Honking and the quest for social change

The scene at Manda hill Foot Bridge was chaotic. The Police had stopped two vehicles that were honking loudly and incessantly. And without a known cause!Lusaka_-_Manda_Hill_Shopping_Centre

The two 4 X 4 stood out because they were the only ones causing public nuisance on this road.

The occupants were women! As soon as police stopped them and pulled them aside, they showed signs of disregarding lawful instructions and actually attempted to flee!

However, the Police were ready for a showdown. The motorbikes brought traffic to a halt and ensured that the two vehicles were impounded. The women frantically began to make phone calls – another offense when you are driving!

At Lusaka Central Police, the two traffic offenders introduced themselves as Members of Parliament for Mandevu and Munali Constituencies! It was Hon. Jean Kapata and Hon. Mumbi Phiri!

Mrs Josephine C. Mumbi Phiri is not new to controversy. She was beaten for her rude remarks outside Parliament (outside the debating chamber) by Kawambwa Member of Parliament, Elizabeth Chitika-Muolobeka.

Parliament also disciplined her and fined her K250, 000.00 for attacking her fellow MPs for passing and giving themselves ‘too much money’ (gratuity) while on a program on Muvi television. She collected the gratuity too!

She is a devout Catholic. She rose to ‘prominence’ in 2005 when her son perished in the Kawambwa disaster in which 28 pupils from Kawambwa Secondary School died in truck accident.

The State decided to burry all the 28 near the scene of the accident. But Mumbi Phiri refused that her son be buried in Kawambwa and with the help of the Catholic Church repatriated the remains of her son to Lusaka for burial.

For Jean Kapata, she is a nurse by profession and practice. Recently victims of a PF abduction Sam Zulu and Mubanga Chileshe testified in court that Jean Kapata proposed that their legs be chopped off for ‘holding a press conference’ against PF leader Michael Sata.

Kapata witnessed the brutal beatings of Sam Zulu and Mubanga Chileshe and went to a backroom to a fetch an Iron Bar which was however promptly taken away by Paul Moonga (PF Lusaka province chairperson).

At the police station, the duo told the police that there was a car ahead that blocked traffic hence their honking! The Police would have none of the nonsense! It was clear that the two MPs were participating in civil disobedience activities called by the 18 NGOs and the illegality of their action was dawning upon them.

The MPs were charged with traffic offenses together with other seven motorists.

Kapata and Mumbi became riotous! They refused to be arrested! They also denied the charges preferred on them. Traffic offenses attract fine on admission of guilt. However in the event that an accused person denies the charge, he is arrested charged and taken to court.

The duo chose to sit outside claiming the Police station was too dirty for them.

Officers called their superiors to brief them of the ‘valuable’ suspects and their riotous behaviour. The directives were simple. ‘’No one is above the law. Like Frederick Chiluba they were protesting against, they were not above the Law. Enforce the law!’’

At this stage the two MPs were enjoying their own drama with Given Lubinda Member of Parliament for Kabwata and some members of the 18 NGOs joining them.

But the drama was short-lived! The police bundled the two MPs in the female police cells. And reality dawned upon the MPs. Within minutes, Jean Kapata said that her blood pressure had shot up.  She also demanded for food for her diabetic condition! Mumbi asked for her medicine from the car.

The Police would have none of the comedy! They shut the door!

The two MPs case illustrates the futility of those civil disobedience campaigns in Zambia!

How can you bring about social change while refusing to suffer any of the inconveniences and sacrifices that come with a revolution?

How can you bring about social and political change whilst seated in the comforts of your air-conditioned car, while sipping that epitome of urban luxury – bottled water in a container that costs more than the contents?!

Who would not hoot or honk in that environment if it would further the cause of social change? Because any other demands such as attending a rally in sweltering heat, or marching or gathering  might attract the dreaded anti- riot police team on you and that is clearly out of question!

If honking does provide an effective anti-dote for the guilty we carry for not doing more for this country including VOTING, then honking we shall!

And one journalist epitomises the behaviour of a few elite. He advocates for change that he himself is not ready to carry out. He speaks strongly in a revolutionary manner but lives his life like a ‘hot-bloodied’ Capitalist.

