SAME DIFFERENCE – MY 2017 COMMENT ON ATTENDING NATIONAL EVENTS!
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 22nd October 2017]
INTRODUCTORY/CONTEXT NOTE: On 22nd October 2017, after I had prepared a statement on the Independence Day Celebrations in Zambia due on 24th October 2017, I recalled that I had written twice on the same topic. Part 1 of 30th October 2013 and titled “My Independence Reflections Part 1: The Farcical Independence Ritual” commented on the predictable perennial ritual of lambasting those who did not attend, labelling them unpatriotic. The second statement of 17th November 2013 and titled “My Independence Reflections Part 2: No More Treason In Zambia” was also about the “patriots” chastising the “unpatriotic Zambians” who did not attend such national events and described them as such. Last year (24th October 2016) President Lungu, during his State House national luncheon, upped the attacks and declared that those who did not attend are NOT Zambians! Rather than write a fresh article I decided to reproduce the previous two as food for thought and to jolt Zambians to begin pondering “why do we not learn from our past deeds?” We seem to have a very steep Learning Curve or simply refuse to learn. Because my article coincided with the Memorial of late President Sata on 30th October, whose name was mentioned, I decided to withhold publication. But now the Solwezi presidential threat on the Judges has spurred me on to re-publish my “flash backs” in preparation for a counter attack; please forgive me as there is no affront to the Sata family but merely recording a historical fact that the statements were published.
FLASH BACK 1
MY INDEPENDENCE REFLECTIONS PART 1: THE FARCICAL INDEPENDENCE DAY RITUAL!
[By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda – 30th October 2013]
Once again we have had another tired ritual to perform, NOT Independence Day but predictable Independence Day quarrels! It is this that has compelled me to comment. The only thing that is fresh about Independence Day is that 24th October 2013 heralded our 49 years of independence, but nothing new. So why do Zambians yearly accept this acrimonious and deceptive “national debate” on who attended or did not attend the celebration? Such criticisms are designed to sweep under the carpet or disguise contentious national issues by merry-making.
On Monday 21st October 2013 the Times of Zambia carried a picture of some prominent but DISPARATE adult politicians on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Lusaka. The picture showed those in power, those who have left power but not completely and those struggling to get into power. It sent conflicting messages, interpreted according to the eye of the beholder. But I always stick to the old cliché that a picture can tell a lie! And that picture told a very big lie – the alleged unity of those pictured and those who attended the Cathedral prayers! Politicians who did not attend were labelled unpatriotic. Those in authority were almost at the point of arresting the ‘offenders’ for being absent without leave (AWOL in military parlance). Actually it is not an offence not to attend independence celebrations; if it were a crime there would be no need for the State to send out invitations as is done at such occasions. An invitation invites two responses: accepting or declining the invitation. That is why there is usually an accompanying note stating either ‘RSVP’ which is a French abbreviation for ‘PLEASE REPLY’ or simply ‘REGRETS ONLY’. There is thus no need for name-calling or stigmatisation; one has either to attend or not attend. To vilify those who choose not to attend such functions is the cheapest hypocrisy. It is a double standard, especially when said by those who refuse to hold dialogue with other political leaders!
I thus call upon right-thinking Zambians not to be duped by populist political sentiments but to discard the BUFI suit and put on the armour of truth. Look at how this innocent day has created a “national” controversy, just because one Hakainde Hichilema expressed his opinion and elected NOT to attend the ceremony which President Sata had not been attending when he was in opposition ranks. All hell broke loose, from the highest rooftops, and from the holy steps of the Cathedral. The Times of Zambia picture showed those adult politicians holding “loving” hands and appearing to be united. But why are Zambians deceived by such pictures and sentiments? The answer is because that is the mind of many Zambians; they seem to be ready and willing to be deceived. In fact if you want to win elections in Zambia, tell a lot of lies!
But at 49 it is time to say no to all BUFI politics. That picture is meant to show unity in Zambia when there is none; Zambians must say no to unity of and for the camera. Some of us have been calling on the President to address the people or even call for a political indaba, particularly of party leaders. He has rejected or ignored that. The state of the nation today is one of strife, trial and tribulation, fear, intimidation, abuse of power and prevalent abject poverty. Many Zambians are fast becoming refugees or foreigners in their own land. There is unbridled political violence and other forms of harassment. How can violence create unity and harmony? How can lies bring people together?
That duplicitous Cathedral picture is a coded message and instruction to Dr Kaunda that he was a witness to the fake unity at the steps of the Cathedral and that he must now prevail on his protégé, President Michael Sata, to arrange for a genuine meeting of political party leaders where, hopefully, they will emerge and shake hands and exchange serious independence greetings and shout in unison “free at last to assemble and demonstrate and appear regularly on ZNBC television and radio without let or hindrance”!
To celebrate means to make merry and enjoy. I am afraid I had no reason to celebrate Independence Day because I am not happy with the management of my country by the PF servants who have overthrown the employers (treason) and are refusing to listen to serious grievances and contentious issues. Instead I have used the occasion to reflect on the PF’s failure to keep its election promises and their failure to unite us and defend our independence and freedoms as envisaged by our Founding Fathers when they chose to successfully challenge the Colonial Government. Let this 49 year landmark be the last time we hear childish screams about those who did not attend so-called national events.
