Politically motivated murders. Ritual murders. Then gassing and summary executions–we burn police posts and suspects alive. Meanwhile, the PF suspects the UPND, while UPND believes it is the PF. Come 2021, more and more blood on our streets, while politicians double their wealth!
The biblical book of Judges speaks today as it did then: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We lack both religious and political leadership. We have self-serving politicians driven by lawless cadres. Our politics is blood-soaked; it remains a capital crime to self-identify as PF in UPND strongholds just it is to belong to UPND in PF strongholds. As for religious leaders, we see injustice as justice as long as politicians give blood-money to enhance our coffers.
Yet no sane person can celebrate the recent shameful events–they speak volumes of our moral decay. Our politicians live on human blood–power means forcing others to agree with you or face the wrath of cadres in repulsive attires. The police and courts enhance injustice–they are only answerable to the justice of the Corruptor in Chief. If you oppose them, they will kill you. If lucky, they will break your bones.
We have the Minister of religious affairs. She has never spoken against torture of suspects, which is a crime under international law. Under Rev. Sumaili’s ethical guidance, torture is a sacred police code. Whereas “innocent until proven guilty” is the frame of justice, in our Christian nation, “you are guilty until proven innocent,”–to borrow President Sata’s words on Kaunda’s arrest under Chiluba.
That police officers publicly brutalize and kill citizens is the reason for the assaults and killings of suspected gassing individuals. People see the police as corrupt and in bed with gassers and rightly so. We have no confidence in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the entire police force. Communities are thus employing citizen arrests with verdicts of summary executions; kill them before you are the next. If the police won’t act, then we will. And as Proverbs 22:8 says, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity!” Zambia, we are here.
The First Lady’s breakdown on the victims of gassing was called crocodile tears–I don’t think so. No mother can see the sufferings of victims of gassing, as well as the lifeless burnt bodies of suspects on our streets without shedding tears! We have lost the sacred norms of ubuntu. If burning rats or dogs alive is anathema and inhumane, how can we watch fellow human beings burn to death on our streets? O ubuntu, where art thou?
My discussion of policing with my brother and his neighbor comes to mind. He was robbed by armed robbers and they cut his hand and went away with everything. When I visited him, ZNBC aired the arrest of suspected maize thieves. They were physically tortured and forced to roll in stagnant waters on camera without clothes with guns pointed at them. I protested against such brutality, but my brother saw it as promoting “bad human rights.” When the neighbor entered, he asked her to comment on the treatment of suspects. “They are even lucky. If l caught them,” she said, “I would put burning tyres around their necks.” To my surprise, both are very committed Christians. They did not, however, see the injustice of summary executions.
But this culture did not come from nowhere–we tamed it. We saw it under the UNIP administration, then MMD cried foul. When they got power, police brutality increased. The PF promised to end it. Did they? Well the truth is, brutality has worsened. As a self-declared government in waiting, the opposition UPND has promised to end it. But telling by the violent gassing protests in its strongholds, we can only hope.
We are reaping the fruits of political brutality. Gassing knows no tribe or political party. The PF and UPND cadres are both perpetrators and victims of the same violence they tamed. But this crisis speaks to what is to come; we will turn against our neighbors and the police will be powerless unless we wake up–we are not immune to genocide–it always begin with dehumanizing the suspects. We are not far from it.
President Lungu distanced his party from gassing–no government can destroy its people to get at a political opponent. Under his watch, however, innocent people are beaten, students shot at and cadres killed, while PF criminals roam the streets with heads high. We cannot justify mob-justice, but it is a direct result of the cadre-driven policing promoted by the PF regime.
But Lungu is not alone. HH has called on his cadres to protect themselves. Today they see themselves as the police with the power to stage roadblocks and search every car to weed their communities of suspected gassers. As 2021 approaches, all it takes is calling your political opponent a gasser and the mob will its job. The time bomb of brutality is slowly exploding before our own eyes. The trending slogan of “if you kill HH you have to kill all UPND members” is pregnant with violence. No one wishes evil of another person, but the Rwanda genocide was ignited by the death of the President. What happens if Lungu dies in an accident, will PF cadres start a war against UPND or vice versa?
The ethical question is not who is behind it, but what led to this, and what can be done for people to regain their trust of the police and their leaders. We should not depend on arrested individuals to tell the whole story–after all most of the testimonies will come out of torture–that is the way it is.
We must accept that our toxic politics is behind this development and relearn the values of ubuntu. But we must also face the hard truth–we are a violent nation covered in fake Christian identity. Truth is an intrinsic and inherent good. It has power to inform and reform human values. Until we grow to see every person as a sacred image of God, and agree to disagree in love and patriotism, our future is covered in more blood! The FBI, Scotland Yard and prayers won’t stop the violence–we must choose the way of peace.
I believe in prayers but unlike Hon. Minister Rev. Sumaili, and Pastor Nevers Mumba, prayer is not the only answer. The people who are involved in these life-ending acts are Christians. Besides, pastor Mumba’s MMD is as violent as Rev. Sumaili’s government and HH’s UPND. Is it not time to have the hard national discourse on what constitutes ethical policing and human rights?
I pray we will take this Ash Wednesday and the sacred season of Lent to reflect on our role in creating this demonic environment.
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return!”
May God help us heal.
Rev. Kapya Kaoma