“A time comes when the evils of submission are obviously greater than those of resistance, when fear itself begets a sort of courage, when convulsive burst of popular rage and despair warns the tyrants not to presume too far on the patience of [citizens]”
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
On December 11, 2012 opposition MMD President Nevers Mumba and five of the opposition party MPs were detained at a prison on the Copperbelt after their bail process was delayed at a magistrate court following their arrest on their way to carry out their legitimate party activities.
The police, who carried a Gestapo type of operation, seized the opposition leaders midway on the road to visit chief Nkana the day earlier.
The politically motivated arrest sparked a protest walk out from parliament by opposition MPs who were also stopped from driving to state house by a heavy presence of police.Mumba said his arrest and detention was an insult to democracy and mentioned that he weeps for Zambia.
Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) President James Banda is worried that government has continued to ignore legal advice on the governance issues that have far reaching legal consequences.
However, government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni responded to the arrest by defending government that it is not involved in the work of the police. He insisted that politicians should learn that they need to get a police permit any time they wanted to conduct meetings.
And reacting to the LAZ position, Sakeni said government will get some advice and ignore some for a purpose.
State house press aide George Chellah was, as usual, hypocritical saying: President Michael Sata will not respond to cases of people being arrested because those affected need to address such matters with the police.
He trivialised the MPs protest to state house saying it is not surprising that the legislators attempted to demonstrate to state house because MMD President Nevers Mumba was the first to act in the same manner.
The detention of Dr Mumba comes barely two days after MMD vice president for political Michael Kaingu in company with with another leader in the opposition party Mwansa Mbulakulima had their tour of markets curtailed by police.
And earlier this year, opposition UPND President Hakainde Hichilema was blocked on several occasions from holding a rally in Kanyama area, with police withdrawing a permit that they had earlier issued for the meeting.
Police deputy Inspector General, Solomon Jere, who was Lusaka provincial commissioner at the time, said the opposition party meeting was cancelled because he did not have adequate officers to provide security at the meeting as they were deployed to an international football match in Ndola.
Surprising, a battalion of police were deployed to Kanyama to prevent the UPND going ahead with the meeting the very day of the football match. To show that police had every excuse not to allow the meeting, Jere started asking UPND to find an alternative venue for their activity.
The ruling Patriotic Front leadership have insisted that government has no hand in all this.
However, this is Zambia and its political immaturity is well known. This is exactly what the MMD, with Michael Sata at its helm as secretary general, used to do to opposition political parties in the 1990s. At one time UNIP’s Kenneth Kaunda and Liberal Party’s Rodger Chongwe were shot and wounded after police fired live bullets to disperse a meeting of opposition leaders in central town of Kabwe. The MMD leadership, including Sata, were hypocritical about the whole matter, saying police where doing their work.
While we do not need to struggle to guess where the instructions to disrupt the opposition political parties’ activities in the country, it surprises why President Sata has chosen to be mute over serious national matters.
Sata holds every great opportunity to end all acts that are akin to democracy that he, complained against when he was in the opposition. Other than choose to retain the same laws and injustices that he had vehemently talked against, he must seek to reform them quickly.
But this Sata is not keen to do, because he publicly declared that when in the opposition he thought the Public Order Act was a bad law, but now in government he appreciates it because the country needs to be governed without anarchy.
With such a position by the PF government, how much and how far can Sakeni pretend that government has no hand in all these attacks on the opposition by police?
If political anarchy breaks out in this country, President Sata will be blamed for his actions in the breakdown of the rule of law.
To state it in this way is not agitating anyone to rebel against government or the legitimate presidency of Sata.
Notwithstanding, though, the Patriotic Front leadership must be reminded that political legitimacy to rule over the people corresponds with full responsibility to uphold good governance through respecting the human rights of the citizens, including the freedom of expression and assembly. Denying the people the opportunity to enjoy these and other related human rights is telling people to seek other ways inimical to the rule of law, which is there, not for them, but for the leaders to abuse.
History teaches us that it is never the best thing to silence citizens through draconian laws that suppress their political and civic activity because sometimes, as someone wrote in the 15th century: “a time comes when the evils of submission are obviously greater than those of resistance, when fear itself begets a sort of courage, when convulsive burst of popular rage and despair warns the tyrants not to presume too far on the patience of [citizens]”.
Therefore, it is foolish to think that the presence of free functioning opposition political parties is a threat to the country’s peace or style of PF governance. It is even unwise for a ruling party to use all tricks in the book of uneducated politics to attempt to wipe out its opponents by stifling their activity. Such amount of political selfishness is bad to the country.
Just a small political lecture to Inspector General Stella Libongani and her deputy Solomon Jere: the political activity of opposition political parties greatly help citizens to unite and have hope in the exercise patience to change government through legitimate ways—elections—because they see that opportunity in the ideas and policies that the opposition communicates.
But when the opposition political parties are wipedout, the divergent voice gagged and opportunities to assembly are violated, citizens lose hope in the system of government. The Arab Spring is not stale in North Africa! UNIP and Kaunda set this country on fire in the 1990s for the same ill-mannered politics.