‘….The truth is they want to have access to my physical body so that they can eliminate me. Their plan is to arrest and then kill
By Prof. Michelo Hansungule
In the wake of the highly irresponsible utterances two weeks ago on privatisation and particularly Hakainde Hichilema’s alleged involvement in it, the latter posted a facebook statement to his followers and to the country outlining a plan by his opponents to kill him. This is a grave statement by the leader of the main opposition political party United Party for National Development (UPND). Coming a few months before the elections, the statement is an indictment towards bad governance in which those managing the levers of power use intolerance rather than democracy to settle political differences and illegally maintain power.
HH’s posting is not without context. Since the current government came into power, several people have lost their lives while others have been permanently maimed at the hands of trigger happy police and ruling party officials masquerading as security forces. Young people have simply had their lives cut shot merely for taking party in peaceful political campaigns or demonstrations as guaranteed them under the constitution and international law applicable to Zambia. Wearing an opposition political party T-shirt is a death sentence in Zambia. Videos are abound in which members of the public donning opposition party regalia are beaten, humiliated and made to wear ruling party regalia and to loudly praise ruling party leader’s name and party slogans in public.
Although Zambia has been known in the international community to be an oasis of peace in a region deprived of any semblance of peace, this is rapidly not so. Not long ago, we have had former ministers such as Ronald Penza, Paul Tembo and first president’ Kenneth Kaunda’s son Wezi Kaunda allegedly executed in mysterious circumstances. One of our finest Zambian lawyers Rodger Chongwe was short at during day light together with former president Kenneth Kaunda, the bullet missing Chongwe’s life by a whisker. The two had merely tried to meet their supporters at a legally constituted public assembly. We have this background even as we are praised as peaceful country. These killings were never solved and culprits found and punished which means the fellow next to you can just as well be the murderer. Failure to solve these killings has exponentially built to the current levels of impunity the country is stirring in the face.
On the African continent as a whole, politically motivated murders define the continent’s political map. Just take the example of our neighbours Zimbabwe, political opponents are routinely dealt with through state sponsored acts of terrorism. It is quite common in Zimbabwe for political opponents to disappear and their loved ones to have no opportunity to rest them. Removal of Robert Mugabe from power has not signalled anything towards peace for the ordinary Zimbabwean.
In the tiny Kingdom of Eswatin, it is a crime to belong to a political party. One of the outstanding long serving leaders of the trade union movement in that country Jan Sithole has just been reported dead. Besides leading the trade union movement for a long time against the highly intolerant system of rule by Monarchy, Jan Sithole broke history when he became the first well known political opponent to contest for membership of parliament under their individual merit system hiding under the name of his illegal party Swaziland Democratic Party (SWADEPA). Membership of this party was pan Africanist and Jan Sithole persuaded me and other pan African colleagues to join his party. Together we defiantly held workshops on human rights but also on democracy in the Kingdom. Today, Jan is no more and it is highly speculated he was poisoned during his many ‘visits’ to prison as King Mswati’s guest. Save for a few countries such as South Africa where democracy is really growing, the story is the same.
HH’s statement needs to be taken seriously. Now that elections are coming, more lives are at stake. Young men and women will once again lose their lives merely for trying to exercise their right for political association enshrined in the constitution. The current government and its supporters have demonstrated to be intolerant blood thirsty regime that have no respect for human life of opponents. Instead of arguing with opponents as expected in a democracy, they use bricks, guns and any weapon to suppress dissent during election campaigns. It is important that the public express its outrage at the use of intolerance by the ruling party against citizens. Fear and therefore failing to speak out against banditry forms of behaviour is the surest way towards confirming the country as a failed state in which no one is safe. HH’s statement is a wake-up call for all peace loving Zambians to seize the moment and protect innocent lives. We must swear that no Zambian should die due to intolerance this coming election. Zambia should be a country of all political colours and of all slogans of all the political persuasions guaranteed in the constitution. Tolerance of political party meetings, assemblies and demonstrations should chacterise our beautiful count=ry. The ruling party should be in the forefront of promoting and protecting democracy rather than suppressing it. It is important to remember that it is not a democracy if it is devoid of genuine opposition.