By Chimwemwe Mwanza
Something insignificant to the naked eye – which has a politically seismic implication happened in the week. Unprovoked and from nowhere emerged one Obvious Mwaliteta. He launched an unhinged tirade at everything in his sight. Well, even after a thorough interrogation of his remarks, it’s difficult to comprehend his waffling disguised as a media briefing.
Wagging a threatening index finger at the audience, his delivery was brute as the audience cheered him all the way amid pounding claps. Understandably so, he was speaking to an audience that for long had been victims of a repressive regime – that had conspired to make cadreism a part of our social and economic fabric.
As the briefing progressed, he accused his own government of being too accommodating to PF aligned individuals. As if not enough, he further chastised police for not effecting arrests of people linked to deaths of UPND cadres – a claim he could not back with evidence. His call for a return to a police state was carefully nuanced in the false allegation that PF cadres were running amok in public trading places.
Now, here is the tacit interpretation of Mwaliteta’s instruction to the Minister of Local Government Garry Nkombo: Go to these public trading places and kick out all traders with links to the PF. After Minister Nkombo is done kicking out PF aligned traders, Mwaliteta expects him to hand these sites to UPND cadres. Astonishing right? How is it possible that a party apparatchik can muster such gusto to issue such instructions to Ministers – in this new dawn regime for that matter?
Not only was he inciting police to start making arbitrary arrests of citizens but Mwaliteta is openly advocating for a return to vigilantism. This makes mockery to the UPND’s stand against retribution and vindictiveness. Osayibala, most of these cadres in bus stations and markets have no political affiliation, they simply wear party regalia to protect their businesses from extortionists. It might not be surprising that the PF cadres or traders in Mwaliteta’s sight have already swapped PF regalia for the red berets and overalls thus shifted their allegiances to the UPND – same old wine but in a new bottle to make it sound simple.
Back to Mwaliteta’s briefing. While it is tempting to dismiss this as an isolated ranting by an overly exuberant cadre, Mwaliteta is not an ordinary party card-carrying member. He is the UPND’s Lusaka provincial chairperson and serves in the party’s National Management Committee. Therefore, his proximity to the top UPND brass and by extention to the President magnifies his views. And optics come into play here.
The fact that there has been a loud silence from the UPND leadership regarding this episode makes for an interesting observation. Could it be that Mwaliteta’s ramblings were sound bites of similar but much larger conversations taking place in the UPND circles? Maybe not but it’s possible.
On the flipside, it’s easy to share Mwaliteta’s pain, frustration, and anger. He is a victim of injustice and was incarcerated on trumped up charges. He served nearly half a year in prison simply for standing up to electoral malfeasance. This ordeal projected him as a political martyr and elevated his moral standing in the political fraternity. That he abhors corruption is well documented which is why he quit PF to join the UPND.
At the height of PF’s feast, it was unheard off to walk away from the dinner table but Mwaliteta did the unthinkable and left the then governing party – demonstrating that he was not in politics to loot but serve. His behaviour over the weekend amounted to a backflip.
And this press briefing? It was ill advised to say the least. It’s chopped off some of his hard-earned credibility but most of all, he wasted his time directing his fury at the wrong people – the marketeers and street vendors alike. There might well be a possibility that some of these traders that he is chastising today woke up in the wee hours of the morning of the 12th of August 2021 to cast their vote in favour of his party.
Just a reminder that Zambia’s descent to a police state was not instant but was gradual. And it began with ranking party officials directing and controlling matters of governance – just like the instructions that Mwaliteta is issuing. Seeing people in handcuffs and being led to prison is good for cameras and should only excite narcists but what good does it serve the country if these same people are then able to walk out on Nolles or acquittals a year later? Leave administration of justice matters to law enforcement agencies.
And No politician should be allowed to breed anarchy or force violence on Zambians, it’s unnecessary. Don’t we as people have more pressing matters that the UPND faithful can look at than focusing on irritating distractions? Mwaliteta is better advised to revisit history. Osayibala, the likes of Paul Moonga, Kennedy Kamba and one Jay Jay Banda – just to mention a few – once yielded enormous power beyond the reach of the state security apparatus.
Where are they today?
The only thing this author supports is Kabwe Warriors and Liverpool. He remains nothing but a patriot. For now, he is no longer taking feedback.