By Given Mutinta
Over three millennia ago Socrates said that, ‘an unreflected life is not worth living.’ The observation by the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Patrick Matibini that people of various cultures should respect and accommodate each other to avoid conflict which could degenerate into genocide as experienced Rwanda in 1994, is a thought worth reflecting on as a country.
From the time President Michael Sata ascended into power, we have become so xenophobic to other people’s cultures, tribes and regions. As a result, we distinguish ourselves into ‘us’ and ‘them’ by tribe or region. The classification, for example, that one is a Tonga or a Bemba, a Lozi or a Kaluvale, a Southerner or a Northerner, an Easterner or a Westerner have become our main distinguishing descriptions.
The impulses for a true metamorphosis where cultures, tribes and regions coexist have been repugnantly undermined by Sata and his allies especially the Post Newspaper. These are the people who are supposed to be the leading light in promoting both cultural tolerance and an ‘inter-cultural society’ in which interaction across cultural boundaries is the norm.
Our country is more divided than at any time in the past. The notion that different cultures, tribes and regions can work together for a common cause and destiny has been destroyed. Sata and his allies should be careful with their political schemes in wanting to stay in power. They should refrain from employing political gimmicks that are divisive in quest to ‘cement’ their political base.
Political schemes and structures that mock other tribes or regions is a recipe for genocide. It is these condescending schemes and structures that create environments in which genocide occurs. The environments generate the motives of the perpetrators and determine the nature of the victims.
Sata and his allies’ ‘naked’ tribalistic and regionalistic approach to leadership have transformed our country into a ‘multipolar society’ that will soon lose its mixed categories. This is a recipe for anarchy. Sata has undermined universalistic institutions that transcend tribal or regional divisions. The cabinet, government ministries, media houses, and others can no longer above the tribalistic and regionalistic divisions. They have been methodically politicised, tribalised and regionalised making it difficult to promote tolerance and understanding among tribes and regions.
There is a need to address the deepening tribal and regional hatred Sata and his allies are propagating. Their ‘down-to-earth’ tribalistic and regionalistic tendencies have destroyed our common ground as a nation. There is nothing that holds us together except our tribes and regions.
We have even given each other names or symbols as a way of classifying ourselves. We call Tongas ‘Bantustans’ and in response Tongas and other tribes call Bembas ‘Kolwestans’. We distinguish people by the way they live as ‘herdsmen’ or ‘thieves’; and apply them to their tribes and regions. Classification and symbolisation are human and we have lived with them for ages and have never caused anarchy. However, today, the agenda driving our classification and symbolisation is malicious. It is aimed at dehumanising other tribes and regions.
When the Post Newspaper classify Tongas as ‘Bantustans’, an offensive symbolisation, it is combined with extreme hatred and forced upon unwilling Tongas. It was the classification and symbolisation such as ‘Bantustans’ during apartheid regime in South Africa that made Whites find it easy to massacre black people ‘Bantustans’ as they were perceived to be less human. It was classification and symbolisation such as ‘cockroaches’ combined with hatred promoted by a radio station that instigated genocide in Rwanda.
The Post Newspaper has been constantly promulgating a diabolic discourse against Tongas as ‘Bantustans’. It is incontrovertible that its classification and symbolisation of Tongas as ‘Bantustans’ is combined with hatred. As a result, tribes and regions are fuming with hatred against each other. The level of detestation against each other is growing deeper every day and very soon the Post Newspaper will get what they have been unceasingly singing for. Sorry to say, there is nothing happening on the ground to combat the tribal and regional revulsion as we have all contentedly embraced the ideology of ‘ostrichism’ by burying our heads in the sand.
Dr. Matibini said that tolerance and swift conflict resolution techniques should be employed whenever there is a potential of conflict in a society. In other words, we have a tribal and regional problem that needs to be dealt with. To combat classification and symbolisation, we should desist from pushing hate symbols.
