By Field Ruwe
Father Bwalya is absolutely right, Zambians should start arming themselves against PF terrorists, but not with guns, spears, knobkerries, and machetes; as he seems to suggest. An eye for an eye will be catastrophic. We already have too many a beloved lost to disease and accidents. Besides, President Michael Sata is at an overwhelming advantage. All of us, proponents of democracy, should arm ourselves with courage, intelligence, alertness, tact, and strategy. We need to chart a non-violent course of action to stop President Sata’s violent party and save him a ticket to the ACJ at The Hague. Like other leaders who get drunk with power he, and those who support the unruly PF cadres, may not fully understand the consequences of their atrocities.
Are we so blind we can’t see the telltale signs of dictatorship? How can we be so gullible as to allow this to happen right before our eyes? Do we not care for our country? How can we not see that we are fast getting back to the Kaunda days—to something worse? If there is a president capable of engulfing the country into an inferno, we have him at State House. Call KK a demi-god, FTJ a thief, Mwanawasa a cabbage, and Banda a fraud, if you like; it is proper to call Sata a pyromaniac—an arsonist of democracy. He, alone, is responsible for the violent climate we find ourselves in.
President Sata’s tolerance for violence can be attributed to who is as a person; boorish, intimidating, terrorizing, impolite, indecorous, and unlettered. Throughout his political career, he has shown that respect for fellow humans means nothing to him. He applies incendiary and confrontational rhetoric as a tool of suppression and as a way to foment violence. It is no surprising that today he is presiding over the most violent ruling party in the history of our nation. As president, he is using violence for five major motives: as an intimidation apparatus; as a demonstration of toughness; as defense of his acquired power; as a device for dominance; as a concealment of his fractured past; and as a desire for eternal rule.
It is the president’s harsh rhetoric that is inflaming violent attitudes in the PF cadres, especially those inclined to behave violently in life. Let me say this, the PF hooligans who attacked and poured Chibuku (opaque beer) on Father Frank Bwalya in a failed effort to silence him, and those who stormed Bible Gospel Outreach Church of Africa in Matero and attacked members of religious and civil society organizations are some of the most dangerous criminals in our land. They are terrorists. They have a heart and eyes of a murderer. Let’s be clear here: If a PF district leader arms bloodthirsty thugs with butcher knives, pangas, machetes, and stones, and sets them on unarmed people, his intention is to commit murder. How else can such ruthless people use such lethal implements?
Please do not refer to PF terrorists as members of a “militia.” You are giving them a feel of self-importance. They are bands of unstructured and loose-knitted robotic thugs who are performing heinous crimes under orders from their district leaders with the blessing of the president. We call such people “terrorists,” and those who breed them “terrorist leaders.”
A “militia,” is a fighting force that comprises citizens of a nation that can be called to war as supplementary. In Zambia, the National Service is a militia. A militia is meant to protect a community, its territory, and laws. However, the term was tainted by Adolf Hitler and that’s perhaps why Father Bwalya and other leaders of the opposition are giving it a negative connotation to qualify the violent conduct of the president and his PF terrorists.
At the height of his reign, Adolf Hitler controlled his party’s 500,000 strong “Brown shirts” militia that used brutal violence in city streets. They were personally loyal to him and used intimidation and fear to enforce his will. His lieutenants at national, district, and branch levels unleashed the Brown Shirts on those with opposing views. They were beaten, many maimed, and some died.
After WWII, Hitler’s type of militia was adopted by dictators in East Europe, the Arab world, Asia, and South America. In Africa, totalitarian dictators such as Gaddafi (Libya), Mobutu (Zaire), Sekou Toure (Guinea), Charles Taylor (Liberia), Jean-Bedel Bokassa (Central African Republic), and Kamuzu Banda (Malawi) created their own “Brown Shirts” and committed unnecessary atrocities, and forced countless into exile. Although not to a large extent, our very own KK also created the “UNIP Youth League” led by people like William “Tekere” Banda, who beat up opponents like Simon Kapwepwe.
Sata is doing the exact same thing. He is unleashing his “Brown Shirts” on his opponents to enforce a code of silence. He feels no remorse for people who attempt to check or challenge his power. The more the opposition is harassed and hounded the better. It is a tactic dictators use to bring the entire country under their whim. Surrounded by some of the most violent people, Sata is quickly becoming despotic and vain. Today, the man who assumed power on the ladder of free speech and a democratic vote has become entrenched and impregnable, a clear indication that he craves for sole and absolute power.
