MEMBERS of parliament unanimously agreed, Wednesday evening, to adopt a motion that urges government to enforce a law that criminalizes the use of divisive, tribal hate and discriminatory statements in Zambia.
The motion, which was moved by Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo, was seconded by his Livingstone counterpart Mathews Jere.
In his preamble, Nkombo noted that the use of hate speech weakened and destroyed communities.
“Due to the recent and escalating tribal sentiments in our country, I was compelled to move this motion and I ask all the honourable members of parliament for their approval. Let it be dealt with within the transparent form and in the spirit of the desire to correct what has gone wrong in this country. At this point, I believe that we are all on one page that this country has gone wrong where this matter is concerned. The aims and objectives of my motion are multiple, Mr Speaker, and also noble: to foster honest, truthfulness, respect for one another and accepting that we are very different, but also it urges us to tightly embrace that which we have in common, and let us be bind together by it for we cannot afford to be mute when the elephant in the room, in this case hate speech that leads to injuring feelings, is closing in on all of us and the remaining space,” Nkombo said.
Nkombo said he felt the motion had been brought up at the right time when the country was grappling with gassing incidences and people turning against each other.
“It all begun by just seeing someone bleeding from the nose and now it’s a pool of blood! I don’t think this motion could have come at a better time than this when we are all troubled by a false (narrative) that some of us do not know of gassing, mob psychology and killing and sometimes poor judgement from the police, which has taken more lives. I want to take this moment to congratulate the Chief Government Spokesperson (Dora Siliya) for the presentation you made on Prime TV on Tuesday. That presentation was more uniting, more uniting than most of the statements that we have heard here. The statements that we have heard of finger-pointing, what is going on now, Mr Speaker, is that we are under seizure by a false (narrative) that most of us do not know. Obviously, there may be people that may know and those are the people that the Minister of Information referred to as criminals. We have to hold our hands together to defeat these criminals. I was particularly impressed with her when she said that these gassing incidences are not politically motivated,” he said.
Nkombo wondered where all the hate among citizens was coming from when leaders were eating and drinking together.
“In a few minutes’ time, we will be descending down to the tea room; we will be eating from the same table, so where is the energy that is fueling our people outside to behave differently coming from? I have doubt that the dislike that we see on social platforms, on national television, the scorn that is poured on each other, if you find me in a car accident and I am battling for my life and I am in need of a pint of blood, I don’t think you would deny me that, you would definitely give it to me because death is the worst thing that anyone can wish for, even for the worst enemy,” said Nkombo.
“Government is required to raise awareness through community-based training, community radio stations and constantly educating the families about the dangers of discrimination and intolerance; to report every media report that spreads falsehoods and also rumours based on misinformation. In this country, the situation has become worse! My suggestion is that all these social media postings based on rumour must be reported to the police.”
And supporting the motion in his debate, Chembe PF member of parliament Sebastian Kopulande said it was the responsibility of all leaders to commit to ensuring unity in the country.
“It is, indeed, our responsibility as leaders of this country to show leadership in our commitment to the unity of our country and that we must show this commitment through our actions. It is not what we say that matters the most, more what we do behind those closed doors. It’s more what values we instill in our children, it is more in the way that we relate with each other that we demonstrate our commitment or non-commitment to the value of unity and peaceful co-existence of our country within the ethnic diversity, which adds to the beauty of our nation. Mr Speaker, we are sitting here divided North-East, South-West, if, indeed, as we have all come here with clean hands, let us demonstrate in reality our commitment to national unity by all of us coming here without North-East, North-West divides and do the job that we were elected to do. Mr Speaker, with those few words I thank you as I support this motion,” said Kopulande.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, who debated on behalf of government, said those who wanted to champion tribalism hoping to gain anything were wasting their time.
“Mr Speaker, on our part, we look at this motion as being non-controversial and is adequately provided for under the Constitution of Zambia. Part three of the Constitution guarantees respect for fundamental rights or freedoms of conscience and association. Further, there are various pieces of legislation, which provide for the enforcement of laws against tribal and hate speech. Some of the laws that provide for the criminalization of these vices include, among others; the Bill of Rights under Article 27, which provides for the protection against discrimination. Further, the Public Order Act provides under section three sub-section one that any person who utters any word or does any act with intent to excite enmity between tribe and tribe or between one or more sections of community on the other hand or with intent to encourage any person or persons shall be guilty of an offense,” said Kampyongo.
“Mr Speaker, I want to further say on behalf of government, we support this motion. But it is very important for all of us to reflect that when we are calling on others to equity, we must always come with clean hands. Tribalism to this generation is irrelevant. So, those who think that they are going to champion tribalism and gain anything are wasting their time! So, it’s important as we agree with the mover of the motion that let’s be sincere and engage in honest discourse so that we can deal with matter without being segregative.”