IT IS disheartening to see that a senior leader of the biggest opposition in the country has been spending nights in remand prison, and those in power are living their lives normally and sleeping comfortably. What is happening to UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka and other opposition officials is something that is not expected in a functioning democracy. The situation of Mucheleka and others cannot go without comment.

Solidarity is one of the first rules of normal human existence. It is what makes us human, to feel pain and sadness when the other person is suffering. And when that quality is lacking, it can safely be said that we are becoming animals. But even animals fight for one another’s freedom. When one of them is attacked, the rest make efforts to try and save their species. So, when we humans fail to show that kind of love and solidarity for one another, then we are being less than animals.
The situation that Mucheleka and others find themselves in is one that should present shame to all of us as a collective. What kind of people are we? How can someone go to sleep at night knowing that an innocent man is being harassed, simply because he belongs to a different political party?

There are a number of people that need to answer for what is happening in the country right now and the first one is the President. Can President Edgar Lungu tell us what is happening to Mucheleka? One quality that a leader must have in order to be able to lead a nation successfully is compassion. A good leader must be able to put himself in the shoes of those that are suffering. In this situation, we expect President Lungu to put himself in Mucheleka’s shoes because Mucheleka is a human being like him. He is a father like him, a husband to someone.

The President must ask himself, ‘how is Mucheleka’s wife feeling that her husband is in prison for simply being a politician?’ ‘How are his children feeling having a father who can’t spend a night with them in the house because he has opposing views to those who are in government?’ Mucheleka is citizen who has a right to participate in the politics of our country.

The persecution that Mucheleka is being exposed to should not be justified in the name of politics. Incarceration is one of the most painful punishments that society gives to those who break the law. It should not be used as a tool to punish political opponents or to gain political advantage. This is what the President of Zambia and his people are doing to Mucheleka.

There are those who may ask us to say, ‘why are you bringing the President in a matter that has nothing to do with him?’ People who think like that are politically naïve. This issue has everything to do with the President. We say this because none of this would be happening if the President did not approve of it. Mucheleka would not be in prison if the President did not agree that he should be there. That is the system that President Lungu is running.

In Zambia today, there is one law for PF cadres and another law for everybody else. In President Lungu’s Zambia, not even a police station is safe. Cadres are free to break private property in full view of police officers, and when one officer dares to stop such conduct, cadres follow the police to beat them up, right at the police station. And those who hold political power don’t see anything wrong with that. This is why today, a PF thug called Jay Jay Banda is walking the streets as a free man after staging an armed robbery at Lusaka Central Police, but Mucheleka is in prison for doing nothing!

This is what gives us the confidence to say that what Mucheleka is facing has the blessing of President Lungu. There is no crime that Mucheleka has committed that requires him to be held in custody. In fact, as far as we are concerned, Mucheleka is simply being punished as a part of political gain.

Now, we know that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But surely, there must still be that small voice among some people in PF who are able to say that, ‘Mr President, stop it.’ This is how a proper governance system is supposed to operate. You cannot have a government where the President, his ministers and advisors are all so emotionally charged that they cannot apply reason to such things.

We wish to end with a reminder to those that are in power today, especially those who are in charge of the police. We know that a lot of these political cases are driven from the Ministry of Home Affairs. We appeal to our brother, the Home Affairs Minister, Honourable Kampyongo, to find it within himself to stop this mistreatment of his fellow citizens.

We understand that power is sweet and those who are enjoying power tend to forget that nothing lasts forever. Mucheleka may be in the opposition and suffering the wrath of the government of the day, but things change. We ask our brother Kampyongo to do to others what he would want them to do to him. A day will come when Mucheleka will be in power and Mr Kampyongo will be in police cells. If he would like to be dealt with the way he is dealing with Mucheleka, then that’s fine. We will be here to remind him.