Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Phone Call From Hell: Absurdity of President Sata’s Threats Against Bishop George Lungu

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

It is sad. It is bizarre. It is chillingly baffling that a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church now becomes the latest victim of a menacing phone call from the president of the our republic. According to reports, Bishop Lungu last month narrated in his homily in Chipata how the President phoned him and gave him a timely “warning” to stop involving himself in the debates surrounding the Zambian constitution. Weeks ago, Bishop Lungu opened the doors of his church for civil society organizations to meet and pray for the Patriotic Front government to fulfill its undertaking of delivering a “people driven constitution” which was initially promised to be provided in 90 days. This phone call from the president deserves some analysis from at least three fronts: common sense, common law and the constitution.

President Sata kissing the feet of Jesus

President Sata kissing the feet of Jesus

History is the best edifice of common sense. She who is oblivious to history can never be noble with common sense. In fact, nothing shows our lack of common sense more than when we ignore the lessons of history. The Roman Catholic Church has been a part of the Zambian public life for so many years that it is actually baffling for a government to begin picking fights with her. Put another way, the lessons of history do teach us very eloquently that no government or president has been successful in fighting the Roman Catholic Church with regard to issues such as the constitution, justice and good governance. In my assertions here, I do not in any way accuse His Excellency Michael Sata of lacking common sense, I am merely wondering why in view of the abundance of common sense the president decided to make that call to Bishop Lungu. Various governments in the past have used threats against the Roman Catholic Church, and all these threats have never succeeded in steering the church away from issues that really matter for the Zambian people. In 1982 Merdado Cardinal Mazombwe told President Kenneth Kaunda (KK)that “church and State relationships are always a difficult issue because it is the same human person who is political, social and religious, a member at the same time of political and religious communities. We cannot divide the human person, as though the body lives in the State and the soul in the Church.” In 1991, the Catholics joined forces with the rest of Zambians in hounding out the Kenneth Kaunda dictatorship. Using the Icengelo magazine, the mother church tapped into popular discontent with KK to push a democratic agenda for Zambia.

During the 1996 amendments to the constitution of Zambia, the mother church again joined forces with many Zambians to ask President Chiluba and his lieutenants Michael Sata and Godfrey Miyanda to desist from pushing through some unjust constitutional amendments. The trio succeeded with these amendments, but the mother church continued to be a voice for the poor. In many ways, the same church that had helped to hound out KK had by 1995 become KK’s defender when Chiluba tried to dribble UNIP out of the 1996 elections.

Again in 2001, Roman Catholic clergy made it clear: no third term. In their various pastoral letters the prelates of the Roman church have consistently sided with the poor of Zambia. This was the case in 1982, and it certainly shall be the case in 2014. It is therefore quite unreasonable for anyone to expect any less from the Catholic Church now. That phone call brings into contemplation the question of the correct exercise of common sense.

It is a notorious fact that the Head of our State does have a lot of powers at common law. However, within a common law understanding of the powers of a president, we must make it eloquently clear, that the powers of the Chief of State should be exercised reasonably. The right exercise of presidential power precludes the use of threats, insults, and mayhem to resolve national matters. To make it more specific, a Zambian president has a burden at common law to exercise common sense in the daily discharge of her duties. She cannot decide to do anything that comes to her mind. She is constrained by both the written and by the unwritten law. It cannot be legal that which inspires a president to make direct phone calls that border on unwarranted threats against citizens of our country.

Bishop George Lungu of Chipata

Bishop George Lungu of Chipata

No one has the right to make threats against another. In Zambia, no one has the powers to interfere with another’s constitutional liberties except by operation of law. In our justice system, if Bishop Lungu has committed an offence, it becomes the duty of the police to investigate and for the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute Bishop Lungu. This is if at all he has committed a crime by praying for a new constitution. It is not incumbent upon our president to make calls threatening unspecified action on a citizen. We should all take great exception to such behavior. When we come to think of it, we are at a loss for words to describe these threats. Certainly, there is no soldier, or policeman, or any presidential operative who is going to riddle bullets into the Bishop’s chest. This is not the way we behave as a nation. We never resolve problems through bullets, but through ballot inspired dialogue. Our men and women in uniform have been very professional in their duties. These are the same soldiers who when it was clear that power had shifted from Banda to Sata in 2011, professionally run a transition like a mature country should. It is a serious misunderstanding on any person’s part to think these are the men that would go carrying out unspecified threats against Bishop Lungu. In Zambia, we should not threaten Bishops. Full stop.

