By Nevers Mumba
We wish to offer our opinion on the spirited submission my dear brother and colleague Fred Mmembe has made concerning the Honors given to former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Elen Sirleaf Johnson and Ernest BAI Koroma.
First of all I wish to state that in a democracy like ours, the views of Socialist party President Fred Mmembe are respected and welcome. My interest in responding, however, is because I also wish to use my constitutional liberties to comment, not necessarily on Mr Mmembe’s views but on the Investiture event of July 14th 2022 itself.
Let me start by answering some specific questions:
Did President Hichilema break any law in conferring this honor on the three?
Statutory instrument No. 3 of 2003 reads in part:
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, LEVY PATRICK MWANAWASA, SC, President of the Republic of Zambia, do hereby declare and proclaim that- (a) the First Division of the Order of the Eagle of Zambia shall be awarded to ZAMBIAN and FOREIGN HEADS OF STATE and FORMER HEADS OF STATE..”
This law therefore confirms that a president has power to endow such an honor on any former head of state from any where. Just as our own late Kenneth Kaunda was honored in various countries like Namibia to mention, but one.
The next consideration is to whether the honored three deserve what they received. Again this, is the prerogative of the President. However, it is a known fact that both Presidents Obasanjo and Koroma have played a role in Zambia’s smooth transition of power and together with President Elen Jonson stand out as champions of democracy globally. These have not only been honored in Zambia but in many other countries of the world.
The fact that they are board members of Brenthurst Foundation does not diminish their vast contributions to humanity. It’s the three that were honored and not Brenthurst Foundation.
But let us also discuss the accusation that The Brenthurst Foundation is a neo colonial organization wanting to exploit the mineral resources of Zambia, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. First I wish to declare my interest here. Although I am not a board member of Brenthurst Foundation, both Jonathan Oppenheimer and Greg Mills are good friends and colleagues of mine and I have great respect for them. My interaction with them suggests, and remains on the basis that they remain committed to helping Africa maintain working economies. This does not mean they do not have any side which may not be acceptable to some individuals. There is no perfect human being, just as there is no perfect human institution.
What is at play here is an ideological battle.
The UNIP government espoused a mixed economy and a non aligned policy. They dealt equally with both the East and the West during the Cold War. MMD moved more to the West, while PF moved to the East and embraced China as the closest partner. The UPND has warmed up to the West like MMD but still maintaining healthy relations with the East. To accuse any of the administrations of being puppets would be unfair and an insult to our dignity and intelligence as a people. To trade and do business with any block does not make you a puppet. This is where I differ with my brother Fred. Zambia is both old and intelligent enough to work with the West in order to serve our national interests. We didn’t call PF puppets of China, but we believed that China could support our infrastructural projects, and they did. UPND as the new government has continued to commission all the Chinese projects. It would be unpatriotic for UPND to say they will destroy all the projects done by Chinese “puppets.”
This week President Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia, a country that US has publicly condemned for abuse of human rights, but American interests have made this trip possible. That’s how the world works. It’s through networking and friendships created on the back of our national interests that drive global governance.
While the 2021 UPND victory falls squarely on the resolve and resilience of ZAMBIANS themselves, it is also a fact that the journey and the struggles of being in the opposition in the African set up takes you through some of the most challenging paths. Sometimes it is only on the back of similar minded friends from outside the country that you can navigate the darkest of days.
Here is the truth. Whether Brenthurst Foundation helped sponsor the UPND campaign or not, we don’t know, but what we do know is that President Hichilema knows who voted for him and his responsibility is first to the Zambian people. If he can squeeze any benefit from his relationship with the Brenthurst Foundation for Zambians, he would have served the Zambian people well. If the Brenthurst foundation chooses to invest in Zambia as a result of their connection to President Hichilema, even this will be a plus to the Zambian people. We cannot demonize investors based on our ideological differences.
President Fred Mmembe is a socialist. Socialist states will support his run for President when that time comes. If he were to win the Presidency, Socialist groups and organizations will fill Zambian Hotels. That’s how it works.
The goal should never be to undo what non- Socialist governments achieved. Successive governments must build on the gains of previous governments. That’s how you build nations.
No, there was nothing wrong in honoring the three revered former Presidents.
No, there was nothing wrong in welcoming Brenthurst Foundation to State House.
No, there was nothing wrong with President Mmembe giving solidarity to the Russians and collaborating with Socialist Countries.
We all have friends and we all have leanings. No one has a right to dictate to another their choice of friends.