Why do Zambians tolerate Chiluba?

By Hilary Mulenga

If former president Frederick Chiluba should be thankful to the Zambians, it is for their forgetfulness. Like it or not, Chiluba knows how to manipulate this weakness in Zambians for his own good. Apparently, he has managed to exploit those in the corridors of power, political parties (including the opposition), Churches and those in market places. As much as his opponents might whine about his tactics, Chiluba will always be Zambia’s “favorite” who always knows how to play his cards, thanks to the forgetfulness of Zambians.

Almost ten years ago, the late Levy Mwanawasa went to parliament and convinced MPs to remove Chiluba’s immunity. Many people who had realized the social and economic injustices done under Chiluba’s nose rejoiced and nearly deified late Mwanawasa for the rare and courageous move. 

Alas we have forgotten: Chiluba first became dear to the opposition Patriotic Front in the midst of very serious corruption allegations. Remember those days when PF stood in solidarity with him over his corruption cases. In his own words, he complained about the current ruling party in support of PF. From his own mouth came out the words, “Twachula Pafula”. This became a favorite clique against the MMD. PF sung his praises at the Airports, Courts and in other public places. Had it not been for the ascendancy of Rupiah Banda to power, Chiluba would have become a staunch PF member!

Yet when Chiluba now turns against his PF friends in search for greener pastures, everyone seems to forget what he was before. Today, the MMD cadres sing his praises. He is dear to RB who even publicly confesses that Chiluba was a damn good president during his time. Today, he can go on ZNBC TV and make divisive allegations on innocent people. Still he gets publicity and gets away with his tactics.

It is not only the political arena where Chiluba has staged this coup on the minds of Zambians. If the rumors are correct, Chiluba is a preacher who manages to get substantial audiences. For some Churches, he is not only seen as a hero but the man who Christianized the nation.  Nevertheless, those who entertain him in their Churches forget what Christianity is all about: love of God and others.

As much as one would want to respect Chiluba’s right to express himself, Zambians can only be blind to his tactics at their own peril. For Chiluba, he cannot forget that freedom goes with responsibility. What he says about others should not be for his own good or his minority but for the good of all. The very fact that he enjoys protection of the MMD and some members of some Churches, he will be always comfortable with his misdeeds.

No one has a right to judge Chiluba yet everyone should be concerned when he seems to be going astray. Yet, there is always a thin line between correcting and judging someone. As much as this author feels he is not judging him, it should be made clear that Chiluba’s misdeeds have repercussions on the populace. Zambia cannot forget that despite the peace we enjoy, there exist divisions that can be fatal if not checked in good time. If Chiluba is playing divisive games, whistle-blowers should not be afraid to put their instruments on their lips.

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