By Kapya Kaoma
President Lungu’s despicable threat uttered when addressing the Mines Unions in Kitwe that he would arrest HH after he wins the August 12 election confirmed my long-term fears—authoritarianism. He rules by decree as opposed to by law; the courts and all law enforcement agencies exist for his bidding. In the real world, the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Courts and law enforcement agencies should be up in arms opposing this unethical and Machiavellian rant from the president.
I am among those who question how the privatization exercise was carried out. Zambians need to know the truth about the whole exercise for the sake of accountability–currently very little is known. There is a need for a Commission of Inquiry into the matter so as to help ordinary people understand what really happened with the national assets. The academic explanation does not help. If President Lungu spoke about establishing an Independent Commission, and seeking answers from all those who were involved including HH, it would be a fair game. Should the Commission find out that HH committed crimes and refer those crimes to relevant authorities for prosecution after Lungu wins the elections, still that would be fair game. In short, as long as the president is not using the law to punish his political opponents, it is constitutionally fine.
What makes President Lungu’s Trump-like Machiavellian threat illegal is that it violates the Constitution of Zambia. The president has no power to arrest anybody under the Zambian Constitution for the crime of privatization of Mines. Besides, the president does not determine who should be prosecuted or let go–we are a Constitutional Democracy and not a dictatorship. Of course, those miners believed the lie, but even Lungu himself knew he was lying to them.
I have repeatedly called the justice system under President Lungu as rotten to the core and his unethical threat simply confirms it; courts don’t exist to punish political opponents but to ensure justice for all citizens. The president is not the law, or above the law; he is a citizen. But under the Lungu regime, he is the above the law. This is the reason why Kambwili and GBM were both cleared of their charges once they rejoined PF. No wonder PF cadres are allowed to beat up people, while police officers watch at will.
President Lungu should understand that winning the election is one thing, governing is another. We are living in the age of social media where political organizing is becoming more and more popular than ever. HH is President Lungu’s biggest obstacle to winning this election. As head of State, his choice of words would set the mood for how people would react to the results. His unmeasured and childlike threats may energize his base, but could easily lead to post election violence that would be too costly. HH may lose this election, but he has a following that could easily destabilize the nation. There is nothing President Lungu can do to stop HH’s supporters from ruining the nation–we don’t have enough prisons for all of them. For this reason, respect for your opponent is a Patriotic act. Unfortunately Lungu seems to think he could remote control all Zambians–the truth is bullets don’t always win the war.
Understandably President Lungu is strategically exploiting the historical pain of HH’s economic victims–the miners on the Copperbelt. But does he really need to mislead the nation? The issue of mining today is totally different from that of the 1990s. Lungu wants to assume that HH is responsible for what happened with Vedanta Resources during the the Lungu administration. There is no truth to it–the two are different and should not be linked.
Audaciously, President Lungu has the right to highlight HH’s role in the privatization of the Mines–it is a fair question. It is one question that HH’s strategists have found hard to counter. In fact he could have simply used M’membe’s line when he called HH “greedy” for his role in selling off Zambian assets, the claim even the HH team hardly failed to deflect. He could have spoken about the price of copper and how that would impact the economy and better the lives of miners. These attacks would have been just as effective–but to threaten to use the law on a political opponent is immoral, abhorrent, evil and simply uncalled for. We are a democracy and the separation of power exists for the reason. If President Lungu wants to arrest HH, let him become a police officer.