Monday, August 21, 2017

Prisons, warts and migodi

“We are all prisoners but some of us are in cells with windows and some without.” - Kahlil Gibran

In the last couple of dark moons, a singsong that has caught my attention the most is the one on prisons and warts. For now, put aside the play scripts on the allegations of cowards; “haulas”; namby-pambies in sisal wigs; and, of treason for allegedly eating, then stealing Pride, the King’s prized cockerel. Take a Yoga position, and mull over Hakainde Hichelema, Mwaliteta, prison and warts. Think of their memory of our prisons.

“Dehumanising, urine, faecal matter, disease infested, migodi (pit latrines)..,” are surely their memories. Rather nightmarish.

Lest we forget, the Zambia Human Rights Commission has for years, consistently provided us with Reports on prison conditions in the country. The singsong is the same, only the time changes.

Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions! This is, in part due to unreasonable durations of pre-trial detentions. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, the Reports say, have resulted in the prevalence of diseases like scabies and warts.

For instance, the 2007 Annual State of Human Rights in Zambia tells us that, “there are 1, 826 terminally ill prisoners countrywide”. In the same year, we are also told of a prisoner who had been locked up for 5 years without trial as he never appeared in Court since his arrest in March 2002; and of, another individual who the Court sentenced to 5 years imprisonment after waiting for 5 years for his judgment (Well, he was released as he had already spent 5 years in Scheol).

In 2008, the singsongs include a suspect accused of robbery, who had been in prison since 2005, last appeared in Court in 2006 and allegedly had been locked up without trial because his case record could not be found; and, an HIV positive individual remanded in prison and denied access to ARVs for two months.

Come 2015, the singsong is now mangy dog-eared. People die! ‘The most common illnesses that result in natural deaths in these facilities are tuberculosis, pneumonia, hepatitis B, malaria...’[1] Of course, people die!

Really wonder why the Human Rights Commission ever bothers.

Well, let us get back to Hichelema and Mwaliteta. It now should not surprise you that their walk to freedom is not as memorable an experience, as the warts. I do not seek to minimise the unacceptable cruelty suffered. I really thought an enforced wart on a fellow like Hichelema, Mwaliteta or the late Michael Sata (he once spent 27 days in prison, long enough for warts to set in) would make us howl together with the Human Rights Commission.

Fact is, Hichelema’s, Mwaliteta’s concern on warts in our prisons cannot evoke howlings on what we are as a people, just like the Human Rights Reports do not.  We just do not care!

If we did. We would not have the majority of our people still doing their early morning rituals in migodi; they will not still be drinking water from holes connected to migodi. This happens, while in an unthinking stupor we celebrate a sickening self-impoverishing public expenditure culture of luxury SUVs. How then can it be that warts will really concern us!

Could be, that is why we even build roads that tomorrow, are migodi.

I have been on prison condition visits, before. Our prisons are places that make you more somber than the places of many crosses where we like wetting our eyes. The prisons call out to your inner soul, even if you do not have a conscience. They call forth in you, questions of how we can treat fellow humans worse than hogs on an average European farm.

Enforced warts can be very painful, especially if they develop in the nether ends. Unless of course, if one is juiced on my beloved grandmother’s paraffin and battery acid laced seven-days brew. Pity, my grandmother has not yet secured a prisons export permit for her brew. So, it is unlikely that anyone who has experienced our prisons cannot lament about enforced warts.

Let us start saying, no to warts and migodi. Warts and migodi are an inerasable epitaph of what we are, what we need to change in ourselves, irrespective of how often we break the stone.

In any case, it is written in the stars, that our existence should light the path of darkness, not only for ourselves but more so for those that come before us, for those that do not have the strength to walk with us, and for those that fall before us.

We are the light, and our ways, not our words, should be the living monuments of that light. We should never dance to warts and migodi. This is the promise, and we should always keep it.

Pax vobiscum - Peace be with you.

