Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Post-Africanist view on South African Xenophobia

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

Truth is the greatest antidote to error. The pain of truth is far more desirable than the comfort of lies and deception. It is better to build a continent or nations on a foundation of truth than try to build a people on false assumptions. For many years, Africans have been trying to live under a false conjecture that they are a united people. The pressure to try and appear to be united manifests itself in the senseless penchant for blood. What we see in South Africa today is terrible. But it is not new. Africans all over the continent have been butchering each other like senseless beasts. We must not pretend like South Africa is the only problem. The very foreigners being butchered by South Africans have been butchering one another in the countries they come from: Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, and Eritrea to mention a few. An answer to the problem of Xenophobia in Africa requires some honest soul-searching. It must demand some analysis, some deep questions. We must earnestly abandon, the false philosophies of a “united” people and adopt a worldview that is more attuned to African realities.

Munshya wa Munshya

Munshya wa Munshya

Just a few months ago, the people of South Sudan, fresh from independence, started to slaughter each other. The Angolan government has taken an anti-Congo stance that is so ridiculous that it has led the Ba Kongo people into a senseless xenophobic hatred between those that belong to Angola and those that belong to the Congo-Kinshasa. In the 1990s, Katanga governor Kyungu wa Kumwanza introduced the kuba telemusha doctrine in which the Luba-Kasai were ordered deported from Katanga so that they could return to their native Kasai region. The Bemba-speaking peoples of Katanga were among the people groups that participated in this ethnic cleansing. To date, Wa Kumwanza has not answered for his crimes. In Cote D’Ivoire, there is always a tension between northerners and southerners and between those that believe are genuine Ivorians against those believed to be of foreign origin. We have no space here to mention the struggles of Rwanda and Burundi. As for Somalia, the country remains ungovernable today due to the various warlords that have each claimed a chunk of the capital and the territory. In fact, someone has observed the more ethnically homogenous an African society is, the more likely it is to face serious political instability of murderous proportions. In Central African Republic, the Africans are killing each other, tribe against tribe, religions against religion, and vice-versa.

Cecil Rhodes is the patron saint of Pan-Africanism

Cecil Rhodes is the patron saint of Pan-Africanism

To address the issue of all this xenophobia, Africans must adopt new ways of thinking. The philosophical underpinnings and aspirations of the African continent must begin shifting. Africans must give up the burden of trying to be united. They must admit that they are diverse and different. The aspiration of being “one and united” people has created such a psychological obstruction for the African mind. From the time Cecil Rhodes proclaimed a united Africa from Cape to Cairo, Africans have not given up on this Rhodesian dream. The African needs some truth. And acknowledging that we are not “one” is the first step to healing. We are different. We could have the same colour of skin, and live on the same geographical mass called “Africa”, but we must acknowledge that we are a divided and diverse peoples. This acknowledgement has got to be the new foundation upon which we could build new stories and narratives that would help rather than distract Africa. The more we tell each other that we are “one” people, the more conflicts we have. Let us give up this lofty dream that is so unrealistic. Let us accept and embrace our differences no matter where those differences come from. Diversity and difference is, to some extent, socially constructed. As such, it does not matter how we classify ourselves, once we acknowledge these classes it could be the beginning point for healing.

President Zuma

President Zuma

After we acknowledge how different we are from each other, we must then, ask ourselves, how should I treat the person who is different from me? Should I kill another simply because they are different from me? Does “difference” provide me with a reason to kill another? There is power in “difference”, regardless of how we have come to conceptualize that difference. But the acknowledgement of difference must submit to higher values. And these values have more to do with how I handle the person that has been labeled or the person I have labeled as different. We need a philosophy of hospitality: an attitude to the strangers.

We need to realise that people do not need to become like “us” in order for them to escape our killing. The problem in South Africa is not the “us” problem, it is the issue to do with how different South Africans should treat the many different Africans, and how the many different Africans should treat the South Africans. Should they kill the other simple because she is the “other”? Africans need now embrace Post-Africanism. In Post-Africanism, we are not afraid to embrace difference.

As a post-Africanist, I am delivered from the burden of trying to push unity upon a continent that has never and would never be united. Instead, post-Africanism reaffirms the truth from Jesus Christ: “do unto others what you would love them do unto you”. Post-Africanism acknowledges the diversity of the African peoples. It sees this diversity as a strength not a weakness. It sees tribes, nationalities, and shades of blackness as a true strength of the African peoples. Post-Africanism then challenges these different peoples, to treat each other with utmost respect and love for the other. Doing so is truly liberating. You are no longer trying to force unity. You are no longer trying to disingenuously claim “oneness” with a people that are different from you. Instead, post-Africanism takes you towards hospitality. It makes you treat a Somali, a Bemba, a Xhosa, a Barotse, a Biafran, a Shangaan, a Kasai, just like you would want to be treated. It is this post-African hospitality that might just help and save Africans from butchering each other to extinction. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Liberty Defiled: President Lungu must stop police from invading church services

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

The wisdom of the ages is strikingly clear. According to Pope Celestine I, “we are deservedly to blame if we encourage error by silence.” The manifestation of tyranny is always subtle. Oppression, no matter how heinous, usually does have trifling beginnings. Those who end up being oppressors frequently never plan to. They become tyrants by the deafening silence of the disaffected. When the state acts to violate the inviolable rights of its citizens, it usually does so by abusing legitimate legal power. State violation of human liberty, is rarely about whether the state has the power or authority to punish the wrongdoer but about the processes followed when punishing such a wrongdoer. It doesn’t matter the motives of the state, if its actions have the effect of eroding constitutional liberties we must as a people hold such a state to lawful accountability.

