By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda
As I continue to reflect on the 49th Independence Day, I notice the prevalence of the “unity of the camera”, a mirage that disappears as soon as you step away from the “enemy” you were shaking hands with! I also realise that there are many “independences” around: independence of the mind, of judges, of wives, of your children, of the youth, of NGOs, of religion, of ethnic groups, etc, etc. Thus we may severally have been experiencing fleeting mirages of unity but now we must all make an effort to focus on which “independence” is relevant on this occasion of the 49th Independence Day.
On this second reflection I focus on contentious issues that have to do with citizens’ rights and freedoms as enshrined in the current Republican Constitution that continue to be abrogated and generally ignored. The PF record is abysmal with regard to the Rule of Law. There has been harassment and tampering with the rights of citizens, especially those that have to do with freedom of assembly, free speech as well as the independence of the judiciary. Such abuse by those in authority is what must become treason today!
The law of treason in its present form has maintained its colonial character and purpose and is archaic, contradictory and irrelevant. Therefore it is not reasonably justifiable in our democratic dispensation. Essentially it was designed to prevent citizens from expressing their strong sentiments against the ruling regime. Such a law is anathema to citizens and is a hindrance to the on-going independence journey and subtracts from the quest for unity.
Look at how ridiculous and contradictory this law is today. Before our independence battles, while this law was in full force under the Colonial Power, our Founding Fathers ignored it, actively denounced and challenged the colonial regime and succeeded. Simply put, they committed treason against Her Majesty the Queen! In short we gained our Independence by committing treason – without that action prior to 1964, there would not have been the 49th Independence Day to commemorate! But after assuming power they maintained the very laws that were designed to derail and to stall the independence march of the late 50s and onwards!
Wind forward to 1972 – Dr Kaunda’s regime decreed the establishment of Zambia as a One Party State. Under that decree it was an offence to form or belong to a political party other than UNIP; it was an offence to hold an opinion that contradicted that of the Ruling Party. I classify the imposition of the One Party State as a treasonable act; but its removal from our statute books was the most important and heroic achievement of the MMD. What is happening in our country today, under the PF which is mentored by former President Dr Kaunda, is sending worrying signals about possible re-introduction of that era. The spectre of Hitler or Idi Amin is hovering over the horizon. Dr Kaunda, the architect of the One Party State, appears to be co-President or the lead Consultant for President Sata; so we have a reason to be apprehensive. We do not want to go back to detentions without trial.
To put this apprehension in perspective I refer to some parts of the Zambian Penal Code that deal with sedition. The definition of ‘seditious intention’ is so wide that any form of political sensitisation and even election campaigns qualify to be classified as sedition. There are phrases such as “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government; to raise discontent or disaffection among the people of Zambia; to incite resistance, either active or passive, or disobedience to any law or the administration thereof” (as CSOs are presently doing with regard to the Constitution-making process). Workers are not spared as under Section 92 the President may invoke statutory powers against a union and designate a boycott if he so judges by specifying any action he deems fit to control the situation. These sections in their full effect contradict the spirit and letter of the current Republican Constitution.
I therefore urge the people of Zambia to prevail on the PF Government to expunge from our statute books the treason offence and all related derivatives of treason such as sedition. Instead what must be treasonable is to get onto office by telling lies and fostering deception as this is a way of preventing voters from ushering in a government of their choice!
It cannot be treasonable to complain against or criticise the Government. Those who get into public office by telling lies in order to win an election and who, once they get into power, abuse the laws that they have sworn to defend and protect ought to be the ones charged with treason. Even when citizens, in their anger, shout and “insult” as they march and demonstrate there are other laws that can properly deal with such conduct.
Our Founding Fathers did more than let out empty invective: they destroyed bridges, schools and telecommunications facilities; they burnt government institutions; they cut off designated areas to prevent Government forces from accessing the areas by blocking them with logs and rocks; they even undressed in public (pornography) to emphasise their helplessness and disapproval of the presence of a detested foreign power. What could be more treasonable than that? But the joke is that that treason ushered in our independence. If it is true, as declared by Dr Kaunda last week, that President Sata was a Freedom Fighter, then he must surely be aware of these activities which led to our independence. Let him release the Barotse activists forthwith and ‘deport’ TREASON back to England where it is hardly heard of today!
[17TH NOVEMBER 2013]