[1] 2015 Annual State of Human Rights Report

Monday, January 9, 2017

From the Archives - The Emperor's New Clothes

(The Monitor Newspaper June 20, 2003)
The political pornography, vanity and absurdity of this country is bedevilling. It is, hence, not surprising that as a country we are every day sinking into a bottomless chasm of decay. Political leaders strut around like in a strip show, and we elate and applaud.
There is no better apologue, which can capture our bedevilled reality than the 'Emperor's new clothes.'[1]
You see, once upon a time there lived a vain Emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. Word of the Emperor's refined habits spread. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor's vanity decided to take advantage of it.
      "We are very good tailors and after years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. The cloth is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."
The Emperor listened, and vanity wining, the scoundrels were contracted. The two scoundrels then pretended to weave the suit. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent.
Days later, he asked his prime minister, to go and see how the work was proceeding.
"Here, Excellency! Admire the colours, feel the softness," the scoundrels said. The prime minister tried to see the fabric that was not there. He did not see anything, but if indeed he did not see anything it meant he was stupid, and this he could not accept, as he would be discharged from his office. "What a marvellous fabric," he said.
Well, at some point, the Emperor had to show his subjects his extraordinary suit. A ceremonial parade was formed in the town square. Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!" They all could not see the clothes, but none was willing to admit his or her own stupidity. However, a child who had nothing to lose went up to the carriage. "The Emperor is naked," he said.
          Indeed, the Emperor was naked, and in this godly country the nakedness is pornographic! The many proliferate so-called leaders are simply au naturel emperors that have no idea of the core needs of this country. They both weave and wear a suit that will surely get this country out of the self-inflicted socio-economic chasm.
Beyond politics, it must be understood that the emperors' suit is costly. Christopher is dying; the youth are lost in an abyss of destitution. Yet there are many of us, the media not excepted, that stand up and hail the emperors. The fact is the emperors' suit is just misunderstood conceptions like control of corruption. And indeed, uncovering ludicrous conspiracies about who is power hungry and who is not.  There is no suit!
Just the other day, a god-fearing Veep, sprang into a ZAF helicopter and went to Mumbwa to "drum up" support for his party - the MMD. This is a Veep that wears the suit that can control corruption. It berates me as to what corruption these fellows keep talking about. I need the Veep to tell me what an act of abusing public resources for partisan interests, is called. 
Corruption is a state of rot! Electoral corruption as manifested by abuse of public resources is corruption. And, of course Mr. Veep, the MMD will win the by-elections simply because as a people, the emperors' new clothes are irresistible.
Surely, what else can give the Veep the right to use public resources for party politics, other than the simple fact that none of us want to be that child who said - the Emperor is naked? Well, could be the MMD pumped in gas into the helicopter.
Zambia shall not be saved if people cannot construe an act of abuse of public resources for partisan interests, as an act of corruption.
In any case, given that within less than a month of ascent to the office of Veep, the Veep is already behaving in a manner detrimental to Christopher, for the sake of Christopher, his assertion that he is a reject could be - is a truism.
Behold! In the scramble to praise the emperors, even chiefs do not want to be left out. A chief in Mumbwa warned his subjects against supporting the opposition in the forthcoming by-elections. I wonder if this chief realises that the money being spent on the by-election inflicted on the poor through desires for political hegemony, could alleviate some of the problems in his chiefdom. Any way, the point is, he is not the child that said the emperor is naked. If it were that he was, he would have said: "as a chieftaincy we are not going to allow costs incurred through individuals pornographic and absurd behaviours. We will simply boycott the nonsense, as sir you are politically au naturel!" 
Well, the bottom line is that this one saga makes one realise that no wonder lately chiefs are hauled before the courts for criminal and other offences. They are just mere mortals who seek not to look crackbrained in the face of political pornography, vanity and absurdity.
Any way, never mind the chief - he was merely exercising his freedom of mis-expression! Tetamashimba, Liato, Mazoka, Shikapwasha and Mwanawasa better characterise our reality.  But, I will tell the story beyond the politics of this saga next time.
For now, I seek to argue that the emperors of Zambia do not deserve a shred of applaud or newsworthiness. We should as a people seek greater heights of development, and look beyond the politics and categorically state when the emperors are naked.
It is irresponsible of a citizenry to trumpet accolades for a leadership that has not created jobs, that is not changing the state of our health care. A leadership that sees corruption, only when it suits them. A leadership that still continues to murder Christopher.
Christopher needs health care, education, and social security, and not the political pornographic aspirations and connivance for absolute power.
     In the apologue of the emperor's new clothes, the child was reprimanded by his father. "Don't talk nonsense," the father said. But the boy's remark, had been heard by the bystanders, and it was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
      "The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"
          Understood beyond politics, as a nation we need to assert ourselves. We cannot continue being irresponsible and allow ourselves to wallow in regressing poverty whilst the emperors core business is vain illusions of political grandeur.  We have nothing to lose, for poverty is a state of need. And one cannot lose that which one needs.
These emperors are naked! They are au naturel!

[1] "The Emperor's New Clothes" - a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Referendum - an orchestra of noise!

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear."
- George Orwell

Eish! I have been reading the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No. 37 of 2016 (NAB 37) with a microscope, and I am still scratching my head. The noise is unbearable. Here it is.

