By Chanda Chimba, III
Yes, finally and indeed finally the Patriotic Front, PF, government under president Michael Sata has managed to incarcerate Hakainde Hichilema the president of Zambia’s second largest opposition party the United Party for National Development, UPND. His counterparty Nevers Mumba the president of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, MMD, has already had a feel of what it is like to be in a police cell and more so remand prison. All this because there is tension in Zambia as opposition political players are being denied the opportunity to openly voice out their concerns on issues that president Sata’s government are falling short on. However Hichilema together with two legislators, Gary Nkombo for Mazabuka and Request Muntanga for Kalomo and more than thirty other UPND officials and cadres are being held in connection with the death of a PF official who died in clashes between PF and UPND supporters on Monday night in Livingstone and for promoting violence. I must say from the onset that any death is regrettable and heartfelt condolences to the family of Harrison Chanda. Most of all any form of violence must be condemned by all of us just like actions that may lead to it should.
It is quite clear that there is political tension in the country and the onus to defuse it lies squarely on one Michael Sata who is Hakainde’s president, Mumba’s president, Rupiah Banda’s president, your president, my president and indeed our president. There is far too much pressure in the bottle and the sooner some of it is released through dialogue the better. I want to believe that the call by president Sata at a State House swearing in ceremony this morning for an end to all forms of political violence in the country. Belonging to different political parties and supporting different ideologies and beliefs should not in any way make us enemies. It must be agreed that we can not all belong to the same party and believe in the same things in a multi-party dispensation. Other people’s views and aspirations must by all means be respected together with freedom to express oneself and to associate with whoever one pleases.
Now seventeen months after assuming office president Sata’s regime has only allowed one public political rally, the one held recently by Hichilema in Lusaka’s Kabwata constituency aside from the campaign rallies that have been held during by-elections. This is by far a very disastrous record for I remember very well that as an opposition leader president Sata could hold public rallies just two weeks after the presidential elections under Levy Mwanawasa’s and Rupiah Banda’s MMD administrations. With this, it is very clear that the MMD was infact more accomodating than what we have been made to put up with under the PF. But when the UPND finally broke the ice by being the first opposition political party to hold a public rally since the September 2011 elections, they were attacked by PF cadres who had gathered at the KabwataBasicSchool grounds from as early as 04:00 hours. Surely the PF cadres could not have been acting on their own, and as it turned out to be, a very senior Lusaka based PF official was named as the person who had instructed that the UPND rally be disrupted. Violent clashes ensued and it is clear who the aggressor was, the PF. But to this day no one has been brought to book for causing that mayhem inspite of names being mentioned and the Stella Libongani’s and Solomon Jere’s Zambia Police Service knowing the culprits. Is it because there was no loss of life? However, it was a sure victory for Hichilema and the UPND as all odds were defied that Sunday and the rally went ahead. History was made.
With regard to the events in Livingstone on Monday evening, I am not privy to the details of what exactly transpired but if media reports and some eye witness testimony are anything to go by, again it is clear that the UPND is not the aggressor and to label Hichilema violent and aggressive would be very unfair. Again I am not privy to the information that Charity Katanga’s officers have but they have charged the UPND president with something like inciting or promoting violence or so.
I do not know Hichilema at a personal level but having followed him as a politician I can confidently say that he is far from what he is being portrayed now. I am saying this because I have video footage of a rally he addressed in Chingola’s Chiwempala township during the run-up to the 2006 presidential elections. It is very clear in the video that PF cadres in a motorcade with loudspeakers mounted on some of the vehicles were trying by all means to disrupt the UPND rally as they kept driving back and forth in the vicinity of the rally. This was a clear violation of the electoral code of conduct and I doubt if the Electoral Commission of Zambia ever took any action against the PF. At one point UPND youths got irritated and wanted to confront their PF collegues. Hichilema is heard in the video restraining his youths and other supporters. If he hadn’t I am pretty sure it could have turned ugly.
As far as I am concerned Hichilema and others have only found themselves in a situation that could have been avoided if only we tolerated each other – PF, UPND, MMD, NAREP, UNIP, each one of us considering each other brothers and sisters. Like I stated earlier the onus is on our president Mr. Sata and the PF for which he is also president to show us the way. The PF is in the driver’s seat and it must not make us crash.