I have mentioned it before in this column that the Supreme Court has been consistent in holding that the President of our republic has a special place within the Zambian constitution. Both Chief Justice Ngulube and Acting Chief Justice Chibesakunda have given reasonable rulings to impute reasonableness on the acts, status and mind of a president. That being the case, the President still remains a creature of our constitution. She is a subject of our laws. In fact, the president takes an oath of office to defend the constitution of our republic. As a subordinate of the constitution the president cannot just do anything that comes to her mind. She is restrained and constrained by the constitution of our republic. It is these constraints that made President Sata to make a U-turn when he nominated ten instead of 8 members of the national assembly. The president is not above the law. It is ridiculous for any president to depend upon the little immunity they have to begin threatening innocent citizens. Just as seen from the past: immunity can be taken away very fast.

It is beneath the dignity of our head of state to breath threats into the ears of a Bishop. Threatening Bishops is not going to help reduce Zambians’ desire for a new constitution. If President Sata continued on this path, there is no way he is going to succeed making phone calls to millions of other Zambians. Or may be we should all advise Hon Chikwanda to contract more Eurobond kaloba so that President Sata always has enough air time on his cellphone to place a million calls. It is about to get busy.

Dennis Liwewe: A Full Zambian Life

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

We have lost a legend. A legend among us has left. A true Zambian icon has passed away. A great man has gone ahead of us. He was 78. He has gone to rest in eternal peace. For these three days, we have mourned together as one nation and we will continue to do so. The man who helped bring us together through the passion he had for Zambia and for football has united us, once again, as one people in mourning him. It is such a huge loss for our country. Our generation will dearly miss one of the greatest sons of this country. What made Dennis Liwewe great is not so much about his voice, but his passion. As a child growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, my mind is forever etched with his passion that blurted each time the Zambia national team played football. That passion was infectious. That passion expanded the imagination of young and old alike.

I grew up at a time when we had no Internet and certainly, no twitter. Televisions were also difficult to come by. The only reliable media we had, at home, was my father’s yellow ITT radio held together by a blend of tired wires. On that radio, we found a way to follow the Zambian national team each time they played at Independence Stadium. Dennis Liwewe brought those matches alive to my young ears. With him on the radio, I felt like I was right there in the stadium watching the game with him. That is perhaps one of the things by which I will remember him.

Dennis Liwewe Picture source: postzambia.com

Dennis Liwewe
Picture source: postzambia.com

A legend, like Dennis Liwewe, lives on in the memories of those people he touched while on earth. He lives on through those who knew him at a more personal and intimate level. In writing this today, I should honour the way those close to him are remembering him. I should honour the way his family are remembering him. However, in addition to the fact that Dennis Liwewe was a family man: a father, an uncle and a grandfather, he was a legend too. Those of us who never even got to meet him personally still do have our own memories and unique ways in which we experienced his legend. And it is these varied and diverse memories that make the man a true Zambian legend. Mr. Liwewe will live on through the memories of those people who never met him, but nevertheless got impacted by the passion of his life.

From Dennis Liwewe’s life we learn several things. First, we learn that regardless of one’s station in life, passion is an important element in living. It has been mentioned above that Mr. Liwewe was passionate. And he lived his passion. His passion was infectious. We saw it. We felt it. We heard it. He made us to live his passion. He made us to experience his passion. Building this nation, calls for a people that are more passionate for their country. Additionally, passion means that one puts the interests of the nation ahead of anything else. Nothing demonstrates passion more clearly than what someone does with his or her time. For Liwewe, it was time well spent doing something he had always loved.