President Lungu

President Lungu

To keep good order in our republic, security agencies must be allowed to use force, but this force must be reasonable. The nature of humanity sometimes calls for the use of force more often than satisfies our comfort. The Zambian state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that those that live in Zambia, citizens or otherwise, follow the law in the conduct of their personal affairs. To keep the peace is a sacred duty of citizen and alien alike. However, if peace is threatened, or if criminals begin abusing the peace of our country, then the security agencies are justified in taking appropriate and reasonable action to redress the harm. The key here is that force must be both “appropriate” and “reasonable”. The use of police power should be balanced by a respect for constitutional liberties. It is these constitutional liberties that act as a milieu in checking the abuse of state assets. Our constitution stipulates what the state can do and cannot do when it is using force. Police cannot just begin shooting thieves on the streets; neither should they mount roadblocks anywhere and everywhere.

In Zambia’s constitutional structure, bullets and bombs held by our militaries cannot be triggered or activated without consent from our elected politicians. Patience is the virtue of force. Bullets have no minds of their own. Bombs would love to boom, but before they do, the decision to have them explode must be made by rational civilian representatives. Soldiers, paramilitaries and all the forces in our country are under civilian supervision for political accountability. The Zambia Police and the Zambia Immigration are accountable to our elected officials, and the elected officials are, in turn, directly accountable to the civilian population. To abuse the military, the police or the immigration officers is an insult on the revered integrity of the Zambian people. Zambia is a democracy; it is not a military dictatorship and neither is it a police state. Both the President of our republic and the Minister of Home Affairs are directly accountable to the people in the way the security forces deploy force. There is no such thing as absolute freedom, just as there is no such thing as absolute state power. To deviate from our democratic system is to invite danger and court trouble. After defeating the Kaunda dictatorship in 1991, our people should not accede to the return of despotism.

Police Inspector-General Stella Libongani

Police Inspector-General Stella Libongani

In meeting a legitimate state objective, Zambia’s department of Immigration and Police over the weekend raided a church service and detained its worshippers. Congregants of the Swedish Pentecostal Church were to be released only after they showed their immigration status. Apparently, the police and the Registrar of Societies had been closely watching this church. Listening to the immigration department spokesperson, you would see that the state did seem to have a genuine objective in trying to stop illegal immigrants. But this is only but a part of the story. The state as, I have mentioned above, has a duty to be reasonable, proportionate and sensible in the way it deploys force. What is offensive with the action of the police is the chilling effect that such operations have on the constitutional liberties of the people. The Zambians’ freedom to worship is sacrosanct. Sending armed police to a church service is disproportionate and, at worst, unjustifiable in a democracy. Couldn’t the state have found a better way to address the illegal immigrant problem than raiding a church while a service is occurring? A typical church service in Zambia doesn’t last more than four hours. Couldn’t the police have waited until the service was over?

Munshya wa Munshya

Munshya wa Munshya

The police command have a choice about how they will use their arresting powers. The police power of arrest or detention is not a demon that manifests at an inappropriate time demanding a knee-jerk reaction from officers. It is not an uncontrollable beast that can only be tamed after it has drunk the blood of its victims. Rather, the power to arrest is to be deployed in such a way as to accord and respect basic liberties of the people. Respect for basic human liberties makes legal state action lawful; any disrespect for liberty makes legal state action unlawful. If the police have a choice between arresting people before, during, or after a church service, both common sense and law demand that they do so in a way that is least disruptive of constitutional liberties. The police must be sensitive to what we hold dear as a Christian nation. Church services are cherished by the soul of this nation. There is absolutely no justifiable reason, no existential threat, which a church service poses that should justify a paramilitary invasion. To say that the police can follow crimes wherever they want, whether it is in a church or otherwise, is plain nonsense. The police are constitutionally constrained in the use of power. They can’t just show up anywhere and everywhere in the name of policing. They should not just enter any church and disrupt a service on the pretext of arresting illegal immigrants. Immigration officers cannot just be detaining people simply because they have a legitimate reason to do so. It is liberty that gives legitimacy.

If a church service of the Swedish Pentecostal Church is not respected today, there is no guarantee that a mass celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church will be esteemed tomorrow. I request President Lungu and his cabinet to direct the police to delicately balance the use of force against the constitutionally enshrined respect for religious expression.

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Suggested Citation:

Munshya, E. (2015). Liberty Defiled: President Lungu must stop police from invading church services. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) 10 April 2015