By Dr Given Mutinta
The United Party for National Development (UPND) President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) on Wednesday, 31st August 2017 while addressing over hundred Democratic Alliance (DA) members of parliament in South Africa said:
“Over two hundred police officers brutally attacked us, and vandalised our residence and tortured us for no reason but later arrested us for treason, a trumped up charge which we did not commit. I was put in a solitary confinement for 8 days, I was put in a police cell smeared faeces, I was moved from prison to prison, and I was made to answer the call of nature using a bucket. Despite all this brutality and inhuman treatment that those in authority made us go through, we harbour no hatred nor bitterness, and we forgive them and we will use their brutality on us to make Zambia a safe home for all including neighbouring countries.”
These are the words of a person just about two weeks ago stepped out of jail after being detained on trumped up treason charges.
By forgiving his persecutors, HH has demonstrated beyond question the salt in him that actuates the enzyme of his benevolence and true leadership.
When the world seems to believe that some wounds unfairly inflicted on us run too deep for us to forgive and get healed, HH is deliberately expounding forgiveness towards his persecutors who brutalised and jailed him.
The nasty scene of HH’s cruel arrest really makes one wonder if his persecutors deserve his forgiveness.
How do you forgive people who brutalised you with more than two hundred armed forces at your house?
How do you forgive people who damaged your property, urinated and defecated in your house?
How do you forgive people who locked you up in a cell plastered with faeces?
How do you forgive people who dehumanised you by making you attend to the call of nature in a bucket?
It takes a conscientious character to deliberately make a decision to forgive like HH has done to his persecutors for merely disputing the 2016 election results through the courts of law.
By forgiving his persecutors, HH has demonstrated that forgiveness is an attribute of strong men and women.
If HH was weak, he would have never forgiven his persecutors, never!
Why? As human beings it is not easy to let go of deeply held negative feelings for the injustice suffered.
But here is a man showing power to recognise the unjust agony he suffered without letting that agony define him, but chose moving on with his life.
That is a permanent mark of a fully human and fully alive person and leader.
HH’s gesture of forgiveness sets him apart as a leader able to put the aspirations of the 16 million Zambians before his own.
We can intellectualise HH’s gesture of forgiveness until the sun drops on our country, however his gesture remains a challenge on the time for most of us take to forgive others in spite of being called a Christian nation.
HH is challenging us all not to allow anger to come before our forgiveness.
We need to be a people that bravely deals with unjust pain and audaciously move into forgiveness.
For HH to forgive, he has realised that the act of forgiving is an indicator of having a balanced view of his persecutors and the events that led to his persecution carried out by visionless hooligans.
It takes true leadership to forgive one’s persecutors in preference of the bigger picture of peace.
Martin Luther King Jr once said: “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”
HH’s forgiveness is an undisputable gesture of a son of the soil ready to give up the right to fight his persecutors even when he is able to organise a bloody fight.
Conventional wisdom posits that without self-discipline it is difficult to forgive others.
Self-discipline made HH not to allow the barricade most of us face with forgiveness of thinking we are weak when we forgive our persecutors.
It is not weakness to forgive others; it takes more strength to forgive than to revenge.
Staying angry is easy but HH chose a tougher but virtuous way of dealing with persecution.
It is so easy to nurture our anger for years and even get used to it, but it takes a lot of work to forgive.
For that reason, to think that HH’s forgiveness is a sign of weakness or foolishness is false because forgiveness is powerful.
However, HH’s persecutors should be cautioned not to take his forgiveness as a guarantee that he will forget or pretend as if they never brutalised and incarcerated him.
It really happened, HH was brutalised and imprisoned on fake treason charges and this experience will remain forever and should never be used as an excuse by his persecutors because they are still to blame for incarcerating him on bogus treason charges.
Never should HH’s persecutors take his forgiveness as permission to continue their unjust actions against innocent people.
Never and never does HH’s forgiveness mean that he is condoning the unjust behaviour of his persecutors either in the past or in the future unless his persecutors want to destroy this beautiful country.
It would also be ridiculous to think HH’s forgiveness is reconciliation with his persecutors.
Reconciliation between HH and his persecutors will take a separate decision some time in future when his persecutors he has forgiven show remorse for their injustices and agree to a genuine amicable truce that will include breathing new life in the police service and electoral commission of Zambia, and restore the rule of law.
Otherwise reconciliation with impenitent and unremorseful persecutors will be cosmetic and in vain.
In no ways, is HH indebted to reconcile with those that brutalised and incarcerated him if they still think they can do the same to anyone without accountability.
When all is said and done, it is inspiring to have leaders of HH’s calibre able to show that the faculty of forgiveness still has a place in our civic affairs.