On the Bill of Rights, first and foremost why is,  the right to take part in government and to vote, still not proposed to be enshrined in our bill of rights? Instead, we are proposing "A citizen has a right to participate in political activities" in Article 24 (General political rights), which is not the same as the right to vote!

The franchise, is still buried in Article 46 of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016. Or we have never read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Article 21(1) states, “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives”.

Further, Protection from inhuman treatment, Article 15 of the existing Constitution, has now been denigrated by merging it to read as “Security of person and protection from inhuman treatment” (proposed Article 17). This now reads as, "(1) A person has the right to security of the person which includes the right not to be subjected to human trafficking (2) A person has the right not to be - (a) subjected to torture; or (b) treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner".

Didn’t the draftees realise that the proposed Article 17 is simply two different rights and freedoms? That is, (1) A person has the right not to be subjected to human trafficking; and (2) A person has the right not to be subjected to torture or treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner – which is Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment!

And what was  wrong with “A person shall not be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other like treatment”, as is provided in Article 15 of the existing Constitution?

Then, there is the so-called momentous economic and social rights.

Article 45. Progressive realisation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, states:
(1) The State shall take reasonable measures for the progressive realisation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
(2) Where a claim is made against the Sate on the nonrealisation of an economic, social, cultural and environmental right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.
(3) The Constitutional Court shall not interfere with a decision by the State concerning the allocation of available resources for the progressive realisation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

Wait a minute!

Does sub-article 3, mean the Constitutional Court can not adjudicate that the allocation of available resources is not reasonable, as has been evidenced before in this country of my birth?

If so, is this not contrary to Article  1 (5) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016, which reads, “A matter relating to this Constitution shall be heard by the Constitutional Court”? What then is the point of the Constitutional Court hearing a matter, where the Constitution gives the State the power not to even bother to show reasonableness?

Articles 52, 53, 54, under the section "Non Derogable Rights and Freedoms, Limitations and Derogations", are all contrary to the rationale for the review of the Bill of Rights. That is, the enjoyment of rights and freedoms under the current Constitution is subject to derogation clauses, that restrict or limit enjoyment of rights and freedoms on the evidenced unconvincing grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health.

Yet, this is what the draft precisely does in Article 54! Sic.

Article 54 (Limitations and restrictions under law), "A law that limits or restricts a right or freedom is valid only to the extent that the law - (a) is reasonably required in the interest of public defence and security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, blah, blah....."

Oops! And we still want to murder the murderer, for capital offences! Yet, the  Constitution Review Commission Report of 2005, notes, “The Commission observes that a very large number of petitioners made submissions on this subject. The majority expressed the view that the death penalty should be abolished while others expressed the view that the death penalty should be maintained”.

The orchestra of noise gets louder on alteration/amendment of the Constitution.

Article 79 (Alteration of Constitution) sub-article 3 of the existing Constitution states, “A bill for the alteration of Part III of this Constitution or of this Article shall not be passed unless before the first reading of the bill in the National Assembly it has been put to a National referendum with or without amendment by not less than fifty per cent of persons entitled to be registered as voters for the purposes of Presidential and parliamentary elections”. Part III is the Bill of Rights.

On the other hand, NAB 37, proposes in Article 303(1), "A Bill to amend the Bill of Rights, Article 1, Article 4, Article 5, Article 47 (1) and (2), Article 106, Article 110(1), Article 116, Article 117, Article 301, Article 302 or this Article shall be by a referendum and in accordance with this Article.

These Articles, herein, are:
Article 303(1) -  "A Bill to amend the Bill of Rights”.

Article 1 – “Short title”.

Article 4 – “Republic of Zambia”.

Article 5 - Printing and publication of Constitution - "The Constitution may be printed and published by the Government Printer separately from this Act, and the production of a copy of the Constitution purporting to be so printed shall be prima facie evidence in courts and for all purposes in connection with the Constitution as its provisions". This is a referendum issue?

Article 47 (1) and (2), is a complexity! In NAB 37 it is,  "Further protections and rights relating to marriage and family". In Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016, it is Electoral systems! Which one is correct?

Article 106 – “Tenure of office of President and vacancy”.

Article 110(1) – “There shall be a Vice-President for the Republic who shall be the running mate to a presidential candidate in a presidential election”.

Article 116 - Ministers. (1) for instance reads, "The President shall appoint a prescribed number of Members of Parliament as Ministers", and Article 117 - Provincial Minister! Are these referendum issues?