Hate symbols such as ‘Bantustans’ or ‘Kolwestans’ should be legally prohibited because they are practically the same as hate speech. In addition, tribal and regional markings should be outlawed. However, these legal precincts will fail if not supported by popular cultural enforcement. If widely supported, however, repudiation of classification and symbolisation can prevent anarchy.
The consequence of symbolisation of tribes and regions is that it leads to dehumanization which influences people to find it easy to deny the humanity of other groups. What may hinder a group to exterminate another group held in contempt as ‘Bantustans’ or equated with cows simply because they rear cows, or as ‘Kolwestans’ simply because they eat monkeys?
Sata and the Post Newspaper should be reminded that dehumanization of groups of people overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. If we cannot address the current tribal and regional rumpus, then genocide referred to by Dr. Matibini is an impending crisis.
The hate propaganda by the Post Newspaper that symbolise Tongas as ‘Bantustans’ is used to vilify Tongas as a possible ‘victim tribe’. Sata and the Post Newspaper are ‘down-to-earth’ divisionists, tribalists and regionalists with an agenda aimed at enflaming hatred against Tongas. The dehumanization of other tribes or regions by extremists should be condemned.
Incitement to anarchy should not be confused with protected speech. Hate media; print, radio, televisions, and others should be shut down, and hate propaganda prohibited. ‘Fighting words’ like ‘Bantustans’ and ‘Kolwestans’ can cause carnage and should be denounced together with those propagating them.
In South Africa where they had official ‘Bantustans’, people in these areas have unique cultures and engage in agriculture enabling them to contribute in a unique to the economy. There are no reports that radio stations or print media or the so called ‘civilised people’ are reviling and inciting people against the KwaZulu, Lebowa, QwaQwa, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei, and other ‘Bantustans’ in South Africa. It is cultural xenophobia for anyone to tell other people to abandon their cultures simply because they are behaving like ‘Bantustans’.
The Tonga culture has been there from the time extending beyond the reach of our memory. Thus, it is wrong to tell Tongas to stop behaving like ‘Bantustans’. What culture should Tongas take on if they were to abandon their fulfilling culture? When did Sata or the Post Newspaper become the ‘measuring rod’ of civilisation? Where is cultural open-mindedness such that the so called civilised groups classify, symbolise and dehumanise other people?
It is dehumanisation of other groups that makes other people organise themselves formally or informally to exterminate other groups. Sata and his supporters should not be allowed to further divide our country through their dangerous tribalistic and regionalistic conspiracies.
Let us stand up against extremists and divisionists; schemers, tribalists and regionalists that can easily influence our people to turn against each other. Let us stop this abominable and diabolic propaganda against other tribes and regions. If we do not address the dehumanisation of other tribes and regions, our society will be polarised; our tribes and regions will be driven apart. We should vehemently deter hate groups broadcasting polarizing propaganda.
It is high time we addressed the tribal and regional hatred rather than wait for a time we will need external physical security protection for our people or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists should be banned.
Our silence in the midst of tribal and regional hatred is itself a preparation for genocide. The classification and symbolisation that go with confinement to regions is enough identification for genocide. Let us transcend our political ambitions and put the interest of our country first. Concern with oneself or with one’s tribe or region, especially to the exclusion and ill-treatment of others is recipe for anarchy.
We should re-examine our common ground and deal with believes we have been diffusing that make some groups appear to be less human or as ‘Bantustans’ or ‘Kolwestans’. There is enough evidence that people who fan the embers of anarchy by dividing tribes and regions are usually the first ones to deny it. They are quick to try to cover up the evidence or even intimidate witnesses. Often, they are the first ones to blame what happened on the victims and block investigations of the crimes. Countrymen and women, we have enjoyed 47 years of peace, let us be above our tribal and regional inclinations and objectively address the mayhem that is ‘brewing up’ in this country.
We should not be neutral towards the malfeasance and misdemeanour of tribal and regional hatred existing among us. If any citizen should be neutral to these evils, he or she is not fit to be a Zambian.