I am greatly troubled by President Edgar Lungu’s threats that he will “crush” members of the Patriotic Front who have dissenting views, and/or those who have reservations about the manner in which he is discharging his duties as Patriotic Front President and as President of the Republic of Zambia.
Is the President going to “crush” his political opponents personally, or is he going to engage the riff-raffs in his political party in this endeavor?
I hope the presidency has not intoxicated him to think that he can freely abuse the defence and national security organs of the government in his desire to suppress dissent and criticism within the Patriotic Front and beyond!
The defence and security organs of the government—including the Zambia Prison Service, the Zambia Police Service, the Zambia Security Intelligence Services, and the Zambia Defence Force—are non-political institutions designed to serve our beloved country and all its people.
The use of such institutions of government to silence one’s political opponents, or in any other dubious activities, would, therefore, not only be morally unacceptable but would also constitute an unconstitutional use of the institutions.
In the ensuing sections, I have cited the functions of the Zambia Defence Force and the Zambia Police Service stipulated in Articles 101 and 104 of the 1996 Republican constitution. Further, I have briefly discussed the need for our country’s armed forces to be non-partisan and apolitical in both word and deed.
The Zambia Defence Force
The functions of the Zambia Defence Force prescribed in the Republican constitution are as follows:
(a) To preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zambia;
(b) To cooperate with civilian authorities in serving communities in emergency situations and in cases of natural disasters;
(c) To foster harmony and understanding between the Zambia Defence Force and civilians; and
(d) To engage in productive activities for the development of Zambia.
The Zambia Police Service
The Zambia Police Service is mandated to perform the following functions:
(a) To protect life and property;
(b) To preserve law and order;
(c) To detect and prevent crime; and
(d) To cooperate with civilian authorities and other security organs in serving the people and the country at large.
A Civic and Moral Obligation
Zambia’s armed forces have a civic and moral duty to participate actively in maintaining peace and stability in our beloved country, and in making a positive contribution to the viability of our country’s nascent democracy.
As Edward Shils has maintained, there is a need for military officers, intelligence officers, and the civil police in our country’s armed forces to consider themselves as being part of the “technical-executive intelligentsia,” who, together with politicized intellectuals (that is, civilian leaders), should play the role of guarantor of political stability, honesty, and discipline in government.
A major requirement in performing such a pivotal role in our country’s quest for sustained peace and stability is for members of the armed forces to be apolitical and non-partisan, and for civilian leaders to have constitutionally guaranteed control over all branches of the country’s armed forces.
Therefore, Zambia, like any other peace-loving nation worldwide, needs the services of a military establishment that is administered by a cadre of men and women who are adjudged to be patriotic, apolitical, well-disciplined, and professional in character in its quest for sustained peace and stability.
However, it would be unrealistic and imprudent to expect armed forces to be apolitical and non-partisan in serving under civilian leaders in our country—and in any other country, as a matter of fact—in the absence of a system of governance which provides for peaceful removal of flagrantly corrupt, extravagant, despotic, nepotistic, and/or grossly incompetent government officials.
Once upon a time, Sigmund Freud made the following conclusion about the violent nature of humans:
“Psychoanalysis has concluded … that the primitive, savage, and evil impulses of mankind have not vanished in any individual, but continue their existence, although in repressed state … and … wait for opportunities to display their activity.”
While this could be true about our potentially aggressive nature as humans, we expect all political leaders to make an earnest effort in overcoming their primitive, savage, and evil impulses.
They need to take the lead in heeding the free advice provided in James 1:19 and Proverbs 29:11 of the Holy Bible, which I have paraphrased as follows: Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and swift in taming your temper.
In January 2015, President Lungu was given the mandate by the people of Zambia to form government with the expectation that he would serve all citizens irrespective of their political views, political affiliations, ethnic extraction, and/or religious convictions. As such, he needs to develop a thick skin, and he should realize that criticism is a necessary nuisance in politics that cannot be wished away.
So, if he cannot withstand the heat, he should stay out of the kitchen, so to speak, because threats against his critics will very likely dare them to intensify their criticism and indignation.
He should, therefore, make an effort to be adept at the arts of politics; among other things, he needs to exhibit a high level of tact and genuine respect in his dealings with political opponents and other members of society.
Besides, he needs to develop the qualities that all national leaders need to have in their arsenal of aptitudes. Such qualities include the following: emotional stability, humility, patriotism, selflessness, impartiality, patience, compassion, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, ability to think of leadership as a temporary mandate to serve the people, ability to conceive of oneself as just another mortal with limited knowledge and aptitudes, ability to make compromises with people who have dissenting views, and the ability to accept criticism and dissent as necessary evils in public life.
By the way, it is not going to be possible for us to mitigate the rampant incidence of politically motivated violence in the intermediate term given the Republican president’s aggressive and belligerent demeanor in his dealings with political opponents.
The author, Mr. Henry Kyambalesa, is a Zambian academic currently living in the City and County of Denver in the State of Colorado, USA.