“The slogan Bally will fix it,” suggests HH and UPND will change Zambia’s sociopolitical and economic culture. But this assumption ignores the historical basis of our political and economic systems.
Our political foundation is undemocratic–save the songs of respect for human rights when one is in opposition. In our past 56 years of independence, we have developed amnesia to our politicians’ promises of respect for human rights, freedoms of expression, and accountability once in power.
We may respect the founding president Kenneth Kaunda, but he ruled with an iron fist. He criticized colonial rule for political assassinations and imprisonment of those who questioned it. Kaunda’s promise of freedom in independent Zambia remained a dream for masses. In reality, those who sought to dethrone him from the helm of power rotted in jails, lost their jobs and in most cases died mysteriously.
Kaunda employed colonial-like intimidations of political opponents and the public at large. I lived through his leadership–his OPs were deadly. But he did not end there. He changed the constitution many times to keep himself in power. He undemocratically declared Zambia a one party state and arrested those who challenged him. As we shouted then, “Kumulu ni Lesa, Panshi ni Kaunda!” ( In heaven the ruler is God, on earth the ruler is Kaunda!) Machiavelli advice to the Prince was lived out under the Kaunda regime–even his childhood friend Simon Kapwepwe was not spared. Kaunda was omnipotent Prince. He ruled as a god.
Then came the reign of FTJ. To some extent Kunda’s silencing of political opponents made Chiluba. Who did not shout “The Hour has come?” Even religious leaders were carried by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. Like Kaunda, Chiluba presented himself as a Democrat who will ensure the freedoms once denied under the colonial and the Kaunda regime. Once in power, however, Chiluba ruled as a corrupt devil on the one hand, and a bible yielding born again Christian on the contrary. Many Pentecostal pastors even wanted him ordained–didn’t he declare Zambia a Christian nation to be ruled by biblical principles? Chiluba was not only corrupt, he arrested and tortured political opponents among them President Kaunda and Dean Namulya Mung’omba. Moreover, Chiluba did not only rob the nation of millions of dollars, but also endorsed extreme torture of citizens. Under his leadership the University of Zambia students were maimed and forced to sleep in sewage overflows. He also changed the constitution to stop Kaunda from challenging him. But then came his unsuccessful bid for the third term. Those who watched and supported his diabolical leadership like Edith Nawakwi, Michael Sata and Godfrey Miyanda became the victims of the very devil they created. To the disappointment of MMD cadres like Michael Sata, Chiluba reversed cause on the third term bid and handpicked Levy Mwanawasa as his successor. This forced Sata to form his Patriotic Front. Like Chiluba and Kaunda before him, Mwanawasa started his own constitutional review. Sadly he did not live to see it. It failed in parliament under Rupiah Banda.
Our problem is not the party in power, but the colonial foundation on which our polity is based
As opposition leader, Sata promised Zambians a people driven constitution. Sadly it turned out to be the PF document. Despite many protests, the PF driven constitution became the law of the land. Due to the cut and paste nature of the PF driven constitution, the Lungu administration called for Bill 10–the bill that will strengthen the Christian nation “identity” among many things. Due to the biting economic mess, many Zambians want change.
The Bally phenomenon has potential to send many PF cadres to prison. Not so fast. HH and HIS UPND won’t be different from other regimes. Our problem is not the party in power, but the colonial foundation on which our polity is based; the president is the almighty Prince. Should HH win the 2021 elections by divine intervention, he will start his own constitutional review process to protect his own interests as he has done in his party. In short, he will add to the list of despots who have ruled Zambia.
Who does not like power? Ask Kaunda and Banda. If you can communicate with the dead, ask Chiluba, Mwanawasa and Sata. We may shout “Bally will fix it” to mean “Bally will fix us.”
I pray for the best, but it will take a miracle for anyone to sacrifice unlimited powers!
By Rev. Kapya Kaoma