The outright condemnations of Hakainde Hichilema (HH) published in the Lusaka Times on September 2, 2017 under the heading, “HH condemned for denouncing the Judiciary while in South Africa” need challenging.
Among others, ten institutions and individuals have flashed negative profiling of HH before the readers. These are: Monica Kanjimana who is executive director at the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue, Emmanuel Mwamba who is Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Alex Ng’oma tripling as lecturer, researcher and analyst at the University of Zambia, Boniface Chembe who is executive director at Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Chimfwembe Mwenge serving as Foundation for Democratic Process executive director, Patriotic Front media director Sunday Chanda, PF member Edwin Lifwekelo, Former UPND vice-president Canisius Banda, New Congress Party president Peter Chanda, and “MMD” spokesperson Raphael Nakacinda.
The named persons are important leaders in their various institutions. What they choose to say can either build or destroy Zambia. They can either inform and help the Zambian public to have right perspectives on important governance challenges of our time or misinform the Zambian public and fuel ambiguities. Ambiguities are like a double-edged sword. They perpetuate impunity on the part of self-serving leaders and confuse citizens that become paralyzed by careless throwing of words in a discourse. A close look at some of the terms used to condemn HH reveals a deliberate effort to paint HH as a black sheep in the Zambian political family. It is peculiar that those that may be considered as Zambia’s critical leaders see something odd about what HH said while in South Africa. Would this apparent subjectivity explain the maze Zambia finds herself at such a critical time that demands pragmatic leadership in all institutions? Could it be that many leaders are ruffled by the man’s no-nonsense, logical approach to reasoning, sharing of his experiences and the reasons he shares them with the world?
Monica Kanjimana is quoted as having said:
“It’s very sad that Mr. Hichilema decided to go abroad to denounce the Judiciary instead of airing his grievances through established channels in Zambia. We are very disappointed that the opposition leader, who was barely three days ago at church promising to dialogue and promote reconciliation, decided to go to another country to say the opposite. We are strongly opposed to his behaviour of disparaging state institutions, especially using international media platforms. Our leaders should learn to use home-grown solutions for their problems. Mr. Hichilema should have quietly confided in various stakeholders here in Zambia before going abroad. He must have confidence in our state institutions.”
As executive director at the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue Monica should demonstrate better communication skills. As chief executive officer for an organization promoting interparty dialogue she is expected to take a pre-emptive stance when commenting on matters that need dialogue. HH is her potential client in the all-important national dialogue and reconciliation. How will condemning HH give him confidence in her institution? Does Monica have the necessary emotional intelligence that would make her effective in resolving divisive elements in our political arena? Why should criticizing the Zambian judiciary anywhere in the world make Monica sad?
Like Raphael Nakachinda who said Hichilema has exhibited high levels of political immaturity by disparaging State institutions in foreign land, why is Monica (and Raphael) opposed to HH disapproval of state institutions? What is wrong in responding to questions raised by the international media?
One of the characteristics of emotional intelligence is empathy. Has Monica ever put herself in HH’s shoes? Is she aware that the police (a state institution) went to his private property without a permit and forced their way on the premises, damaged property, and brutalized HH, his wife, children and relatives? Does she ever imagine herself being incarcerated for 127 days under inhuman conditions over unattainable trumped up charge of treason? Monica must be alive to the presidential election petition that has never been heard by the Constitutional Court (a state institution) because of what I think is an illegal technicality? Does Monica expect HH to praise what many Zambians think are dysfunctional and paralyzed state institutions? How does the CEO of an important organization twist facts? Where is the evidence to the effect that HH said something opposite to what he said at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Church, “promising dialogue and promoting reconciliation”?
Out of the nine cited as commentators that took exception to remarks made by the UPND leader while in South Africa four used the word patriotic in its various forms (patriotism, unpatriotic) and three have mentioned HH tarnishing Zambia’s image abroad, speaking ill of Zambia, and discrediting the country. They all chose to use ambiguous words to achieve their partisan interests, deliberately being “economical” on truth.
Being patriotic in this context means “having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country”. A country can be defined as a region that is identified as a distinct national entity in political geography”. For those that take exception to HH’s remarks they are, in effect, saying HH is not devoted to and does not vigorously support Zambia. Such a position is laughable. How does anyone profile in such a way a person that exemplifies passion for a better Zambia, Africa, and the world? Is commitment to ensuring that Zambia stops anyone from practicing dictatorship not being devoted to and supporting Zambia? Is desiring institutional reforms such as the police not being patriotic? In his address HH said that he remained indebted to the people of his country and that “our country does not need guns or mighty men with guns but it needs leadership…that will realize that God hates injustices. This is patriotism.
HH’s address in South Africa on 31st August 2017 was in the context of building democracy not only in Zambia but in the region and on the continent of Africa. He gave examples of injustices committed in Zambia and urged neighbouring countries not to watch the injustices because what affects Zambia affects all. A summary of his speech includes the following:
- His brutal arrest, torture and vandalizing of his property by over 200 police officers on 10th and 11th April 2017 and subsequent incarceration under inhuman conditions.
- He pointed out that Zambia “is undergoing very difficult times, where citizens cannot fully stand to talk and say this is the Zambia we want.”
- Breakdown in the rule of law which needs urgent attention by all well-meaning bodies.
- His arrest because of disputing elections through the courts of law.
- He talked about the need for an independent judiciary that will operate freely. He referred to contradictory rulings by the Constitutional Court on the hearing of the presidential petition.
- He talked about the maiming of UPND members for wearing their party regalia and the suppression of freedom of the press (including closure of media houses), assembly, association, and speech.
Reviewing the speech and listening to video recordings one hardly sees how HH tarnished Zambia’s image, spoke ill of Zambia or discredited the country.
Making such assertions is failing to differentiate between Zambia (the country) and Zambia’s institutions? As Elias Munshya rightly pointed out when responding to Emmanuel Mwamba, it is the duty of citizens to talk well of their country but it is not their duty to speak well of their governments. Governments must earn respect of citizens by doing what is morally and legally right.
By Mapanza H Nkwilimba