By Wynter M. Kabimba SC, ODS. Economic Front Party President
It is a part of our human nature that we often desire to hear only good things said of ourselves and those we love by others. This phenomenon also permeates our political and civic culture and some members of society would defend it with their breath.
The comments by Laura Miti this week about what she thought who Tutwa Ngulube was in life attracted condemnation from some quarters characterising her as heartless and insensitive. Some referred to her remarks as anathema to Zambian culture and tradition. Others went beyond culture and respect for the departed from our midst and held her view as being against Christian values and beliefs. Let me stop here and clear my position from the outset. I am not in any way trying to justify the morality or otherwise of Laura’s comments whatsoever. Instead, I am canvassing Laura’s right to free speech as guaranteed under our Constitution.
In doing so I am borrowing from the French philosopher Voltaire, who says that “The right to free speech is more important than the content of the speech.’’
Although we have come to embrace in our daily parlance the phase “truth be told,’’ our culture and its attendant customs and traditions still reflect deep-seated timidity towards that which is true in our daily experiences as families, communities and ultimately as a nation. This is because truth by itself can be annoying, disappointing and even devoid of human emotions. The argument that Christians should only praise those departed cannot go without challenge. In the Book of Job (8:2-4), it is Job’s friend Bildad who says to him that “If your sons sinned against Him, He dispatched them for their transgressions.’’
We cannot build a democratic society with the clarion call that we must all subscribe to the same views or those held by the majority as being the absolute truth.
It is not uncommon to find experiences in life when the majority has voted tyrants and liars into public office. Leaders who have caused pain and injustice to those who voted for them to come and serve them with dignity and honour. We are not very far from this situation in our country today with the so-called 2.8 million who voted UPND in 2021. It is the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei who said that “Without freedom of speech, there is no modern world, just a barbaric one.’’ We should strive not to be part of the barbaric world.
Laura Miti has at times made unprovoked comments against me, thank God not posthumously, but I still believe that she must be given space as a citizen to exercise her right to free speech without intimidation or hindrance. And such space must also be extended to every other citizen who does not want to speak or think within the realm of our culture, customs or traditions and even our Christian faith. The truth which can positively change our country may just lie with this minority. We must be wary of those who fervently want to promote and justify linear thinking to the exclusion of other divergent views.