NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili says he has decided to stop talking about bad governance practices because no one will pay his legal bill if he gets arrested again. The former Cabinet minister and PF member of parliament for Roan Constituency says the people of Zambia don’t seem eager to get involved in their own affairs, and when those who speak for them find themselves in trouble, they are left to suffer alone.

KAMBWILI: “I have got a bill with the lawyers, a huge bill. If I am arrested again, what happens to the paying of the huge legal fees? If I am arrested again, I will need a lawyer. Already, I have got cases pending, six cases and I am still paying lawyers. I don’t want to commit another trumped up charge because all the charges I have been given are trumped up! But even in war, there is a plan. tYou kind of retreat, then you attack, it’s a strategy. Just wait and see what is going to obtain. But this thing of saying, ‘I am joining PF’ is neither here nor there. It appears the people of Zambia don’t want to get involved in the affairs of their own, and the few people that have given themselves to fight tend to be suffering a lone fight.”

Unless Mr Kambwili is telling us that something fundamental has changed about him and what he stands for, we have difficulties understanding what he is talking about. In fact, Mr Kambwili himself knows that what he is saying does not make sense. This is an excuse for whatever he has planned up his sleeve. He may not be credited as the most principled man, but Mr Kambwili is a seasoned politician. He has been in politics for a very long time and he has seen many things.

Mr Kambwili cannot tell the people of Zambia that he didn’t know opposition leaders are victimized in Zambia, he cannot tell us that he didn’t know politicians can be arrested over trumped up charges. Mr Kambwili cannot claim that he was not aware that when you are arrested you need lawyers and the lawyers need to be paid. These are things that Mr Kambwili has been dealing with since he joined politics. So to stand up now and say “I have decided to stop talking because there is no one to pay bills for me” is a lame excuse for his soon to be unveiled political direction. Opposition leaders play a critical role in the governance of a country and it is important that those who take up such roles are serious about their commitments.

In case anyone out there feels we are not being fair by rubbishing Mr Kambwili’s excuse, here is what the man has said before about his arrests and his determination to speak for the voiceless people of Zambia.

KAMBWILI: (September 2019) “My arrest and detention was a painful experience but for the good of the country. No success comes on a silver plate, it comes on a thorny plate. True revolutionaries suffer. President Edgar Lungu is today destroying the country because he has never suffered. I am ready to go to prison for the people of Zambia. If [Nelson] Mandela went to prison for 27 years in order to remove the white minority rule who were tormenting the blacks, why shouldn’t I suffer? Prison was meant for people, it was not meant for animals and so those who are in prison are not less human.”

KAMBWILI: (October 2020 after being sentenced by Magistrate Simusamba) “I just want to tell the people of Zambia that I can never be intimidated! This is political persecution and I am not scared of being persecuted. I will increase the volume as usual. This political persecution is nothing to me, there is nothing that I can be sacred of. I will never ever be intimidated! In any case what they have done, they are only allowing me to put more volume.

That was the position that Mr Kambwili took. When he said all those things, he was fully aware that he would need lawyers and money to fight the persecution that he was facing. Mr Kambwili sold himself as a fearless opposition leader who could not cow down to threats from police. In February 2018 after police accused him of holding an illegal meeting at his house in Luanshya, Mr Kambwili said: “Tell that Katanga woman that if she is confused, nshili mwaume wakunyelako amasushi ine (I am not a man to fart around with). I am not a stupid person that she can just call on stupid issues.”

This is the background that tells us that something is amiss about Mr Kambwili, this is the reason why we are rubbishing his excuse for deciding to keep quiet. It is hard to understand why Mr Kambwili was so determined to speak against the bad governance practices under President Edgar Lungu when the elections were several years away and choose to reduce the volume when people will be voting in six months. Why would he suddenly express fear to speak for the people when citizens are making up their minds on who to vote for? Talk about giving up in the eleventh hour, it simply doesn’t make sense.

When people are looking for leaders, they also assess how those leaders handle the most difficult times. Imagine an opposition figure of Hakainde Hichilema’s caliber announcing that he has decided to go quiet because he doesn’t want to get arrested again, or that the people of Zambia let him suffer alone in prison. Where would that leave Zambia? In our view, that is the unfortunate stance that Mr Kambwili has taken. It is a sad development because, like we have said before, he played a critical role in keeping the ruling party and government in check. But these things always happen in politics.

We are reminded of the words spoken by one of Zambia’s greatest newspaper editors, Fred M’membe who said “When you are in a group that is fighting for a cause, you must always know the perseverance capacity of one another so that you do not push comrades to perform roles that are beyond their limits.” This is how we would like to understand the position taken by Mr Kambwili. We must not expect him to go beyond what he can take as a human being. If he says this is how far his energy could take him, let us welcome his decision and give him a chair in the terraces or on the defectors’ bench.

We can see that what is currently bothering Mr Kambwili is the continued accusations that he is going back to PF. Because of what he has been saying in the past against the ruling party and the commitments he has made to other leaders in the opposition, he doesn’t like the topic. But he must not feel bad about that because he is a free citizen who must enjoy his freedom of association.

GBM called PF criminals and monkeys a week before he went to dress in their party regalia and rejoined the party. No one has put a gun to GBM’s head to question his decisions. Mwenya Musenge uyo, he has swallowed his vomit and rejoined PF, life has continued for him. So, there is no need to fool people with silence because that kind of silence is so loud, it speaks volumes.