Zambians want Hakainde Hichilema to be freed from prison, but not all of them. Others don’t care about him, instead, they want President Edgar Lungu to stop globetrotting and save money.
Again, some Zambians are not bothered whether the Head of State accumulates more flying hours than a homeless hummingbird, but they want finance minister Felix Mutati’s mouth to speak the truth about how much debt the country has accrued so far. However, there are those Zambians who don’t give a damn if Mutati can’t read debt figures correctly in Parliament, but they are losing sleep over UNZA’s decision to bar their children from writing their exams. Much as that might sound so important an issue, there are still some other Zambians who have no sympathy for the usually violent students. Instead, they are concerned with the injustice at NPA and they want a voice that can tell the Director of Public Prosecutions that she is a biased DPP, because she is not appealing against the acquittals of Dora Siliya and Maxwell Mwale.
That is why the United Party for National development must not lose focus of its role of providing credible checks and balances, standing up to irresponsible government leaders (not only the President) and speaking on behalf of the voiceless. We say this because UPND is the largest opposition political party in Zambia and more than 1.7 million citizens wanted them to form government. That means those citizens look up to UPND members of parliament and Central Committee officials to speak for them against the DPP, UNZA, Mutati and so on and so forth.
What we have seen from the UPND lately are relentless efforts to spread the news of “Edgar Lungu’s dictatorship”, and the monotonous voice demanding the release of their incarcerated leader; nothing more. Of course the UPND must not stop pressing for the freedom of HH because they believe that he is an innocent man facing political persecution. As a matter of fact, we also believe that the persecution of Mr Hichilema is a demonstration by President Lungu that no matter how much money the opposition leader has, Chagwa can make his world very small.
That is why we say it is within their rights as UPND to press harder and make the world hear them; a baby that doesn’t cry dies on the mother’s back. We encourage Mr Hichilema to woo as much sympathy from the Zambian people as he wants by providing realistic updates of his survival in prison, not through Facebook as we are being made to believe. Being an unconvicted prisoner, we are sure that the prison authorities will permit him to write hand-written, heartfelt memoirs while he is still in detention in order for him to give Zambians the real picture of how he spends his days and nights inside there.
Our focus, however, is not to advise HH on how to speak for himself, but rather how the UPND must speak for the voiceless. It is our observation that since HH was arrested and detained, the opposition political party has lost interest in all other governance issues apart from “Lungu is a dictator” and “HH is innocent”. Quite alright, President Lungu might be a dictator and HH might be innocent, but that is not news anymore. We are saying to the UPND that while HH’s movements are restricted, the earth is still moving.
Our view is that the UPND leadership needs to come up with a special committee dedicated to speaking for the “Treason 6”, helping them demand for the protection of their human rights. While this is happening, the rest of the opposition party must stay the course. Zambia needs UPND to be in its right frame of mind and up to date with developments that are affecting both their supporters and non-politically aligned citizens.
Farmers, for example, don’t really care how long HH has been imprisoned, they want a strong voice to challenge the Food Reserve Agency and the agriculture minister over the ridiculous maize price this year. Where is the Dundumwezi member of parliament on this issue? Why is he not speaking for the people in his constituency and all the complaining farmers in the country? Why is he not challenging Dora Siliya for lying to the farmers in Petauke that government would buy their maize at a good price?
Cornelius Mweetwa is a former University of Zambia Students Union president. Why is the Choma Central member of parliament not voicing out on UNZA’s decision to bar owing students from writing their exams? It is not always about criticising; the Energy Regulation Board has just reduced the fuel pump prices. Little as the reduction might be, we expect the UPND committee on energy or any less bitter MP to commend government and demand reduced bus fares from operators. That is what it means to be an alternative government – eyes on the ball, not singing the same two choruses everyday.
By the way, HH says his freedom is not the most important thing that he looks forward to in his life. According to Mr Cornelius Mweetwa who recently visited him, HH looks forward to a time when Zambians shall be freed from the PF captivity. So the UPND must be more relevant to Zambia than only to itself. HH doesn’t even need the UPND voice, because those who are keeping him will not let him loose no matter how much UPND talks. Instead, it is the loud international voice in Turkey, Washington, Britain, New York, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya that is giving the capturers pressure. So while the world is speaking for HH, let UPND prove that it is not a one-man party by speaking for the ordinary poor Zambians. They must stop being noisy, yet silent on other important matters. UPND must also stop relying on Mike Mulongoti, Nevers Mumba and Charles Milupi to speak sense on their behalf because they are not their members but alliance partners.