It is inarguable that, the foregoing on the rationale for a referendum, shows a clear case for simplicity and clarity of reason as evident in the current constitution.

Exactly, what are we changing? Does what we say really matter? My opinion. Zilch.

I am voting NO during Lefeli Ndambo! It is simply an orchestra of noise.

Verbum satis sapienti.

Friday, March 18, 2016

My grandmother is in putrefied power

“Sometimes I think the world is divided into those who have a comfortable relationship with power and those who have a naturally adversarial relationship with power.” - Arundhati Roy

Saturday,March 12, 2016, set my grandmother on an unfortunate pinnacle of joy. “If I was there, I would have spat on them. Huh! We are in power and they can not embarrass us like that.” Would not really imagine her thick foul tobacco sputum landing on anybody. But that is my lovely grandmother. Always, willing to die for her belief in a friend in leadership. In her unfettered support, which is simply a fa├žade of an uninformed error, that her friend is in power always makes her believe she is in power too.

In truth, in the January 2015 elections, my grandmother crossed out the person she disliked the most. She claims that is what she was taught during some so-called voter education community workshop. We have never believed her, as she has as a minimum a Form 5 certificate, and before retirement she was a head teacher of English. Could be, she is just used to crossing out wrong spellings in English!

I have never really understood how she is in power. All I know is she spends her days, sweating in the heat of the noon day sun. The steaming vapour from her seven-days cooking drums covering her, like the morning mist in the valley. Those that imbibe in her product often extol her brewing skills, but they never ask themselves why they always have to immediately run to relieve themselves in the bush. Her calabashes are putrid. She never bothers to clean them, before she refills them.

Perhaps, that is what power does. Putrefying the others, for gain at all costs!

Anyway, at the end of the day, she sits lonely on her three-legged stool counting the little coins she has made. And, in the solitude of her Tshaka Zulu – like dwelling, a tear falls as she realizes she seldom makes enough to met her livelihood needs. In the rainy season, her sleep is always disturbed, not because she is dreaming of the happy days of her youth on the Copperbelt. No. It is simply because she has to find a position that is not directly below the rain falling through the old thatch roof.

When morning comes, to the phone she takes. Like the swallows take to the skies after a rain storm. And we, the grandchildren, have a disturbed day. The demands and requests for assistance are uttered faster than Usain Bolt runs.

Yesterday, I had enough. I simply told her that she is in power! So she surely should be the one ensuring that we do not have constrained livelihoods. She should allow us to parade in the regalia expressing our political choice and not delighting in wanting to bath us in thick foul tobacco sputum.

Well, that got to her. In her attempt to soothe my anger, she went into a delirious single-person-audience oratory of how her friend will soon be organising a conference to reaffirm his abhorrence of political party violence. She, further, said that he has also demanded that opposition party leaders emulate him in controlling violence. Adolf Hitler would have been proud. Sic.

I listened to her unthinking wisdom, the wisdom of putrefied power, with ears requesting me to shut her up. I could not do that, however.

The public know, sincerely hope they do, that they cannot emulate a State president when it comes to matters of law and order.

In hindsight, was her friend talking as a State president or a party president? If the latter, it is understood and welcome. However, I am not going to start a sermon on the mountain over it.

If the former, it is unfortunate. He is a State president, and there is nothing to emulate. He should simply have categorically stated that the State of Zambia will not tolerate political violence and chastise those that stripped Priscilla Mwiinga naked, the police officers that did nothing about it, and the head of the police. Period.

What happened to the State shall protect its citizens and all those presently resident within its borders? Inarguably, if the State cannot do so, then this brings into question the State’s allegiance to protecting its citizens and all those presently resident within its borders through just maintenance of law and order.

The bottom line is. A State president or any third party, conceiving an idea of a conference to iron out political party violence is simply a deliberate invalid argument displaying assumed political ingenuity in reasoning. It is a delusional hope of deceiving the public. So too, is a State hollering out to the multitude to emulate it.

A democratic State exists as a body of humans with defined means of equitable social and political regulation. The State affirms adherence to the norms actualising these means. It cannot request others to emulate it in maintaining law and order with respect to violence arising from political competition, when it is evidently shows favouritism. That is a recipe for State decay.

Clean the calabash, remove the maggots first, then I will not run into the bush after imbibing your rhetoric.

I could not tell my grandmother all this. I love Nana dearly. She typifies the many of us that exist in limbus factuorum. Those that are in putrefied power. Moreover, I dread the thought of that sputum or her friend falling on me like a ton of bricks.

O temporal! O more! What times! What manners!

(First published