Second, Mr. Liwewe’s life teaches us that one can make a huge contribution to a cause without necessarily being the central player in that cause. Liwewe loved football but he was not a great football player himself. And neither did he need to be. He never played for the national team. Yet, he still inspired many in the national team to play their best. He was a great source of pride and inspiration. Over his career as a commentator, he was the mentor of several young players. He was not that kind of mentor who went to the dressing rooms with the players. He was not their coach. His presence and his passion were enough to inspire greatness in the young players. Zambia is better and greater due to the inspiration so many of us got from the life of Dennis Liwewe. This nation will do better if it continues to draw inspiration from the life and times of Liwewe.

Third, Mr. Liwewe helps us to realize that life is not just about politics. At a time when our country has become too politicised, it is refreshing to note that someone could be a symbol of unity across party political lines. I do not know about others, but speaking for myself, I never heard Liwewe take a partisan political stance on any subject. We can learn from Dennis Liwewe that we can all be passionate about our country without necessarily throwing ourselves into the frenzy of political divisiveness. There is a life without politics, just as there is still life after politics. Perhaps, the cadres who are busy fighting each other and killing each other could learn from the life of Liwewe that we are, in fact, just one people in a country that is in love with its football.

Pafwa abantu, pashala bantu is a saying that expresses the important duty that each departed person leaves for others to do. Dennis Liwewe did his part and played his role. He lived passionately among us. He showed us the way. Nevertheless, after he passes on, it now falls upon those still living to carry on with his good work. This good work does not necessarily mean we all must become radio commentators, but rather that we should do our best to be that true expression of humanity. We should embrace others as well as embrace the unique gift endowed by our Creator. When all is said and done, it is that which is done for the good of others that will truly matter.

May Dennis Liwewe’s soul rest in eternal peace.

 

Has Hon. Mulusa Become Unlucky?

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div

Our republic can have no better politicians than the promise epitomised by young and educated leaders such as Hon. Lucky Mulusa. We are better and we will better as a nation if people of Mulusa’s calibre are encouraged to participate in politics. They bring a breath of fresh air to the political scene. When dinosaurs, that have no idea of modern economics, represent a generation of politics it is vibrant people like Mulusa that the nation can fall back on. However, in order to help Mulusa live up to his potential greatness we all have seen in him, it becomes important, actually critical to ask ourselves, has he become unlucky. This question is necessary now, especially in view of the unnecessary squabbles currently prevailing in the MMD. I am of the opinion that Mulusa is likely to emerge damaged after this debacle. He must quickly reevaluate his role in the confusion. Otherwise, he could lose the little respect he currently has in the minds and hearts of some Zambians. I say so for several reasons.

The people Mulusa seems to have joined in fighting Nevers Mumba have played him. I seem to get Mulusa’s argument. He believes in the potential and greatness of the MMD. He believes that the party can do better but cannot do so as long as Nevers Mumba continues to be at its helm. However, this message of his love for the MMD now has been overshadowed by the fact that the other rebels are alleged to have had secret meetings with State House and with senior Patriotic Front leaders. In fact, Hon. Chituwo has confirmed that he had such meetings and so has Hon. Kaingu. We are not privileged to know the motive for these meetings, and the gist of these meetings could be removed from the problems in the MMD. However, these meetings create a reasonable apprehension in the minds of some Zambians and some MMD members that the Patriotic Front is actually sponsoring the people fighting Nevers. The real casualty of such perceptions is actually Mulusa himself. I doubt whether he knew of these meetings. If he did know about them, but nevertheless, went ahead to scheme with Siliya, Kaingu, and Chituwo then I would doubt his judgment. However, if he had no idea that the PF leaders were meeting his colleagues then I would doubt his political competency. Dora and her colleagues have played Mulusa and his message has now been so mired in quagmire that it will take some more work for him to redeem himself. He could be running out of luck.

The timing is not right for Hon. Mulusa to lead a rebellion against Nevers Mumba. This is barely 2 years after the MMD lost power in 2011. Having the MMD begin fighting now will only weaken it further and make the death of the MMD inevitable. Lucky Mulusa does seem to still have some more fighting to do, but beginning them this early will only finish him.

