After it had been sold to the Chinese or something (not quite sure who had assumed ownership) the Jerabos used voice notes to threaten President Lungu into handing them back the Black Mountain, or else.
That “or else” was of course, the loss of support for the President’s 2021 bid. Because 2021 is front, back and centre for this presidency, the President, in his typical style, that prioritises political expedience over any other consideration, capitulated.
The Black Mountain was handed back to the Jerabos. They celebrated all over Kitwe. No the PF organised a celebration, a typically anarchical one. The return done, multiple voices begun to warn the government that the Black Mountain was a disaster waiting to happen. That safety rules were being completely ignored. Would government listen – No.
The Minister of Mines even gave an interview declaring the slug dumb very safe. Why would government ignore clear safety warnings? The answer is 2021. Well 2021 has killed over 10 young people today.
I write this to say that Zambians across board – within the PF, the opposition parties, CSOs, ordinary citizens – have to do something to arrest this obsession to stay in office beyond 2021, that is consuming President Lungu and those in his inner circle.
The point I am making is that the people close to the centre of power are failing to exercise good judgment, because they are blinded with the desire to stay where they are. If we don’t address this fixation, it will lead to more disasters against which warnings are being ignored, even today. I thought I would give some examples of trouble ahead. The list of pending disasters is long, but I will give only two:
1. First is the lawlessness and absence of consequences allowed PF cadres which ranges from anarchy on the roads to brandishing guns and pangas. The use of these cadres by senior people in the PF to carry out violence during elections. The way these cadres now use the weapons given them, but especially the sure knowledge that there will be no consequences for whatever they choose to do, to subdue ordinary citizens into a frightened mass at markets, bus stops and in the townships. They frighten even the Police, who become ineffectual wimps when cadres show up. No matter how many times citizens have complained, the PF, turns a deaf ear to the danger to law and order, and even to the national psyche, posed by party thugs. Yes, I am suggesting that President Lungu and those close to him ignore the cadre crisis they can surely see because they believe they cannot win 2021 without the threat of violence. A decision seems to have been made that cadre lawlessness will be our reality so that one Edgar Lungu can stay in office.
2. Second is the recklessness with which land and assets are being sold off. Gazzetted forests reserves are being built over with the no apparent concern for the dire environmental consequences that will have to be paid. Then there is the selling-off of priceless assets like the NRDC. There is just an unbridled desire for land and wealth among PF cadres and their leaders, a greed we cannot possibly feed. It is a greed that is not being stopped because support for 2021 can only come via patronage.
I better stop. I feel so, so sad. So angry at the young people who have died in Kitwe.
Young people allowed to be lawless in their pursuit for survival. Young people who were just tools in the pursuit for power.
They were allowed to go to their deaths with warning sirens of the danger-ahead blaring in all our ears.
Laura Miti is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Action.