By Dr Parkie Mbozi
IN CASE you did not know, Inspector General of police has been admonished and given ultimatums by his appointing authority, President Edgar Lungu, over the violence within the Patriotic Front, the latest of which was the fracas involving PF cadre Innocent Kalimanshi of Chawama ‘barracks’ during the function to welcome Chishimba Kambwili back to the PF on 1st May.
Earlier on December 29, 2020 Lungu gave Kanganja a six months contract, instead the usual long ones, and an ultimatum. The decision followed the shooting of Magistrate Nsama Nsama and UPND cadre Joseph Kaunda on December 23, 2020 during the unjustifiable questioning of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema over the ridiculous claim of theft of land.
In a letter to Kanganja, Lungu said, “This is to enable you to conclude the investigations into the killing of two innocent Zambians and allow you to reorganize the Police Service with a view to restoring the eroding public confidence in the services. This will form the basis for your performance appraisal for further consideration.”
On the same occasion Lungu announced changes to police command, which included dismissal of Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Bonnie Kapeso and appointment of former Copperbelt Province Commissioner of Police Charity Katanga as his replacement. Reasons for Kapeso’s dismissal were never laid bare. It is fair to agree with the perception that he paid the price for ‘disciplining’ ruling Patriotic Front (PF) cadres who had been disruptive of court proceedings and daring the police on numerous occasions, to the extent of waging of an armed ‘insurrection’ at police headquarters on 6th July 2020.
In a video that went viral prior to his dismissal, Kapeso had vowed to ‘break the legs’ of PF cadres who would turn up to disrupt court proceedings during the former health minister Chitalu Chilufya’s trial. He delivered on his promise and observers believe that he paid the price for that.
The PF intraparty violence started years ago, but it has escalated under Kanganja’s watch. In this article I advance the argument that intraparty violence has become a hot potato and embarrassing to the ruling party. Lungu, the President of the PF, and some other top leaders are now looking for a sacrificial lamb or scapegoat, someone to ‘sambila’. The Collins dictionary defines sacrificial lamb as someone who has “been blamed unfairly for something they did not do, usually in order to protect another more powerful person or group.” It is akin to scapegoat which is defined as “a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.”
Kanganja, as head of the police, comes in handy as the sacrificial lamb for PF’s violence. And, I argue, he deserves it. Why? Because he allowed the panga politics of the PF to grow even when had the instruments of power to stop it. In Bemba we say, ciku pempula ecikulya. In legal terminology, he has been an accomplice to the PF violence while on the other hand being used to exercise maximum force on, and intolerance to, constitutionally granted individual rights and freedoms, such as freedom of assembly. As I argued in another article two weeks ago, the last five years will go down in the annals of Zambia’s political history as the worst for our democracy since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1991.
The PF violence is traceable back to its formative years and has grown exponentially in sophistication over the years. One news publication once wrote: “President Sata is known to be commander of violence throughout his political career. He commandeered the infamous Chawama violence in 2001. This time around, he is watch his own cadres hacking each other. More than five PF cadres have died as a result of political violence since President Sata assumed office.”
Alliance for Better Zambia (ABZ) President Father Frank Bwalya was one of the first victims of PF violence. On 16th April 2014 Bwalya was molested at a local radio station by known PF cadres from Ndola’s Kawama compound in Ndola. The assailants poured several packets of Shake-Shake on Bwalya and beat up his younger brother. Within the same week UPND leader Hakainde Hicilema’s entourage was attacked by suspected PF cadres while he was appearing on a radio programme on Sun FM.
These PF attacks prompted MMD President Mumba to say: “We are making a demand on the police to be professional, investigate what is going on and let us know whether this government wants to govern by violence, so that we can make up our minds on how to deal with such type of a government.”
Within this period (2012) one research report concluded that “The advent of political violence as a form of mobilisation is certainly not unique, but in Zambia, the phenomenon has become particularly acute in recent years, resulting in deaths and scores of injuries during each election as hordes of young, unemployed men are paid to carouse and intimidate voters by major political parties. With a president and ruling party which appears at times to openly condone violence, many observers are worried that Zambia might not stay so peaceful for very long.”
