When people with common interests band together, their voices can be heard and their chances of influencing the political debate increase. That is what is expected of a healthy democracy. Democracy is more than the sum of government institutions operating freely. A healthy democracy depends, in large part, on the development of a democratic civic culture. Culture in this sense does not refer to art, literature, music or dance, but to the behaviours, practices and norms that define the ability of a people to govern themselves. But Zambia is not a democracy any more.
President Edgar Lungu and his Minister of Home Affairs have basically issued instructions to the police to arrest the youths who are seeking to demonstrate against bad governance. We are not surprised. By that action, the Head of State is saying no to freedom of speech and no to freedom of assembly. Again, we are not surprised. President Lungu doesn’t want people to govern themselves. To us, that looks like a dictatorial approach towards national governance. A leader who says no to a citizenry that wants to govern itself ceases to be a servant of the people. Ultimately, he becomes the master and his electors turn into slaves. This is not surprising.
Two days ago, we published a brief editorial opinion in which we were describing the qualities of a dictator. Under a dictatorship, protestors of bad governance are punished harshly. Political power is concentrated in the hands of few people or just one person. Media freedom is systematically obliterated; leaving newspapers, radio and television as tools of indoctrination. State-sponsored violence and other human rights abuses are used to control the population. Citizens are not allowed to check the ruler’s power; people’s complaints are condemned and regarded as sponsored sentiments of regime change. Under a dictatorship, the right to private property is easily abolished. Dictators weaken institutions of governance, and compromise law enforcement agencies to protect individuals in the ruler’s inner circle.
You can remove the word dictator and replace it with Edgar Lungu, and the story will read just fine. Under Edgar Lungu, protestors of bad governance are punished harshly. Under Edgar Lungu, political power is concentrated in the hands of few people or just one person. Under Edgar Lungu, there is no media freedom; newspapers, radio and television stations are turned into tools of indoctrination and propaganda. Under Edgar Lungu, state-sponsored violence and other human rights abuses are used to control the population. Under Edgar Lungu, citizens are not allowed to check the ruler’s power; people’s complaints are condemned and regarded as sponsored sentiments of regime change. Under Edgar Lungu’s rule, the right to private property is easily abolished. Edgar Lungu’s leadership weakens institutions of governance, and compromises law enforcement agencies to protect individuals in the ruler’s inner circle.
We are not calling President Lungu a dictator, we don’t have to. People just have to look around and see for themselves what kind of leader he is. The youths who voted him into office are now being threatened with arrests if they complain or comment on bad governance. Look at what is happening to media houses that have offered a platform for divergent views. We see a heavy handed police shooting citizens whom it is supposed to protect. Law enforcement agencies are covering up for criminals in government, and taking instructions from the President’s inner circle on whom to prosecute.
One would say President Lungu has changed; that he is no longer a humble man, he is no longer a soft spoken God fearing leader. But that is not true. This President has not changed. Those with a good memory will remember that he said, at the beginning of his tenure in 2015, that he would fall on anyone who comes in his way like a tone of bricks. He said he moves with a long stick to whip anyone who questions his authority. “Don’t look at my small body, those who want to dare me will have themselves to blame when I fall on them,” said President Lungu.
If democracy has been obliterated under his reign, we must not say Lungu has become a dictator, we must instead say we have become aware of his true colours. And that is the problem that we have with the people of this country who are complaining about President Lungu’s leadership. We have stated before that President Lungu is one of the most honest leaders this country has ever had. He told us just about everything that we needed to know about him, but we elected him. Not once, but twice!
It’s good that the youths who danced so vigorously to Dununa Reverse are here to see for themselves where that ecstatic campaign euphoria has brought them. It’s good that the same gospel singers who had abandoned God to start worshiping politicians in exchange for money have now seen how this regime regards them. “Stupid, naked, disgruntled youths”. That’s what their leaders are now calling them. We hope they learn a lesson.