NUMSA’s response to the Zambian High Commissioner to South Africa Emmanuel Mwamba
13 March, 2017
‘We condemn the decline into Tyranny”
and we condemn the rapid decline into tyranny in Zambia..
We are also very familiar with the political situation in Zambia, especially just before, during and after the last national elections, in 2016.
We feel and suffer terribly, the pain of poverty, unemplyment and extreme inequalities affecting the majority of the people of Zambia. Therefore, in South Africa
To the High Commissioner, Mr. Emmanuel Mwamba, we note his request for a meeting with us. As NUMSA we cannot refuse an offer to engage, however, in his widely published letter to us he casts negative aspersions over the authenticity of our statements and doubts whether the views expressed in the statements are indeed those of NUMSA. By doing so he has exceeded his diplomatic and ambassodorial duties and strayed into the political arena to defend his political and paymaster, Mr. Lungu. We therefore see no value in meeting with him, as he would simply exploit our meeting with him for his own political purposes.
Let us first set the record straight for the Zambian High Commissioner in South Africa, Mr. Mwamba: all the statements and articles we have published are indeed the views of NUMSA. They correctly reflect the views of the union on the fast deteriorating media and other freedoms in Zambia, and indeed our views of Mr. Lungu’s government.
Further, we will implement our programme to encourage boycotts against trade with Zambia and we will galvanise international working class solidarity for the Zambian people. We will stage pickets at the embassy in South Africa, and we will encourage our partners elsewhere on the continent and overseas to do the same. And if necessary we will encourage the South African government other nations to impose sanctions on Zambia because of the subversion of democratic culture and the rise of tyranny
In our global struggles for justice, we remain always mindful of what Martin Niemöller, an outspoken priest said about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Niemöller perfectly explains why it is our revolutionary duty to defend democracy with all our might everywhere where it is threatened:
“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
It is worrying for us as NUMSA when a head of state can confidently and publicly issue death threats against one of its own citizens, as Lungu did in September 2015, in Solwezi in Zambia, against Dr Fred M’membe. M’membe is a man of integrity and his personal reputation as a journalist and champion of media freedom and workers’ rights are well documented, not only in Zambia, but around the globe.
Anywhere in the world businesses often have issues with tax. These issues can take many years to resolve. We are confident that millions of Zambians have not been fooled into beliveing that The Post Newspaper is under provisional liquidation because of tax challenges. Zambians know that The Post Newspaper is supposed to be up and running, following the decision from the Zambian Tax Tribunal, which ordered the Zambia revenue authorities to hand over all impounded assets of The Post, and return it back to the paper. This order has been contemptuously ignored by the government of Mr. Lungu.
We also know that in order to prevent The Post Newspaper from challenging and preventing its liquidation, the government has been working very hard behind the scenes to obtain ex parte court orders to destroy The Post . As we speak, another arrest warrant has been issued for Dr M’membe and his attorney!
NUMSA will not stand silent in the face of injustice, anywhere in the world. And we owe no one the duty to ask for permission to fight for human rights and dignity. We are a socialist inspired trade union and we believe in the global struggle for justice and equality.
We are well aware of Zambia’s role in the liberation of our people. We know that were it not for the solidarity shown to us as South Africans in our time of need, we would never have defeated the scourge of Apartheid. We will forever be in the debt of the Zambian people for their sacrifice on our behalf. And it is precisely that same principle which prevents us from keeping quiet in the face of unspeakable repression and gross abuse of state power by Mr. Lungu and his party, the Patriotic Front.
The bedrock of every democracy are freedoms of thought, speech and the press. Journalists and media workers should be able to operate in an environment which is free from tyranny and repression. Journalists are not praise singers. Their role is to remain independent and to highlight the suffering of the most vulnerable members of society. As NUMSA we know that self-criticism is the bedrock of Socialism. We have been critiqued by the press and sometimes it can be unpleasant. But we recognise it as an opportunity for self-reflection and analysis. As NUMSA we will never endorse or support a government which suppresses press freedom.
What we want to know as NUMSA is where are the leaders of the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions to feel the pain and heed the call of workers in Zambia? Over 2000 workers from The Post Newspaper lost their jobs last year and yet the ZCTU says nothing. President Lungu is allowed to act with impunity and abuse state resources and you are silent. Where is your revolutionary conscience comrades?
During Apartheid independent journalists lived in fear of the regime. Many were harassed, others were tortured and killed. Media workers and journalists in South Africa took on the hateful regime through their writing. Their photographs and videos told the story of the brutality of the repressive regime. They ensured that the voices of our people were heard across the continent, and carried across the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Europe and eventually the America’s. If it were it not for the work of media workers and journalists in this country, the South African struggle against apartheid brutalities would have continued.
Issued by Karl Cloete
NUMSA Deputy General Secretary