By Kapya Kaoma
The HH administration’s authorization of mining in the pristine Lower Zambezi National Park despite the President’s 2014 pledge to stop it once in office only confirms one thing–the man lacks a sense of human decency, integrity and ubuntu. Whatever commitment HH made while in opposition evaporated the day he won the election. Among his worshipers, questioning his genuineness or sincerity is considered as foolishness. In the Ballyuniverse, a god can lie a billion times, and worshipers will respond, “Bally will fix it!” In the real world, however, such political noirs have real national consequences. Copper mining will not only pollute the Lower Zambezi, and displace the poor people, but it will also transform the entire landscape of the area with overwhelming consequences for both humanity and nonhumans alike.
The President’s indecency and lies are putting his allies in moral conundrum. Just as civil society leaders are starting to speak out, the approval of this project puts Tonga Chiefs in a big moral dilemma. Will they speak out for the people and the natural world or join Bally worshipers in shouting “Bally will fix it,” as if history exists not? In February 2014, Tonga Chiefs followed HH’s opposition and strongly condemned the PF government’s attempts to legalize mining in the area which they characterized as ; “the pride [of] the people of Southern Province… This is another fallen (sic) project by the PF; we shall not support it as it will destroy our tradition. That national park has a true meaning for the people of Southern Province and Western Zambia. We cannot compromise with our tradition.”? Now that the UPND government has given a go ahead, will the same traditional authorities oppose it? I don’t think so.
The dilemma of Tonga Chiefs is due to President Hichilema’s chameleon politics. As an Environmentalist, I foolishly thought HH meant his words when on January 26, 2014, he pledged to halt the project once in power. As soon as he put on those white gloves, and walked into Plot 1, I realized that HH has not an iota of integrity–chameleon politics is what defines him. Trust him at your own foolishness; call him a conman, he will walk with his tail high. Call him a god of lies, he won’t put his tail between his legs. Call him a liar in Chief, he will smile as if you just called him Jesus, the Son of God. Integrity, decency, truth and shame, this man possesses not. He self-crushed US Vice President Kamara Harris’s office, but claimed Biden invited him. He flew into South Africa for his book tour (only that poor Zambians paid for it), but lied that he was on a two day working visit with the South African government until the host nation exposed his lies. You may add lies about the DRC, Malawi, Glasgow and Dubai trips. Who doesn’t know that exploiting the office of the Presidency for personal gain is corruption, but Bally worshipers? And HH knows their intellectual capabilities are too complex to decipher truth from lies–so no matter how much he lies and will lie, like zombies, they are programmed to bellow, “Bally Will Fix It;” even if it means the destruction of the pristine Lower Zambezi. For when it comes to goats (dollars), the Chimbwi has no shame, integrity, ubuntu or decency.
I did my doctoral field research in that region. I fell in love with the area and I strongly believe the people of Lower Zambezi deserve compensation for the damages and socio-political and anthropological insults endured during and after the construction of the Kariba Dam. The mining of Uranium and now Copper (both hard minerals) would worsen anthropological insults and humiliation on humans, and increase habitat disintegration. Thus Green Economy and Environment Minister, Collins Nzovu’s ignorant claim that “strict” mining measures will be employed in the mining process ignores the fact that human displacements and habitat disintegration occur the moment the area is open to mining. Moreover, mining and National Parks are not bedfellows. Mining activities and pollution will poison the area and cause ecological devastating problems to both local people and nonhumans alike.
Unfortunately, it is “the way it is,” to use Lucky Dube’s song. How many Gwembe Tongas raised their voices for HH? Now that he got what he wanted, he has rewarded them with the same curse that their ancestors suffered from colonialists in the 1950s during the construction of the Kariba Dam. For their ancestral plight, Hakainde and UPND politicians pretend not to know. For what are the memories of shame and disparagement to those whose mansions in Lusaka speak of modernity more than the ancestral Tonga graves on which those mining companies will trump daily to the joy of President HH and his cronies? Maybe it is time dwellers of Lower Zambezi realized that not every Tonga is their brother, and not every non-Tonga is their enemy–again to paraphrase Dube’s Song, “My brother, My Enemy.” And with the Tonga Chiefs among Bally worshipers, it is the way it is.
I can only pray that this time around, people will be given enough time to relocate. As for animals, we don’t need “operation Noah” this time around. The government and the mining company must come up with a transparent plan of relocating animals from the area to avoid the chaos that ensued when the dam was closed. Animals must be protected just as the poor people.
It is Ballycountry–our votes have consequences!