Hon. Lucky Mulusa

Hon. Lucky Mulusa

Hon Mulusa does seem to be making several enemies at the wrong time in his political life. In times like this, he needed to be a little bit more strategic. He has now aroused the Nevers Mumba group. He has equally roused the UPND. In addition to that I understand that online, he has raised the ire of the zambianwatchdog.com website. These are too many battles to be fighting for any one man. You cannot take on so many people at the same time and expect to come out alive politically. For his part, he has also taken issues with Muhabi Lungu. Fighting Muhabi is bad strategically for Mulusa. Muhabi has several things going well for him. First, he has been public and political life longer than Mulusa. Zambians got introduced to Muhabi at a time when he was a sharp talking defender of the then UNIP President Kenneth Kaunda in the mid-1990s. Second, Muhabi being Easterner comes from the only province proving to be the stronghold for the MMD. And for the MMD to survive they need a regional base just like PF and UPND do have regional bases. For any political party in Zambia to become a national party, it must first be able to command an unwavering regional support. PF have their Northern-Luapula corridor and the UPND have their Southern region. The MMD must have the Eastern Province. Otherwise, they are toast. Third, Muhabi Lungu has actually worked for both Rupiah and Mwanawasa governments crafting the very policies that Mulusa is claiming made the MMD great. Fourth, Muhabi has taken on a different approach to the MMD problems. Every one with half a brain knows that the MMD has declined and is likely to decline further. However, the solution to these problems does not lie with fighting Nevers Mumba but with working with Nevers Mumba. Any MMD member who wishes to see the MMD rise again should try to work with Nevers and supplement his weaknesses. This is exactly what Muhabi is doing. To see Mulusa begin fighting Muhabi does not make sense. Some Zambians could as well ask, Muhabi we know, what about this new guy? Is he “a John come lately”

Nevers Sekwila Mumba

Nevers Sekwila Mumba

Hon Mulusa is not making sense politically when he claims that Nevers is irrelevant to the MMD because he caused the party to lose a ward election in Mpulungu in February. According to Mulusa, he believes that the MMD should be able to do well in the North because Nevers comes from there. The problem with the MMD is that they have a very popular opponent in the PF’s Michael Sata. Sata, in spite, of the economic failure in Zambia still remains a very formidable and personally popular candidate in the North. Currently, there is no politician who can dislodge Sata from the North. This is not Nevers’ problem. Additionally, Mulusa alleges that since Nevers is not that popular in the North this should be the reason to leave the MMD presidency. I doubt this kind of reasoning. Nevers Mumba is MMD president because he went to the convention and overwhelmingly beat his rivals. Those elections matter just like any other elections do matter. To claim that Nevers has never won an election when the guy had just beaten five other contestants in 2012 does not help Mulusa with his argument at all.

If Hon Mulusa believes that only parliamentary elections are the real elections, may be this is the time to doubt then whether Mulusa himself has lost relevance since the last time he ran for parliament, his seat was nullified due to electoral corruption. There is a lot Mulusa can offer Zambia. But this route he has taken will only lead to his political demise. My advice? Mulusa should cool down. Take it easy and fight for the people of Zambia instead of fighting Nevers Mumba. Mulusa has already done some remarkable things in both parliament and outside it. These are the kind of fights; they want him to continue championing.

Many Zambians do not believe that Nevers Mumba is the greatest of their problems. The greatest problems for Zambia are things such as the value of the Kwacha, out of control inflation, the stolen constitution and corruption perpetrated by the party in power. That being the case, the perception that it is the Patriotic Front sponsoring the anti-Nevers campaign in the MMD does not augur well at all. Nevers and the MMD needed an enemy to fight, and they have just been given that punching bag – the so-called anti-Nevers group. They will now use these anti-Nevers individuals as whipping boys (and girl) for the broader campaign to highlight the misdeeds of the Patriotic Front. This message might resonate with Zambians and entrench Nevers in the minds of many Zambians even deeper. Hon Mulusa’s star should shine, but if he continues on this path, he might just run out of political luck. Or may be Lucky Mulusa has already become unlucky!