On Thursday last week, a miracle happened at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The minister, Honourable Stephen Kampyongo went against all expectations and tradition to allow civil society organizations conduct a protests against the Patriotic Front’s bad governance practices.
The most shocking part about this development is that earlier, the Lusaka Division Police Command had rejected the notice of protest by the nine NGOs which include NGOCC, ACA, Transparency International, ActionAid, ZCSD, GEARS Initiative, Caritas Zambia and several eminent civil rights activists. The police advised that it was against public safety for them to allow a protest on the day that the 2019 national budget would be presented to Parliament
But on a mere appeal to the line minister, Honourable Kampyongo overruled the Police Command’s decision and ordered that the protesters must be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to air their grievances through a peaceful demonstration, as they wished.
This is a miracle, because what happened to Prof Patrick Lumumba on Saturday is what we are used to. Why Honourable Kampyongo did the unthinkable, we may never know. Whatever the catch to this was, we can only speculate that he woke up on the right side of the bed. Surely, whoever tickled his fancy to produce this effect must share the antidote to the venomous hostility that we are accustomed to from this regime.
This is a minister who has exhibited no nonsense militancy towards any form of public disapproval to how our country is being governed. The only groups that have been given leeway to air their grievances through public protest are PF youths who are usually sponsored by either State House or internal party faction leaders – as we saw on the anti-Felix Mutati demonstration.
Outside that, any other group that has attempted to exercise this democratic right, political or civil society, has either been brutally chased or arrested. This is exactly what happened the last time when these same CSOs attempted to protest at the same venue. The participants were mercilessly beaten and locked up for merely saying government shouldn’t have spent US$42 million on fire trucks.
In fact, on the same day that the minister was overturning the police decision to allow the Budget protests, police were arresting renowned musician and activist Maiko Zulu who attempted to do a one-man protest against KCM and Vedanta. We are 100 per cent sure that the arresting officers did not even understand a thing about what Maiko’s protest was about, they just saw him carrying a piece of cloth with something like “Zambian Crimes” written on it and they said “arrest him!”
This is what is happening in Zambia. There is a combination of exceptional ignorance and a bootlicking marathon; because in our view, this protesting dreadlocked Rasta is a man police should have been protecting if they understood why he was demonstrating.
It is for this reason that we are describing what Honourable Kampyongo did as a miracle. His decision went against the rules of bootlicking and dictatorship, which is what we know the PF to be. Mr Kampyongo sir, not everyone will appreciate the greatness of what you did. Probably, even the protesters themselves will not realize how lucky they were because they think it’s not a big deal since it’s their right. But we are probably closer to reality than they are – as we will show in our opinion about the ‘deportation’ of professor Lumumba in tomorrow’s opinion – so allow us to give credit where it is due.
We know how brutal you can be sir when you choose to abuse the authority of your office. Your constituency in Shiwang’andu is known for all the bad things when it comes to violence; your rivals have been stoned from campaign helicopters in the past and we still recall how you defended those atrocious activities by your henchmen.
Last Friday the PF showed us a snippet of the long gone and forgotten democracy. That is how it should be always. Those who wield political power must develop not only a thick skin, but also very attentive ears to hear the opposing views of the governed.
Our message to the police is that they must stop making wrong decisions to please politicians because when the men and women they are trying to please overrule them, they are the ones who end up being embarrassed and looking like they don’t want to follow the law. Please bwana Inspector General and your commissioners, just follow what the law stipulates, add nothing else. Don’t apply the law according to how it will sit with a minister or President. In a Christian nation, we can’t be hearing about police denying congregants a permit to worship.
We were glad to see a professional application of the law when police arrested PF cadres who went to confront the budget protesters. This is how it ought to be. Now that the protesters conducted their business peacefully, next time they come to seek clearance to demonstrate, don’t deny them. They have shown that they are law abiding citizens.