When a nation gets to a point where it’s not only what citizens say that has to be censored, but also what they must hear, then you know that your country has hit rock-bottom. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Zambia; when we think there is nothing worse that can happen, we are proved wrong. There is no rock-bottom for us to hit, ours is a country in a free fall from the bottom.
What happened to Kenya’s anti-corruption hero Professor Patrick Lumumba last Saturday was a bizarre demonstration by an insecure nation. Indeed, like Professor Patrick Lumumba has aptly put it, he was denied entry into the country because Zambia was a security risk to him and not the other way round. A man armed only with shared ideas and opinions cannot be a security risk to any nation, but countries like Zambia pose a great threat to their security.
Let’s try to be magnanimous and believe government’s explanation that the Immigration Department, working with other security wings across the borders, found that Professor Lumumba’s trip to Zambia had the potential to cause a breach of national security. Is this the way to humiliate a celebrated African think tank? Unless the government informs us that this man was bearing arms when he arrived on that plane, we don’t see how he can be chased like Zodwa Wabantu from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.
In our view, and in respect to the cordial relations we hold with Kenya, Professor Lumumba should have been allowed to disembark from the plane, interviewed by the security wings and if necessary, he could have been guided on what he could and could not do while in Zambia. We say this because the events that Professor Lumumba was scheduled to attend were not organized in secrecy. The institutions that invited him published adverts, stating exactly what he was coming to do in Zambia. The system knew that this man was coming, but they did not engage the organisers of the events to say that, ‘this man you are inviting is a persona non-grata to Zambia.’ Why?
The trouble with bundling Professor Lumumba, Zimbabwe’s Tendai Biti, South Africa’s Mmusi Maimane and a stripper called Zodwa Wabantu in the same cluster where they can all be rejected without a clear explanation is that it sends fear to communities that wish to organize international events in this country. They will never know who will be allowed entry into Zambia and they wouldn’t want to waste money. Instead, these organisations will opt to take prestigious and lucrative events to our neighbouring countries. In the end, this denies us tourism revenue and much-needed foreign exchange earnings.
Let us not forget that, as a country, we have been charged with a responsibility of hosting the 2022 African Union Summit for Heads of State. Along with such events comes bilateral and multilateral trade partnerships, as well as investment opportunities in various sectors. In January, some international delegates of a socialist movement, who were invited from abroad were sent back at the airport – no reasons advanced. What image are we building for our country? Is it safe to travel to Zambia for any business? Between Professor Lumumba and Congolese dealer Moses Katumbi, who can pose a national security risk?
Chinese are building illegal military camps in our own country and drilling our poor citizens as militias; handling deadly weapons and firearms, but we don’t consider any of them a security risk when they are arriving in Zambia. What we consider a security risk is the person who comes to wake us up, to warn us to be careful with Chinese business influence. Are we normal? It’s utter stupidity – to borrow the language of enraged Professor Lumumba. Indeed, we are a stupid nation!
But this begs an answer to the question: can’t Dr Kenneth Kaunda be useful in this situation? Clearly, our President needs help. He needs real advisors who can pump sense into him, not advisors whom he advises himself. That is why we ask, where is the father of the nation in the face of this?
We don’t want to believe that he is too tired to engage himself in national service because we see him every other week officiating at insignificant events; sometimes as useless as people’s birthdays. Why can’t president Kaunda use that energy to engage President Lungu and tell him that he is taking the country astray? We will ignore president Rupiah Banda because he is the top beneficiary of this regime, which is keeping him out of prison.
Our interest is Dr Kaunda whom we regard as a true statesman and patriot committed to Pan-Africanism; is he happy with the state of affairs in Zambia? If not, why is he silent? We want to see press statements coming from the Office of the First Republican President announcing that the founding father met with President Edgar Lungu to discuss ABCD issues of national interest. At that point we can say, “everyone has tried to help our President, but he doesn’t want to listen.”
Dear readers and fellow citizens, we only have one Zambia. In order to recover, we need to first find a bottom, hit it and then start to rise. Even is our President is “Chagwa”, we can’t be on this free-fall forever. It must pain us to see our Republican Flag, Coat of Arms being soiled and disgraced in the hands of crooked people, mocking our national dignity like Roman soldiers gambling with Jesus’ clothes after crucifixion. Wake up Zambia!