Civil society, opposition parties, churches and other groups have repeatedly warned about the PF violence. Far back in 2012 Anti-Voters Apathy Project (AVAP) Executive Director, Richwell Mulwani, condemned the PF violence ahead of the Mansa bye-election and blamed it squarely on the PF top leadership. Within the same year, Hichilema accused the PF government of “training youth in Sudan to terrorize opponents in Zambia.” Kennedy Sakeni (remember him?), the then information minister, denied the allegation and instead Hichiema was charged with “publishing false information with the intent of causing fear and public alarm.” He was later acquitted of the charge.
Hichiema’s ‘prophecy’ has come to pass. We are now at the stage where PF ‘commanders’ in military attire (see photo) roam the streets and openly harass citizens using their self-granted “authority’. The UPND leader has since claimed vindication for his allegations and “stresses that the many occasions that the Patriotic Front has shown their militia behavior is enough for anyone to see that they are capable of shedding more blood.”
It seems that PF’s violence has become too embarrassing for some within the party’s leadership. Two days ago, Lungu’s running mate, Nkandu Luo, “advised PF members throughout the country to explain the contents of ruling party’s five year manifesto instead of engaging in political violence.” Luo counseled that “rather than focusing on Political violence PF members throughout the country need to concentrate on explaining contents of the new manifesto”, which she said “is the developmental agenda by the PF for the people.”
What started off as interparty violence was soon to be brought to the party’s own structures as infighting. The first casualty was a Crispin Menyani Zulu, a 25-year-old resident of Lusaka who was mysteriously murdered on 8th November 2012. Media reported that “Zulu had been ferried to Rufunsa for the bye-election along with approximately 65 other PF cadres. He died as a result of heavy blows to the body and head, and possibly a stab wound.”
The PF accused cadres from the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and the United Party for National Development (UPND). President Michael Sata said: “It’s tragic that the political violence by the opposition UPND and MMD, which we have been preaching against, has resulted in a loss of an innocent life. What has happened today could have been avoided if the two opposition political parties mentioned in this heinous crime had listened and at least cared for the lives of innocent citizens.”
The opposition denied the accusation and pinned the blame on the PF itself. MMD President Nevers Mumba told the media that infighting broke out amongst PF cadres over a financial disagreement when they were being paid money to share. The Post Newspaper, which was usually very pro-PF government, also reported that the PF was responsible for Zulu’s death.
The crescendo of PF’s internal violence was the forming of rival factions, akin to gangs, spearheaded by then Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba and his defence counterpart Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM). On a number of occasions the Kabimba and GBM factions engaged in a fierce battles, the cause of which was the struggle to succeed President Michael Sata. On 10th September 2013, for instance, the two factions waged running battles that resulted in the death of more than one person and several injuries. The week earlier, the two factions had “bloodied each other in an intraparty fracas that saw property at Northmead Basic School damaged while some individuals were severely wounded.”
Political activist Nason Msoni called for the arrest of Kabimba and Mwamba “for the recent intra party bloodbath that has engulfed the country.” The call fell on deaf ears. This phase of fierce factionalism seems to have ended only after Kabimba was elbowed out of the PF.
On 2nd December 2013 New Africa Magazine went to editoriase that: “Zambia’s ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), is at war with itself over who should succeed President Michael Sata in 2016. While it was an open secret that the fight for succession would arise, what took many by surprise was how soon it came and how ugly it has turned out to be.”
As the saying goes, “Violence begets violence”. The PF violence, which Kakoma kept massaging was soon to spill over his own institution. On 6th July 2020, for instance, Emmanuel Banda, popularly known as Jay Jay, and four others besieged Lusaka Central Police Station and assaulted a police officer, amid other disruptions. This was not an isolated case but one in a series of open disrespect for, and ‘capture’ of, state institutions. Jay Jay and his colleagues were ordered to pay K150 each or serve three months imprisonment if they default. Only in Zambia indeed.
In a statement, Patrick Mucheleka, the UPND Deputy Secretary General, summed it, “We are also reminded of an incident during the Sesheke bye election when PF thugs invaded a police station and attacked police officers. But instead of promoting the police officers who repelled the PF thugs, the officers were themselves hounded out of the police service.”
That marks Kanganja’s legacy. The rise and rise of PF violence will always be tied to it.
The author is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia. He is reachable on [email protected].