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 fa├žade. 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

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.