By Kapya Kaoma
HH’s biggest political enemy is himself–his erratic rants only play into PF political traps than advance his message. Of course, freedom of expression is a democratic right, but when you’re running for the highest office, sometimes it pays to be silent!
Following his visit to the ECZ offices to protest unfair enforcement of the COVID-19 informed suspension of political campaign rallies that favored the PF over UPND, on June 10, 2021, Lusaka Times quoted HH saying, “Come rain, come sunshine, there will be a change of Government on 12th August. Change is written everywhere… Chapwa! Kabiye! Longa!” He then added, “… from now onwards, we will not obey unlawful instructions.” Since uttering these words, the UPND suffered two major blows with huge political implications.
First, the COVID-19 third wave is now a national pandemic and HH can’t underplay it. The pandemic demands that all politicians work towards protecting Zambians from spreading the virus. This is our Patriotic duty. If HH reverses cause, he will be viewed as unprincipled and erratic; confirming the usual “under-five” moniker. With little tack, the HH team should have investigated the basis of the ECZ COVID-19 ruling. After establishing it was based on science and projected trends, HH should have shown leadership by arguing that PF upholds the ECZ law to safeguard the health of the nation. Sadly he blew an important political opportunity to reclaim presidential position from Lungu.
Second, in the case brought by UPND challenging the suspension of campaign rallies, the Court ruled in favor of the ECZ. The UPND had sued the ECZ to determine the legality of the law, and was awaiting Court ruling. Without knowing the Court ruling, HH declared his willingness to break the “unjust law”, which unfortunately for the UPND, the Court ruled constitutional and legal.
The PF administration now awaits HH to willingly and knowingly break the law, as COVID-19 rages and deaths increase. If HH does not, his image suffers as a coward and loser who can’t be trusted on his word. If he goes ahead, he will be arrested, and termed heartless and inhumane. In short, HH has boxed himself–Solomon wisdom would have helped–there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
Besides by stating, “we will not obey unlawful instructions, ” HH advocated for the philosophy of civil disobedience–an established form of protest against injustice. The ethics of civil disobedience, however, does not exempt one from the penalty of disobeying unjust laws. Rather, one accepts to pay the cost as an act of protesting the injustice. In this case, it means accepting to be locked up or to suffer ECZ penalties consistent with breaking its rules.
To some extent, HH seems misguided. From Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr to Desmond Tutu, civil disobedience has been employed to move policy but not in electoral campaigns. The UPND is not the only political party in this election. Without other parties joining his civil disobedience campaign, his actions will be dismissed as lawlessness. Moreover, like the PF, UPND is simply a single entity on the ballot. Both PF and UPND could be disqualified from contesting, but the election would still go ahead. In other words, disobeying the law would only harm HH chances of participating in the election. Once in jail, he may call on his followers to boycott the election, but that won’t change a thing. Ask KK–it happened in 1996.
Strategists exist for this reason–excellent candidates die in people’s minds due to lack of vision. Nobody denies HH’s frustration with the double standard of law enforcement–the opposition is subjected to higher scrutiny than the Party in power. This has been the case since our return to democratic politics. When UNIP was in power, Chiluba cried aloud and promised to apply the law equally. The moment he tested power, he terrorised Zambians and even shot at former President Kaunda. As Minister in the MMD government, Sata knew the game very well. After forming the PF, he became the victim of his own ghost. He cried aloud, and promised reform. The truth? The Zambia police became the PF Police; only that Zambians pay them.
Sadly it is this culture that we are faced with–Lungu may appear neutral about the issue, but the truth is the PF is in power and benefits from the power of the incumbent. The heads of law enforcement agencies are all appointed by Lungu, thus they serve the Big man. Should HH win, the first thing he would do is to appoint his own boys to kiss his boots. So which foolish person wants to lose his job come August 12?
As an opposition candidate, HH has known this since 2006. Sadly, he has not found a good strategist to help negotiate the terrains of this political culture. Are rants the way out of this mess?
HH, silence is a good strategy too.