And the slightest threat of arrest, the journalist quickly runs into an embassy or seeks shelter at an Ambassador’s residence leaving his juniors to face the vagaries of the law alone.

THE 18 NGOs

The leaders have been assessing the activities they embarked on. There is confusion in the camp!

Some leaders feel cheated!

Senior Citizen had promised to buy 3000 ‘Vuvuzela’s’, 10,000 T-shirts, 3000 whistles and ‘petty cash’ to organisations to hire minibuses, taxis and private vehicles to honk during the hours of the honking activities!

And none of these promises have been fulfilled nor have the materials been made available!

The crook that the senior citizen  is, he hopes that the momentum will gather without money! The Senior Citizen knows the disaffection against the MMD in urban areas is so strong that it does not need money to galvanise, but requires only a mere spark.

But his fellow leaders are waiting for the promises he made. How will they go ahead to form another strong lobby organisation if there is trickery and fraud from the inception?! The Senior Citizen now insists the money he got from ‘donors’ is meant for his Project in his village.

And there is a setback. Organisations with greater credibility and stronger voices are missing. The Law Association of Zambia, the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) (although 3 Catholic NGOs form part of the 18), and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) have expressed reservations to join the new body owing to their early experiences where the OASIS Forum was hijacked by a few.

At their review meeting at Transparency International offices on October 5th 2009, the NGO leaders felt strongly that the activities have taken off ‘successfully’ and they should soldier on.

Many felt that the Chiluba Case was a ‘cause for Justice’ and that initiators such as Senior Citizen and their private agendas were irrelevant at this stage.

They stated that the Chiluba case could help them galvanise the people around the organisation and will help launch it for anti-government activities. They encouraged themselves to support actions that will make Zambians ‘appropriate the cause’ as theirs.

Some questioned the NGOs’ alliance with the PF/UPND as it was easily exposing their intentions. However others felt that the relationship was positive and that political parties held people-based infrastructure that could be used for rallies, demonstration and other forms of protests.

They also agreed that ‘callers’ to radio programs should be ‘empowered’ to ensure that a darker picture is portrayed against government and that its decision not appeal the Chiluba case was ridiculous! (There is a Forum of callers that besiege radio stations masquerading as ‘’Zambians’’! These include ‘Imbuwa’ calling from his shop in Chilenje, ‘Proud’ from his shop at Garden Market, ‘Mark’ from Munali, ‘Lloyd’ and other callers in ‘Cloud’, ‘Banda’ and others from ‘Lusaka’.

But some were still sceptical. If honking was a traffic offense, it would not be proper for organisation to pursue a ‘good’ agenda if they were using illegal methods! Others also felt that since Lusaka lawyer, Kelvin Haangandu had taken a petition to the High Court to review the decision of the DPP and compel him to appeal, it would be prudent to support such an action. However they resolved that public pressure should still be brought against government and even if the matter is court, ‘’no one will notice the contempt!’’.

The team also resolved to send a team to the Inspector General of Police Francis Kabonde to help ‘resolve’ the impasse. The meeting with the IG should be sued to assure the police that their activities were ‘not designed to bring down a legitimate government’

At their meeting with the IG, the leaders agreed to use other methods other than honking and whistling. They are expected to now call off the honking and whistling. However the leaders also persuaded the IG to drop charges against Mumbi Phiri and Jean Kapata. Kabonde (IG) made no commitment to drop the charges.

CONCLUSION

The NGOs are dismayed at the ‘level’ of infiltration in their ranks.

They NGOs also ought to be careful for a simple reason that many such as Senior Citizen will attempt to use them to pursue private agendas.

The NGOs should recognise that President Rupiah Banda’s government is in the process of consolidating power from Mwanawasa’s regime to his own and is transitional in nature. Banda is also trying to consolidate power in the MMD and faces pockets of internal revolt from the likes of George Mpombo, and Ng’andu Magande. He also faces constant plots and plans against him from the PF/UPND pact.

In this environment, his security organs will be sensitive to the type of criticism being given. The organs will also ensure that the criticism and consequent activities should not threaten the stability of Banda’s government.

So when NGOs pursue political agendas that should naturally be pursued by political parties, they risk being treated as such and their actions will be judged by those political standards.

Editor’s note: this analysis was sent to us by one of our readers. It does not in anyway represent the views of the Watchdog

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