[30TH OCTOBER 2013]
POSTSCRIPT 22ND OCTOBER 2017: what a prophetic mirror four years ago; it seems nothing has been learnt four years later – at State House on 24th October 2017 a prominent Senior Citizen and some opposition party leaders castigated those who did not attend this year’s event!
FLASH BACK 2
MY INDEPENDENCE REFLECTIONS PART 2: NO MORE TREASON IN ZAMBIA!
[By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda – 17th November 2013]
As I continue to reflect on the 49th Independence Day, I notice the prevalence of the “unity of the camera”, a mirage that disappears as soon as you step away from the “enemy” you were shaking hands with! I also realise that there are many “independences” around: independence of the mind, of judges, of wives, of your children, of the youth, of NGOs, of religion, of ethnic groups, etc, etc. Thus we may severally have been experiencing fleeting mirages of unity but now we must all make an effort to focus on which “independence” is relevant on this occasion of the 49th Independence Day.
On this second reflection I focus on contentious issues that have to do with citizens’ rights and freedoms as enshrined in the current Republican Constitution that continue to be abrogated and generally ignored. The PF record is abysmal with regard to the Rule of Law. There has been harassment and tampering with the rights of citizens, especially those that have to do with freedom of assembly, free speech as well as the independence of the judiciary. Such abuse by those in authority is what must become treason today!
The law of treason in its present form has maintained its colonial character and purpose and is archaic, contradictory and irrelevant. Therefore it is not reasonably justifiable in our democratic dispensation. Essentially it was designed to prevent citizens from expressing their strong sentiments against the ruling regime. Such a law is anathema to citizens and is a hindrance to the on-going independence journey and subtracts from the quest for unity.
Look at how ridiculous and contradictory this law is today. Before our independence battles, while this law was in full force under the Colonial Power, our Founding Fathers ignored it, actively denounced and challenged the colonial regime and succeeded. Simply put, they committed treason against Her Majesty the Queen’s establishment in Zambia! In short we gained our Independence by committing treason – without that action prior to 1964, there would not have been the 49th Independence Day to commemorate! But after assuming power our leaders maintained the very laws that were designed to derail and to stall the independence march of the late 50s and onwards!
Wind forward to 1972 – Dr Kaunda’s regime decreed the establishment of Zambia as a One Party State. Under that decree it was an offence to form or belong to a political party other than UNIP; it was an offence to hold an opinion that contradicted that of the Ruling Party. I classify the imposition of the One Party State as a treasonable act; but its removal from our statute books was the most important and heroic achievement of the MMD. What is happening in our country today, under the PF which is mentored by former President Dr Kaunda, is sending worrying signals about possible re-introduction of that era. The spectre of Hitler or Idi Amin is hovering over the horizon. Dr Kaunda, the architect of the One Party State, appears to be co-President or the lead Consultant for President Sata; so we have a reason to be apprehensive. We do not want to go back to detentions without trial!
To put this apprehension in perspective I refer to some parts of the Zambian Penal Code that deal with sedition. The definition of ‘seditious intention’ is so wide that any form of political sensitisation and even election campaigns qualify to be classified as sedition. There are phrases such as “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government; to raise discontent or disaffection among the people of Zambia; to incite resistance, either active or passive, or disobedience to any law or the administration thereof” (as CSOs are presently doing with regard to the Constitution-making process). Workers are not spared as under Section 92 the President may invoke statutory powers against a union and designate a boycott if he so judges by specifying any action he deems fit to control the situation (persons found wanting are liable to imprisonment for at least six months). These sections in their full effect contradict the spirit and letter of the current Republican Constitution.
I therefore urge the people of Zambia to prevail on the PF Government to expunge from our statute books the treason offence and all related derivatives of treason such as sedition. Instead what must be treasonable is to get onto office by telling lies and fostering deception as this is a way of preventing voters from ushering in a government of their choice!
It cannot be treasonable to complain against or criticise the Government. Those who get into public office by telling lies in order to win an election and who, once they get into power, abuse the laws that they have sworn to defend and protect ought to be the ones charged with treason. Even when citizens, in their anger, shout and “insult” as they march and demonstrate there are other laws that can properly deal with such conduct.
Our Founding Fathers did more than let out empty invectives: they destroyed bridges, schools and telecommunications facilities; they burnt government institutions; they cut off designated areas to prevent Government forces from accessing the areas by blocking them with logs and rocks; they even undressed in public (pornography) to emphasise their helplessness and disapproval of the presence of a detested foreign power. What could be more treasonable than that? But the joke is that that treason ushered in our independence. If it is true, as declared by Dr Kaunda last week, that President Sata was a Freedom Fighter, then he must surely be aware of these activities which led to our independence. Let him release the Barotse activists forthwith and ‘deport’ TREASON back to England where it is hardly heard of today!
[17TH NOVEMBER 2013]
Postscript 22ND October 2017: This is my second Reflection on Zambia’s Independence Day published in 2013. Believe it or not, four years later in 2017 we actually have a treason prosecution in Zambia, though aborted through a nolle prosequi!