…a Classic Case of Mumbi Phiri Detention in Zambia
By Anthony Mukwita
More than 80 years ago, the Adolf Hitler led NAZI Germany used various legal and illegal measures to oppress, demonise, ostracise, and annihilate hapless Jews.
History records show that thousands of Jews with means tried to flee the ´Fatherland´ but mostly failed, ended up in ´death factories´ such as Auschwitz, gassed and scorched to ashes by Hitler’s ´dogs. ´ sometimes shot first or gassed then scorched.
I visited Auschwitz in Poland a few years ago as Ambassador of Zambia to Germany and Poland, I could not complete the tour of the Concentration camp because of the harrowing blood trail images left behind by the NAZI´s on a people they regarded as an enemy.
A distant second away from Nazi Germany almost 300 years ago, British settlers invaded ´Terra Australis´ aka New South Wales or New Holland now Australia.
The British slaughtered in cold blood thousands of natives known as Aboriginals without blinking an eyelid, raped their women in broad day light to steal their land in front of their families.
“The mass killings in Australia were first carried out by British soldiers, then by British police and settlers – often acting together – and later by native police, working under the command of white officers, in militia-style forces supported by colonial governments” reads a study in part.
Another study shows that there are many, “known cases of deliberate poisoning of flour (which was a staple food then in Australia like mealie-meal in Zambia) that was administered to deliberately kill Aboriginal people.”
The harrowing stories above aren’t much different or isolated to the incidents of murder of Zambians at the hands of British colonialists and their companies such as the BSAC when they sought to dig copper in the Northern Rhodesia.
The common factor about the above narratives is that, in all of them, it took years before an individual, a privileged community or a regional of continental body openly condemned the atrocities. Everyone was silent in support for the victims.
The local and international communities that have existed for years sat or stood by, wined, and dined and pondered over a solution to stop the rot as Aboriginal women got raped and South African men and women got shot down like dogs on Main Street.
The international community stood by and watched as Jews got roasted in death factories, as Aboriginal women got raped and their husbands got hunted and killed like dogs.
For those of you that maybe wondering where I am going with this as a Zambian first and a global citizen over all; guess no more:
I am talking about Ms Mumbi Phiri, a former Zambian lawmaker that has been under lock and key by the state for 179 days from February 2022 for an alleged mother case, at the time of this missive.
The law in Zambia does not allow a murder suspect to get bail or bond but it stresses that they must appear in court within the shortest period of their arrest that could be within 48 hours or a week.
It’s assumed that on arrest, the state must possess enough evidence to convict or at least give them a fair trial, but this has not been the case with Mumbi Phiri, an ailing grandmother, raising various questions regarding her continued detention.
What has raised discussion around her prolonged detention without trial to national and international media glare above many issues, is the fact that the new President of Zambia has instructed law enforcement to “not detain people (Zambians) without proper investigations.”
President Hichilema´s discourse was widely welcomed when he made it repeatedly on the heels of his election almost a year ago on 12th August because he personally had been detained for at least 127 days under similar circumstances.
Protagonists in Zambia such as main opposition leader Given Lubinda, Sean Tembo, Emmanuel Mwamba, Chilufya Tayali, Miles Sampa including ´minor´ church and rights groups have roundly and loudly condemned the lack of trial for Phiri, no one has declared her innocent—just a call for a fair trial.
The consensus has been that if the state has no evidence against Phiri and thousand others in detention, they must be released until such a time that the evidence is adduced.
Others have gone further to suggest that Phiri is a victim allegedly of the vociferous open criticism she uttered on the current leadership while they were in opposition. She is reaping what she sowed.
I am a fairly intelligent man myself, I do not have access to the facts the state have against Ms Phiri nor her lawyers but something is not right in the State of Denmark.
What concerns me the most is the loud silence of local and diplomatic voices that would normally speak bloody murder over sex, but then maybe they know more than most of us ignorant people that have not been around for a while.
I recall an adage that states that ´when good people stay silent, injustice reigns´ and that if you do not speak for your neighbour today, no one will speak for you tomorrow.
Its re-affirmed in the wisdom of Hitler sympathiser turned critic the Reverend, Martin Niemöller. Tired of atrocities and bloodletting at the hands of the Fuhrer, Niemöller said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me,” said the Reverend Niemöller
So today it maybe Ms Phiri and several other Zambians under similar circumstances as her, you stay silent.
Ask not whom the bell tolls for folks, it tolls for thee.
God gave us speech to speak for those without a voice, right or wrong, power to help the weak, not punish them.
If only law enforcement could listen to the Commander in Chief of Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema, they will hear his crystal-clear voice: “Though Shall Not Arrest and Detain without building a Case…” said President Hichilema.
Follow the President´s wisdom, free Mumbi Phiri, probe her properly and take her to trial along with anyone else in her shoes, as the President has advised. Zambia is a great country, once you cut through the political noise you will find that what divides us politically and otherwise fadeth into ether compared to what UNITES US.
I hope you now understand my reference at the top of the page to the Jews and the Aboriginals. They were both ignored like Ms Mumbi Phiri.
Allow me to close the chapter from Isaiah´s wisdom that as we pray for Ms Phiri and others in her shoes, remember that, “even youths grow tired and weary, the young stumble and fall,” But God shall always carry us on.