Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A cob of maize, coups, and ‘elections’

If someone asked me what has changed in Zambia in the behaviour of our political leaders, I would without flinching say "zilch". Today, I am reading the same ineptness of reasoning I read nearly a decade ago. And I here draw out from the archives what I wrote then.

in the Monitor Newspaper July 25, 2003

Lately, the law in Zambia has been bedevilling me. Christopher is alleged to have stolen a cob of maize. He gets his sorry rump thrown into remand. I thought one is innocent until proven guilty.

According to a legal mind, the assumption is that Christopher has to have his rump in remand so that he does not go stealing cobs of maize again. In any case, Christopher cannot meet bail conditions from under that cardboard on the streets of Kamwala.

The tribulations of the law are mostly evidential in the misapplications when persons in authority or interest groups in government rape the law.

For instance, the ‘honourable’ Shikapwasha was in the week reported to have foiled a coup!  The ‘honourables’ in the ministry of home affairs have a preposterous acumen for discovering coups.

Last year, his predecessor, the late Mapushi, discovered a plot to overthrow the government. This was after the President, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC, claimed there was a plot by someone’s loyalists to kill him.  At the time, the public media inundated us with news of an attempt to kill the president. “They want to kill me,” was it? They never killed him, and Shikapwasha has foiled the long awaited coup.

Section 67 of Penal Code, provides that information likely to cause fear and alarm to the public should be grounded in fact, and not falsehoods. In the event that the contrary is true, then one has committed a felony. What bedevils me is that Shikapwasha has not indicated who the suspected coup plotters are. How do you foil a coup without surely even dragging one suspect into custody?

The requirement of the law is that he provides a bona fide claim to his reported statements. The omission of bona fide substance on his part is reason enough to argue that the man has committed a felony. Until he provides evidence of the coup, it is undoubted that the alarmist statements were issued with the full knowledge and reason that such statements are false. These fellows’ fascination with coups is inane and a simple manifestation of their insecurity.

Just when I thought it is only the ‘honourables’ in the ministry of home affairs who have an acumen for the novel, Mutale Nalumango, of the “trust the president fame” deemed not to be left out.

If the law in this country is fraught with fragilities, the ‘honourables’ in this country are seriously afflicted with an intellectual coma. That this country is suffering high illiteracy and an inability to synthesis issues could never have been more evident that in Nalumango’s reaction to Anderson Mazoka’s interview on Radio Phoenix.

I had a dream. “Mazoka warns of bloodshed”, a newspaper headline read, and I was rushing off howling to the police, “arrest him, arrest him”!

Well, ‘honourable’ Nalumango, Mazoka was simply reminding you that the electoral process in it current form and the alleged perpetuation of electoral corruption by the MMD is a recipe for bloodshed. What is wrong with that? Please take time to read or listen to what others say, lest you merely show a side of yourself that is intrinsic.

It is abominable that when someone other than a person in government utters sentiments on the rot in our country, some ‘honourables’ and even the police suddenly discover section 67 of the penal code.

It is in this respect that, I no longer have doubt that the meaning of law in Zambia is that it is both the collection of rules imposed by authority and the force of the police. Could be that is why as I child, I always ran away from the police.

‘Honourable’ Nalumango, Mazoka’s concern bordered on the misapplication of the law in our country as it is evidential in our electoral process. The citizenry’s right to political choice is always contravened, as your political party has an insatiable desire for intimidation and electoral corruption.

Let us not be naïve to the fact that ours is an environment of legal fragilities. It is inevitable that a party in power will continue behaving with impunity, if the electoral process is not reformed as a matter of urgency. Moreover, given the coal-powered nature of our legal system, soon someone may say enough is enough.

If this country is to redeem itself from the socio-economic decay, men of frocks (not those of God who smile when a chief intimidates his subjects) should today stand up to the challenges of the law. It is does not help Christopher to merely title oneself as “learned”, when the law is such that political behaviours responsible for Christopher’s plight are not as criminalized as stealing a cob of maize.

It is time this country accepted that allowing a party that is under trial for alleged electoral corruption that borders on State criminality to continue participating in elections is a serious omission in law.

From beyond politics, it is irresponsible of a citizenry to allow a political party that is alleged to have won a major election through corruption and in particular resources alleged to have been acquired through abuse of state funds, continue participating in elections.

Why can’t the law be applied in the same manner that it is applied to Christopher?

Either electoral cases are expedited before an election or a party on trial for electoral corruption should face the same fate Christopher faces over a cob of maize. In arguing so, I am aware of likely counter arguments that doing the latter will disenfranchise people. But, isn’t law a case of proportions of effects? The assumed effect of letting Christopher loose is that he will steal another cob of maize.

In retrospect, the case of a cob of maize, coups, and ‘elections’: when ideated beyond politics shows that the travesty of the law by persons in authority and the party in government seriously undermines Christopher’s livelihood.

In addition, the challenge for “learned persons” in this country is for them to show cause why only Christopher ends up in remand on the presumption of likelihood of committing the same offence, whilst those that have a high propensity and history of committing the same crime are always let free to continue raping the law.

The law in this country does not respect Christopher and I. It is a fallacy. The bottom line is that Christopher, like the State of Zambia, is a tragic innocent victim of the law. Let us not forget that people are always law abiding, but they only abide by the law as far as the law respects them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ineptness in State Reasoning

The Media statement of August 24, 2012 by Kennedy Sakeni (Chief Government Spokesperson and Minister of Information and Broadcasting) in response to Hakainde Hichilema’s statement dated the same day, is a statement that intelligence necessitates should be attributable to a political party functionary.

That it is, attributed to a Government Spokesperson and Minister, is surely a microcosm of ineptness in reasoning the relationship between the State and an individual. A Government spokesperson or Minister is a State Actor, and hence in so being acts in the interest of the State. The State or a State Actor can not deride an individual or citizen in a manner that serves to degrade an individual’s integrity or standing in society as is evidenced from this Statement. Such a Statement, however, irrespective of its content may be acceptable within competing political players.

If it where that Hakainde Hichilema’s statement was of a nature that can be construed a threat to the public interest (which was not (though may depend on which side of the pendulum one is sitting)), then Kennedy Sakeni should know that there are several laws in the Penal Code Act Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia that the State can use to protect the public interest. These include offences against public order or public tranquillity.

Without seeming to bemock Kennedy Sakeni, it is undoubtedly clear that much has to be done in this country to make Government representatives understand the underlying principles of the relationship between the State and an individual. The best Kennedy Sakeni could have done is to submit unambiguously why Hakainde Hichilema’s statement was a misrepresentation of fact relative to the PF government’s performance. If this, he could not do, then he could have requested that his Party’s spokesperson issues a statement. And not, him, a State Actor!