By: Anthony Bwalya – UPND Member
Modern coup d’etat are no longer promulgated and executed by dissident groups against legitimately elected governments.
Modern coup d’etat are a pure creation of governments thin on popular public sentiment but intent on holding on to power. In the process, they hijack and use all methods of subversion to undermine democratic principles and practices in order to tilt the balance and outcome of an election in their favor.
Just like slavery, the face of modern-day coup d’etat against legitimate governments, duly elected by the people, has invariably evolved and transformed into much more subtle, deadly forms – often difficult to pick up on.
Today, we have a PF government that has held hostage all instruments and institutions of democratic governance, through the use of intimidation, bribery and extortion in a quest to undermine the outcome of elections at every level, everywhere across the country – from Sesheke to Roan, from Bahati to Chilanga and now CHILUBI.
The January 2019 report into voting patterns was unequivocally clear in its indictment of the PF and its leadership around the abuse of public resources and institutions for their own benefit during elections.
The report cited specific cases of abuse of government vehicles by PF officials and Ministers, the abuse of state institutions such as the police, for carrying out illegal orders under the colonial, draconian Public Order Act in order to bar members of the opposition political fraternity room to campaign and engage the public freely. The same report is damning in its characterization of the use of violence, bribery, and extortion by the PF as a means to intimidate and buy off electorates ahead of elections.
The report also makes very specific reference to the PF’s unhindered abuse of the national broadcaster – ZNBC, for purposes of disseminating lies, propaganda and malicious innuendo against the opposition, while denying opposition political players equal access to the same media platform for purposes of sending out progressive messages of change and reform.
There are also reported and thoroughly documented accounts of PF operatives intimidating election observers in key polling jurisdictions across Lusaka and Copperbelt to undermine the process of monitoring the counting and verification of elections results at the polling station level.
Now, in all of these instances, no gunshots were fired; nor was there an actual shed of blood on a mass scale.
And now, we have unverified revelations of religious ritualism as having played a pivotal role in the outcome of a named general election.
Yet in all totality, what took place in 2016 was a classic coup d’etat against the collective will of the people. It must be noted, that occurrences of this sort also undermines the collective will of genuine supporters of the PF because they are denied an opportunity to see what their vote is truly worth because it is diluted by gross manipulation of process, public resources and personnel; and ultimately the disregard of all constitutional and democratic principles.
Today, we have a government that denies citizens pension benefits while it vehemently promotes, perpetuates, defends and shields grand political corruption by a handful of individuals relating to several billions of US dollars.
We have a government that is failing to deliver quality local healthcare and education while politicians and their families continue to enjoy the benefits of expensive private healthcare and education abroad, all paid for by the poor people of this country. And while majority Zambians are overtaxed, we have a government that perpetuates inequality by exempting public officials from paying their fair share of taxes, as well as continuing to apportion large sways of land to themselves in ecologically sensitive forests while excluding poor Zambians from accessing land.
Now, the good news is that Zambians have largely awakened to the reality of the torment of the sufferings we are collectively enduring, and we are largely in agreement that at the heart of all of this, has been a monumental failure of political leadership – with those holding the instruments of power only interested in exercising such power for the benefit of themselves, their families and business associates.
In 2021, our collective resolve must be to put an end to systematic dictatorship and restore to and for the benefit of the people, the power of a free and fair ballot.