Surely, Edgar Lungu dreams of one party state rule in Zambia. “Why is it that when we meet in church we don’t talk about tribe? Why is it that when we meet elsewhere, including social places, we don’t talk about tribe? It is only in politics, maybe we must banish politics,” Edgar Lungu told a United Church of Zambia congregation in Lusaka on Sunday.
Banish politics! How? Can politics be banished?
It is not difficult to guess what Edgar was trying to say. Without putting words in his mouth, what Edgar was talking about was political parties and not politics. This is a concept of Yoweri Museveni. Museveni believed in and tried to implement a “party-less democracy” in Uganda. But even that party-less democracy was not really party-less because his political organisation, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), continued to exist. So really, what happened there was the institution of a one party state, with NRM as the only party. If Edgar is to “banish” politics or political parties, is he going to banish his own politics as well? Or if he is to abolish political parties, is he going to abolish the Patriotic Front as well?
It is shocking that Edgar is introducing a subject of banning politics at a church gathering, in a church! And after that, he promises to create a ministry of Christianity or religious affairs or “something like that”! Who is he trying to fool? There are lessons from history about such schemes. In 1935, Adolf Hitler, that monster and evil man of Nazi Germany, created a ministry of ecclesiastical affairs, or ministry of church affairs. Hitler, under the banner of Christianity, created this ministry to perpetrate his well-known evil deeds – the extermination of the Jews, communists, trade unionists, Catholics and even protestants. So there is nothing new and sacred in what Edgar is trying to do. Such things are worthless if they are not inspired by noble, selfless sentiments.
Let’s not forget that since last year, the Patriotic Front has been talking about a one-party state. Today they are raising very high the issue of tribal politics and blaming the violence that is taking place on it. This is not a new argument in Zambian politics. This is the same argument that dominated UNIP’s drive for a one party state in the early 1970s.
Shortly after addressing the same church congregation, Edgar’s cadres attacked Andrew Kamanga, the president of the Football Association of Zambia. To which tribe does Andrew belong? To which political party does Andrew belong? Anyway, it is not difficult to put threads around the events and see the connections. Andrew defeated Kalusha Bwalya in the Football Association of Zambia elections. Kalusha was openly campaigning for Edgar and the Patriotic Front in the last elections. The Patriotic Front cadres who beat up Andrew did not accuse him of being a different tribe from Edgar. They accused Andrew of being UPND. There was totally no issue of tribe. Edgar has been trying very hard to put a tribal tag on the political violence going on. Why?
It is not about tribe. It is about power. The violence in the Patriotic Front started in late 2014 when there was a contest for adoption as the party’s presidential candidate. Is Edgar telling us that the violence perpetrated by him and his supporters in 2014 was anchored on tribe? No. It had nothing to do with tribe; it was simply a contest for power using violence.
This is not to deny the regional reality of our politics. There is a clear case of regional block voting. But this, undesirable and unacceptable as it may be, is not the cause of the political violence we are today witnessing. If it were the cause, the violence we are witnessing today would be very different.
And we shouldn’t be fooled by Edgar’s cheap and hypocritical Christian talk. We should pay more attention to his deeds. How can Edgar claim to love God who is invisible, if he refuses to love the image and likeness of God clothed in the flesh and blood of his citizens, who happen to belong to different political parties and are opposed or critical of his rule? We should never forget that this law of universal love was preached by Christ. It is the very essence of Christianity, its distinctive mark, and in its absence, there can be no merit in one proclaiming to be committed to Christianity. “The person who loves one’s neighbour has done all the law demands” (Romans 13:10). This applies to individuals, but it is equally applicable to politics and political parties.
We live in a plural and multiparty society. This type of society cannot continue if individuals and groups continue to restrict and stifle the rights and liberties of others. We must let others develop or advance themselves as individuals or groups while seeking our own development or advancement; we must let others live better while aspiring to live better ourselves; we must let others feel secure while seeking our own security.
But again, we urge the Church to take an honest and courageous path. It was very embarrassing to hear Bishop Sydney Sichilima saying it will be very hard for anyone to remove Edgar from State House. Why is Bishop Sichilima saying all this? Is this the right thing for him to say when Edgar’s stay in State House is being contested in the Constitutional Court? We have rotten politics and a rotten Church. Worms can grow in something rotten. And corruption seems to be everywhere now – corruption in our politics and governance, corruption in our church and religious practices, and so on and so forth. Some people may find this offensive. We have no choice but to offend a few or we will fail millions of people. Ideals and convictions are the moral marrow of any society that aspires to be a decent one. To be firm in our ideals and convictions, we will harden our bones, while an absence of ideals and convictions or wavering in our ideals and convictions will lead to fatal moral weakness. And we are seeing the signs of this weakness everywhere – in our politics, churches, traditional authorities and even in the family.
This article was first published in The Post.