and development assistance, countries in the South, like Zambia, have had to buy this globally prescribed commodity.

Understanding plural democracy in a context like Zambia's is fraught with difficulties. The tragedy is we never as a country tried to understand a plural political system within our own context. Instead just because some donors said plural democracy and its associated capitalistic behaviours (market economic, is it) is the only panacea to our economic malaise. They dangled the 'carrots', like rabbits we jumped at the idea. I remember there was a time when someone had market economics as a meal daily, I wonder whether he still does. No he does not. It looks like it gave him political diarrhoea. If not, how come 'co-operatives' are now part of the political lingua!

But did we really as a country jump like rabbits? No. We did not. The facts of the matter are that Zambia did not jump for the carrots, that was merely a rushed and uninformed consequence of how best to change the old order of 'one-party participatory democracy.'

Paul Tembo decided to die when Zambia moved to plural democracy and agreed to multi-party electoral competition as a way of removing Kaunda and UNIP from the helm of the country's political and economic governance.
By 1991, Paul Tembo like many Zambians had reached a point of seeming irreversible socio-economic despair. Poverty and destitution was slowly becoming a norm. The age-old belief of education being the escape from poverty was sounding more like heresy.

"Kaunda has to go" – was the simple panacea.

In this simple statement, was the meaning and understanding that could have saved Paul Tembo today. But we were all lost in the newly discovered political cliché's of 'multi-partyism', 'democracy', 'free and fair elections', and of course the learned persons terms of 'injunction'. In this understandable euphoria we forgot that it was Kaunda that had to go. 

Kaunda was a paternalistic entity. Political and economic governance was epitomised in Kaunda. It is this entity that should have been removed. And if we believed we removed Kaunda, today, we know we did not. Multi-partyism in our context could never remove Kaunda – the entity.

As peaceful as Kaunda has proved to be, in 1991 he assented a reconciliatory instrument of governance that allowed for plural democracy. UNIP now had multi-party political competition in the form of the MMD. 

But is the MMD a political party? The answer is no. Just like the UPND, ZRP or whatever other 43 parties exist in Zambia. They are not political parties. They are simply paternalistic entities plying their trade as political parties simply because the 'rule of law' allows it. 

Paul Tembo, like many Zambians, does not know what a political party is. If they do, then it is highly likely that they do not know what the party stands for. Ask Nakawala. I am sure she has no idea whatsoever. Her political party is Chiluba. Period.

What exists in Zambia is multi-endowed person's democracy or paternalistic democracy, in short. Paternalistic democracy is rooted in Kaunda's legacy and has been sustained and perpetuated by Chiluba and his cronies – irrespective of whether they are in MMD or FDD. Paternalistic democracy was Paul Tembo's death wish. Zambia has had time to redress this tragic political scenario. The Mwanakatwe Constitutional Review Commission of Statutory Instrument number 151 of November 22, 1993 (under the Inquiries Act cap 181) was one such chance. But we dreamt on. The political cliché's of the 90s were just too sweet!

In a sense, Paul Tembo decided to die because he found himself trapped in the continued pursuance of a system of political governance that least suits Zambia. Adoption of plural politics in an environment of extreme poverty and where paternalistic attitudes are the norm rather than the exception is fatal.

Paul Tembo decided to die because he strongly believed plural politics as propagated by the West can root and be sustained in one of the world's most impoverished countries. He forgot that poverty renders human dignity, plural democracy and popular participation worthless.

In plural democracy, political participation is a collective act aimed at pursuing a "common good". It is a democratic imperative. This does not mean multi-party democracy. Multi-political party democracy is a fallacy in a country where the average person has no idea what a political party is. 

In Zambia, political parties are about paternalistic associations for survival and not ideals. Joining and participating in a political party is not about influencing government. It is concerned with developing and sustaining relationships that foster social security. If you doubt me, ask Michael Bwalya. No too long ago, you could find Michael Bwalya in the UTH kitchen concocting unsavoury food for patients!

If Chiluba or Mazoka meets my needs or merely seems to meet my needs (– both survival and capacity to influence others), then I will certainly belong to Chiluba or Mazoka's party. And when Chiluba moves from MMD to FDD, I will instantly become a spirited member of FDD. The only time I will divorce myself from Chiluba is when I have met my needs to the point of being capable of meeting other individuals' demands.

Paul Tembo had reached this point or believed he had. His departure from Chiluba had nothing to do with his failed attempt at the Vice-presidency of the MMD. Paul Tembo had become a paternalistic entity in his own right. There is no way he was going to rape this iconic stature by 'telling it all" at the tribunal. Unless of course, Paul Tembo is a political fool!

Paul Tembo is not a political fool. Just like Nawakwi is not a fool. Nawakwi is always yapping about Sata wanting him to expose Chiluba. Surely, does Nawakwi need Sata for her to do the country justice by telling us all she knows about the corrupt appropriation of the country's wealth? 

No. Nawakwi will not do that, just as yet. Nawakwi will expose Chiluba only when she is sure she can survive without retribution from Chiluba or whoever else forms the next government. Right now everything is fine with her. She is relatively safe and she is not a political fool. Nawakwi may not rape her comfort zone today, but since it is a parlous comfort zone, it will rape her soon.

Paul Tembo should surely have known that democracy is not just a question of multi-party politics or periodic partisan elections. He should have known that democracy is not mere 'forked" speech from Chiluba or Sata. But looking back, there is no doubt that Paul Tembo did not know this, otherwise he would not have decided to die.

Democracy is about self-governance. And self-governance has never been enshrined in the proliferation of multifarious political groupings that do not know what they represent. 

In Paul Tembo's death', no matter how much we could have hated him for the trauma he caused when running Third Term errands for Chiluba, it is time that this country looks to a political renaissance.

Paul Tembo was both a victim and perpetrator of a political entity of our own creation, and we have to change it. He raped and was raped by a contextually inane system of governance.

Paul Tembo decided to die, and that can be understood. But have you thought of the children we are killing/murdering just because funds for health provision and other welfare programmes, are being wasted on elections aimed at sustaining this costly system of plural democracy. For a decade now, the MMD government has not been concerned with issues of governing. The MMD government has been concerned with issues of protecting paternalistic interests in the veil of multi-party democracy.

What multi-party democracy are we talking about anyway? Aka can ditch Agenda for Zambia, form Agenda for Barotse, and still win elections in his constituency. Who are people voting for? A party or a person? Doesn't this sound like multi-persons democracy, and isn't it where the answer to our problems lie?

Paul Tembo's decision to die is premised on our inability to consider these critical questions. In our continued failure to reason and address Zambia's current political crisis lie our own demise.

Ten years of experimenting with a costly inappropriate governance mode is preposterous. Let us save the many Paul Tembos that are yet to die, and more so the innocent children whom through a worthless system of governance we are depriving of a decent quality of life.

Lastly, if in this discourse there is the impression that Paul Tembo's death is justified, then I beg to differ. Paul Tembo's death is not justifiable, like any other death. It is explainable in the futility of continued adherence and participation in a political landscape that does not meet a poverty-stricken country's reality. Pursuance of so-called multi-political party democracy merely serves to entrench the iconic imprint of paternalistic political behaviours. This so-called plural politics that Zambia (and most of Africa) is pursuing is not only detrimental to individuals but also costly to the country.

The fact is, as country, we are all walking Paul Tembo's road. We are going to die one way or the other. Unless, today, we sit down and revisit the fatal decision of chasing a political illusion amidst increasing poverty and illiteracy.

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.