By Dickson Jere
A year ago, I made my first attempt to join mainstream politics as Member of Parliament for Matero Constituency. As soon as I made my intention known, I was visited, on several occasions, by so-called security experts who wanted to school me on the need to be safe in my new political journey. Precisely, they wanted me to get a handgun as a first step of a string of security measures that I needed to put in place.
You see, guns have never been part of my life. I grew up in Matero where physical fights gave you a thump up as opposed to using weapons. Knives, screwdrivers and guns were for the weaklings. And so, I learnt how to survive on the streets with bare knuckles and hence my longtime association with boxing, judo and karate.
So, the issue of me getting a gun to protect myself from my supposedly political nemesis did not go down well. It was more of a betrayal of my Matero upbringing.
But again, I was told, I should heed the advice.
Then my mind raced back to my time in government as presidential spokesman when I had to announce the dismissal of my good friend and comrade, Hon. Solomon Musonda, MP, deputy minister of health (as he then was), for having discharged his firearm and shot a PF cadre. He argued that his life was in danger from the rival political camp and the pistol was the only protection he had. That incident abruptly ended his rising political career and as a young medical doctor.
And so, partially convinced, I applied for a gun license – after all I was entering the political arena for the first time where guns have become a necessity for safety.
Unknown to me, my uncle who is a former commissioner of police got wind of my application. Quietly, he told the police that I should only be given a license of a short-gun and not a pistol. Reasons being that I had a short temper but usually cools down within seconds. And so, he recommended, I need a gun that I cannot carry around but in the car. So much that when I am provoked, I will have to walk to the car and collect the firearm and by then I would be back to my senses!
I narrated the bureaucracy of getting a gun license to former President Rupiah Bwezani Banda. He listened attentively and asked me why I needed a gun.
He shook his head in disapproval and talked me out of it.
“I am 79 years old and I have never owned a gun in my life. Please don’t bring problems to yourself,” he advised, citing the case of Hon. Musonda as an example.
Since physically I can still take on the brawls, I gave up on that firearm.
The voice of the old man was just too convincing.
But most interesting, gun licenses are indiscriminately issued in Zambia without doing background checks on the applicants and their tempers. I am sure we know of friends with guns but have short fuses. Even the safety of the same guns – do our police inspects where the guns are be kept before a license is issued? Remember the recent case of former Defence minister George Welo Mpombo whose gun was used in a murder by his son?
For me, I was saved by uncle and police Commissioner who warned that I shouldn’t carry a pistol – based of his assessment of my character as known to him for years.
So, friends, think twice if you really need that gun!