Where are the academics and other praise singers who sang for the new dawn?
By Joseph Chirwa
The United Party for National Development (UPND) is one of the only two political parties that enjoyed support from academics and other thinkers.
The other party is the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). With the Patriotic Front (PF), the support was not as overwhelming as that enjoyed by the UPND and MMD in their ascension to power. For starters, most academics and thinkers were not sure of the PF and only few supported it between 2001 and 2011. For the MMD we can simply say that it is the biggest beneficiary of support from academics and thinkers. There was a mass revolt against Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP). Frederick Chiluba rode on the support of academics and thinkers. This is the same of President Hakainde Hichilema and UPND. Academics and thinkers sacrificed it all to see him win especially in 2021. The question is where are they now?
2. We are not career critics
A debate raged on social media when prominent estranged supporters of HH and UPND (previously anti-ECL and PF) asked very pertinent questions. The questions were very genuine from persons who are true patriots and who still have their souls intact. They asked as to where the elites in the name of thinkers, academics and others are in times of trouble. They questioned the deafening silence at the time of politics of tribe characterised by appointments based on tribe, nepotism and cronyism. They asked as to why renowned critics of the PF regime were silent when what they criticised against the PF was happening and happening at a high frequency under the UPND. They asked as to why it is now better for a region or regions to appoint themselves at the expense of others. They asked as to why police brutality is now acceptable in the eyes of those critics of the PF when the previous government did the same. They asked as to why corruption is now acceptable but under the PF it was condemned. They asked as to why the President now cannot be held accountable by academics and thinkers who have effectively been gagged or gagged themselves. In response, they were called names such as dogs and fools to mention a few. But one striking answer from one of the charlatans and praise singers caught my attention: we are not career critics. One of them added on his live Facebook feed that we shall continue to praise sing even if HH fails.
3. An educated cadre is a dangerous one
An educated cadre is a dangerous cadre. As Michael Sata once said educated people are cowards. They are opportunists. They exist in two kinds: those already appointed to positions and those awaiting appointments. Those already appointed to positions have effectively sold their souls. Very few can contradict their master. They never condemn government even when things are bad. They are gagged forever or until they are fired. Then there are those awaiting appointments. They are burning with anxiety from expectation. Each day it builds up and no appointment. Nine months since they helped the ‘new dawn’ ascend to power nothing. They are boiling and it is just a matter of time. They cannot talk now because they fear that they may lose out or be removed. Both of these types of academics and thinkers are sellouts. They are not patriotic Zambians. They either criticised ECL and the PF using tribal lenses or personal hatred as a result of them not being appointed. They have no loyalty to the flag. They are hired guns.
4. The silence continues
Some of these praise singers and goofballs masquerading as academics and thinkers are now silent because they have sold their conscious. It happened to me during the PF era. I stopped to think and I lost my conscious. I promised to be independent and never again to sell my soul to politics. I am ever inspired by the words of Ray Bradbury who once said that “I hate all politics. I don’t like either political party. One should not belong to them, one should be an individual, standing in the middle. Anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking.” I am now a liberated mind and I pray for my colleagues at local universities and in the diaspora to put Zambia first. Let us be like Sishuwa Sishuwa and speak the truth no matter how unpopular it is. Let us all be like Laura Miti who tells it as it is regardless as to whether one is in government. The truth shall set you free. Remember, all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
5. It starts small and gets bigger
The wisdom that small injustices become big must be borne by our esteemed praise team. This is how it starts. Reporting and transporting suspects to godforsaken areas. Using state machinery to kill other political parties. Threatening judicial officers in the discharge of duties. Bragging about purging those seemingly loyal to the previous regime. Presidential gatekeepers going unpunished for leaked conversations undermining the rule of law. Killing the opposition to build a one party state. Political parties are the foundation of our democracy and we need them. Henry Clay advised that “political parties serve to keep each other in check, one keenly watching the other.” It starts small then it manifests into calamity and disaster. Let us not tolerate small injustices because these will soon manifest. Let the UPND put to stop all shenanigans that made the PF being voted out of power. The arrogance that we will serve straight terms must not be repeated. It was the PF that said never UPND, remember? Where is the PF now? Where is the MMD? Where is UNIP?
6. Blind loyalty must be to God, country and family
George McGovern’s counsel may be timely to these academics and thinkers who have grown cold feet at the altar of expediency. The great American stated that “the highest patriotism is not blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plain.” The Idealist warned that “cataract is the third biggest cause of blindness. Religion and politics remain the first two.” I am not advocating for academics and thinkers to avoid politics. They must be active. They are the soul of the nation. They are the voice of reason because without them, Plato warned that one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by inferiors. That is why we need patriotic academics and thinkers to help sound the alarm and offer solutions when our servants in government bully us or betray our beliefs, faith and trust. When it comes to issues of government and the governed, we must always take sides. Eric Wiesel guided that “neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Frederick Douglass also warned that “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Wake up son of Africa. Wake up son of Zambia. Use your education to the benefit of all and not self-aggrandisement. Use that voice to speak for the voiceless because that is what education is all about. Never betray your conscious because it will haunt. The deafening silence of those critics of the previous regime is a betrayal to those people they inspired to vote for UPND and against PF. Same wrongs must be condemned equally. Remove the cataract that is making you see injustices differently. The UPND must be wary of these academics and thinkers because they are the most dangerous. Let us support this President especially that he had a popular vote and mandate. Over two million Zambians voted for him. We can only do that by being salt to the menu. By being light in times of darkness. By being a voice of reason when charlatans, goofballs and praise singers want to derail him. We can do that by offering criticism and critical thinking as academics and thinkers.
The author is an academic, author and scholar based in Kasenengwa district and Lusaka city. He attended Chipata Day Secondary School and Chizongwe Technical High School in Chipata.