By Prof. Michelo Hansungule
Recent by-elections in Sesheke in Western Province like previous elections have quite clearly demonstrated that Edgar Lungu suffers from serious Napoleonic fear and this is bad, very bad for Zambians.
Have you noticed that president Lungu has a terrible habit of deploying security forces and his party members masquerading as security forces armed with live ammunition to protect him and his political party or to force his policies into the throats of poor people?
This is a disturbing development for Zambia which until the PF came to power was globally known to be peaceful oasis in a troubled region. Edgar Lungu’s illegal ascendancy to power has brought Zambia to a brink it has never been known to be. Have you asked yourself why Edgar Lungu so easily mobilises security forces and deploys them in missions the constitution does not contemplate?
At Lusaka town centre market, I found a young man who in an angry voice swore against PF for the cruel manner they bundled old women and men who were vending outside the market during the cholera outbreak. He said the sight of these old women forcibly bundled in military vehicles by heavily armed security forces has haunted him to this day. As he spoke, he spat on the ground, a demonstration of his deep anger. He asked, ‘could there not have been other ways of clearing the vendors than the high handed use of military force?’
Slowly, we have seen the militarisation of Zambian society. If it does not rake the deployment of security forces, then armed PF cadres are deployed. Elections have been militarised. What we have seen in Sesheke is certainly not an isolated incident. Participation in elections either as party member, official or just ordinary citizen has become very dangerous.
This is despite participation being a human right at both domestic and international law applicable to Zambia. Politics in Zambia has become the most dangerous game. Stupid chaps go to an election campaign with loaded guns, how more foolish can man be? How do you take a loaded gun or a gun for that matter to an election campaign where there are not just adults but children, mothers with children on their backs, persons with disability, old people and unarmed crowds? Is this sane? This is a mad government, to use small words.
Yet, what does the Constitution say on this? What does the constitution and law say about rights and elections in particular? First, the preamble to the Constitution quite clearly states, inter alia, the express commitment of the Zambian people to:
‘UPHOLD the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person’ Preamble commits Zambians including government to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance’
But when you see the way Zambians especially those who oppose the government are treated, is their ‘democracy’ or ‘good governance’, tell me? The past few months I was in Lusaka and all I saw everywhere if Edgar Lungu’s T-shirts and chitenge on the backs and bodies of citizens. I asked why there was no opposition regalia, was told it was dangerous to be seen wearing opposition regalia on the streets. I was told many Zambian public officials who are perceived to belong to opposition by their ethnic background have been forcibly retired in the public interest, dismissed or subjected to harsh conditions.
With regards to elections, the constitution is unusually loud and eloquent in guiding us how we should administer the elections. For instance, in article 45 (1), it says:
‘ The electoral systems provided for in Article 47 for the election of President, Member of Parliament or councillor shall ensure— (a) that citizens are free to exercise their political rights…………;
Is this simple wording difficult to understand? We all know the meaning of the historical word ‘freedom’ and what it means to us.
The Constitution has proclaimed for us the ‘freedom to exercise our political rights to contest any of these positions if we choose to i.e. president, MP or councillor, and to support these and campaign for them if need be, but is it like this in practice? Ws the opposition free to exercise their political rights in Sesheke or in other parts of the country where by-elections were held?
In the same clause, the constitution goes further to boldly state that ‘elections are free and fair’. More particularly, the constitution provides that ‘elections are free from violence, intimidation and corruption (sic). Freedom from violence, intimidation and corruption are guaranteed yet to people in Sesheke it sounds like music. When the constitution guarantees ‘freedom from violence’, in effect it bans the carrying of guns let alone reckless use of guns especially in civilian areas. In an ideal world therefore using this document as baseline, there should be no state or ruling party (organs with capacity to destroy peace) sponsored violence at elections in particular and other occasions in general.
Interestingly, the Constitution also provides in article 50 that ‘A political party and a candidate contesting an election shall have access to the media, especially during election campaigns’.
If you define ‘media’ to include ‘public media’ which run on taxes from citizens, you should laugh at the clause as inordinately naïve. Can you imagine the public print and electronic media giving equal coverage to opponents of government? This would be dreaming.
These guns Edgar Lungu is deploying in elections are disturbing. We had Kaunda for 28 years in power most of those under one party system, yet he never deployed guns to election campaigns. If Kaunda was that power hungry, he would easily have resorted to guns to keep power after he lost the 1991 elections, he never did. After Kaunda, we had Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda and even Michael Sata, we never saw this militarisation of society we see today.
Earlier, I have argued that Edgar Lungu suffers from Napoleonic fear, he does. Napoleonic fear is fear by someone who hates being seen to be weak. Hence he easily deploys security forces to create perception among the public that he is a strong fearless leader.
Have you asked yourself why he often runs in hastily arranged marathons with officials in suits panting, why does he do that? He does it to prove that he is well and not sick, has energy to run, all which is very stupid. You don’t have to show people you can run, do you?
Since local people and opposition are usually not armed, interesting question why security forces and ruling party militias are armed at political party campaigns? Who do they fear, fear them so much they must get armed? In a rural area like Sesheke who do they fear?
In order to protect their lives, I call on Zambians especially those who are fighting for freedom, liberties and democracy to consider arming themselves. Should be necessary for Zambians to arm themselves because security forces mandated to protect them in fact become their enemies especially during elections. Sad as it may be, appears this is the only way for citizens to protect themselves. Sad as it sounds, nevertheless Zambians should consider taking up arms for their and their families’ protection. This is to counter rapidly rising militarisation of society and consequent disproportionate use of force by security forces and PF militia at the behest of Edgar Lungu and his officials. There must be a way to counter these bandits. What kind of people take armed men to villages, are we in eastern Congo or some war zone? It is time Zambians woke up and protected themselves.