The question is; how do we stop him from turning our country into a fragile state? How do we prevent a return to the Kaunda days? Is it possible to block Sata from becoming a tyrant without bloodshed? Yes, it is, and yes, we can. With nerve, personal sacrifice, good strategy, and organization skills, we can slow down his momentum and confine him to the presidential two-term mandate. We can, only if we devise a unitary non-violent strategy that shows ways of preserving democracy and impairing any dictatorial structures that may emerge out of Sata’s bag of tricks.
There are many ways to slow him down, or like they say, many ways to skin a cat. First, all opposition parties, in concert with religious leaders, human rights groups, student organizations, and democratic institutions must convene a meeting and produce a communique strongly denouncing President Sata for condoning violence and down-playing the magnitude and destructive extent of his actions. Opposition leaders must inform the president that they are aware that he is using violence to intimidate the populace into acquiescence. They must remind him that political violence is the root cause of genocide; and that he must learn from all those leaders who, in the past, have engaged in genocidal activities; they are either in prison or have perished. In the same vein they must caution him that his tactics of opposition disintegration could lead to more violence, even war.
Second, the opposition must go after his weaknesses. Let me emphasize; President Sata is not immortal. He did not fall from the sky. He is one of us. The difference is that he is our leader. We must respect him, but not fear or worship him. We must also be very careful because we all know him to be unpredictable and volatile. We either have a genius or a fraud on our hands. It has been the opinion of many people, including Fred Mmembe, that he is the latter. What is undisputed though is that Sata supports violence; that he is full of empty promises; he’s nepotistic; and he’s a divider. These are his weaknesses.
Adept progressives and outspoken opponents, such as Hakainde Hichilema, Nevers Mumba, Father Frank Bwalya, Elias Chipimo Jr, Edith Nawakwi, Muhabi Lungu, Mike Mulongoti, George Mpombo, and all those who know him must aggravate these weak points. They must bury their differences and work together. They must communicate ideas, news, and any resistance maneuvers. They must organize a walk for peace in Lusaka and the Copperbelt under the theme “Peace for All.” Using the appeal theme “If you are for peace join us,” they should call upon all peace-loving Zambians to join in the march.
In the event PF terrorists launch an attack, use cell-phones and cameras to take pictures, print them and ask those attacked (victims) and the public to identify their attackers. Let victims open dockets at the nearest police station. Have the attackers arrested NOT as PF cadres, but in their personal capacities. Take them to court and give it good press coverage. If the police refuse to act, encourage the victims to sue their attackers in civil courts, and provide them with good lawyers. Under pressure the attackers are likely to reveal their commanders. If they name a PF District Chairman, sue him in his individual capacity and label, him or her, a dangerous criminal, and send him to jail or make him pay dearly.
By staging peaceful marches, you are placing resistance of authoritarian rule directly in hands of the public—mainly the poor. The poor are the powerful. All the PF terrorists running around hacking people are doing so not because they love Sata, but because they are expecting rewards. Start targeting them and woo them to your side. How? Sata has already given the opposition an arsenal, that of removal of subsidies. Don’t lose sight of this crucial misstep. Adopt a noncooperation stance and openly counter PF leaders’ utterances on the matter and convince the poor that removal of subsidies will kill them. Release hundreds of your members to simply whisper “UNIP ya bwela” to their neighbors. Keep telling them PF is Sata’s UNIP.
Don’t give up on “Black Friday.” The Matero attack has exposed the PF as a violent party. Believe me the incident has rebounded against the president and is causing dissention. There are high-ranking peace-loving PF members who hate to be associated with any form of violence. They are beginning to squirm. Most of all, the Matero attack has fomented anger and support among the public. You can be rest assured you have a few changed hearts.
Another effective method is music. Petersen and Pilato have provided “Bufi,” the ideal song for reaching the poor. Identify some of the best rappers and singers in the country and make them compose lyrics that tell the empty promises of the incumbent and use them as rallying anthems piped through loudspeakers. Also, play them in cars, mini buses, bars, and restaurants.
There other ways. But it must be known that rattling King Cobra is not an easy task. It will require a major transformation from a constellation of parties and groups to a unified force. To a man of Sata’s clout, press releases, radio interviews, and inner-party protests are impotent gestures. You need a much bigger and stronger wave to sweep him away.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012