Reaping Political Mileage From The Whirlwind Of False Graft Accusations

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 10:26:09 +0000

Professor Mwiine Lubemba

During a fundraising dinner a week ago in Kitwe on a Saturday night for the construction of the PF convention centre, President Edgar Lungu told party functionaries, sympathisers and some government officials present that “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala…but tabatila kulya nembuto kumo”. I do not admit that a great wrong had been done by the Head of State to warrant a sudden flurry of false graft accusations from the opposition leaders. The latter had deliberately twisted and misconstrued the well-intended advice meant for the party functionaries, sympathisers and some government officials present at the function to insinuate that the former was promoting an element of corruption when in fact not.

What perspective gave birth to a Zambian idiom which loosely translates like this: “While a person is expected to be rewarded in a manner they deserve from their labour, they are not permitted to consume the seed – what they don’t deserve.”  I do not understand the squeamishness in the opposition parties about the use of appropriate Bemba idioms and proverbs by those in authority.

Well, let me look over my shoulder and refrain from upsetting the National Democratic Congress (NDC) political consultant Chishimba Kambwili, the sharp-tongued Bemba indigene from Mporokoso. Let me concentrate on the matter at hand. In 1938 Pastor Martin Niemöller was arrested by Germany’s Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo and was freed by Britain’s Winston Churchill and his Allies after Hitler had killed himself. Pastor Niemöller then put his thoughts on paper, and what he said rings true today, especially in the case of the current Zambian opposition politicians’ apparent anger over the Bemba idiom.

Niemöller wrote: “First, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Thus the compulsion to speak out for the Head of State today is overwhelming.

It was a wise man who said: “There is always something new out of the Zambian political scene.” How else can we explain the current outrage across the country about the Bemba idiom used by President Edgar Lungu in Kitwe, when only four months ago Zambians folded their arms, kept their mouths shut and watched as UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was among several world figures named in a huge scandalous leak of financial documents that revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy secretly invested vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens? If you sow maize, you can’t reap cassava, say our elders in Zambia.

In Zambia, we allowed the British who would not permit even their lowliest citizen to be tried by the Zambian High Court to seduce us with sheer propaganda about late President Frederick Chiluba. Aided by their South African-based regime change cousins, the British succeeded in using some misguided Zambian private media outlet owners, human rights activists dragooned into the unholy alliance that called itself the “Campaign Against Corruption” to lead the chant for former late President Frederick Chiluba’s head – a man that “the Zambian Constitution” had given an immunity-from-prosecution subject to parliamentary immunity removal. At the time of his indictment, when Zambia’s government leadership then said nothing in his defence, late President Frederick Chiluba, like Pastor Niemöller before him, warned: “Today it is me and only God knows who it will be tomorrow.” At the end of a four-month trial, the result of a civil action brought by the late President Levy Mwanawasa-led government, the London court found that, while in office, the late Frederick Chiluba and four of his senior aides had conspired to rob the government of Zambia and its people of US$46million.

The former president, who had declined an invitation to attend the hearing in London, was ordered to pay back 85% of the money. Back in Lusaka, fed up with the matter, there was no shame, no contrition, no apology. As he stood in the grounds of his spacious residence in the leafy suburbs of Kabulonga in Lusaka, the late Frederick Chiluba declared that the case brought against him in London had been concocted by the British government, in collusion with the then Zambian government, in an attempt to crucify him.

The judge represented a “vicious and violent system with inherent prejudices and hatred against Africa”. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s brother, the lawyer William Blair QC, was on the prosecution team and the whole case against him was “trash”, the late Frederick Chiluba said. “I find this judgement totally unacceptable and I therefore reject it”, the former late president told journalists.

Indeed, these developments of false graft accusations extend well beyond the former late president and require some serious reflection and action by the ruling party, the Zambian opposition leadership and others in government for the sake of our country. Admittedly, the South African-based regime change cartel has succeeded in reemerging, reinventing itself and using some misguided named private media outlet, its owners, human rights activists dragooned into the unholy alliance in a déjà vu style that is calling itself the “Campaign Against Corruption In Government” to lead the chant for President  Edgar Lungu’s head – a man that “the Zambian Constitution” has given an immunity-from-prosecution subject to parliamentary immunity removal after his term of office.

Among other things, the PF government officials had asked the Zambian opposition leadership to provide tangible evidence to the investigative wings like the ACC, DEC and Zambia Police against the alleged commission of acts of corruption by those serving in government. The Zambian opposition leadership still has done nothing, to this day! And, strangely, they are now shouting themselves hoarse over President Edgar Lungu’s use of a Bemba idiom “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala”. Why?

I even hear the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, is also criticising President Edgar Lungu’s use of the same Bemba idiom. What else can one do with the UPND leader? This man never ceases to amaze me. He deliberately claimed that the statement confirmed that President Lungu was out to deplete state coffers through corruption.

What is new is the UPND leader’s desultory conflation of rancid and barbaric self-serving tactics on the political landscape, such as the kind he doggedly pursued under which he consigned tens of hundreds of Zambians to their premature abject poverty and early graves when he was entrusted with disposing of state companies by the first MMD administration in the 1990s. And Zambians have not forgotten how he allegedly amassed wealth through the same and the non-payment of BP Zambia retirees’ pension benefits through sinister activities at Saturnia Regna Pension Fund.

Opposition Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo called on President Edgar Lungu to immediately withdraw his “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala” statement, on grounds that it was an irresponsible statement that should not come from a Head of State. In PeP leader Sean Tembo’s view the idiom could deliberately be misconstrued by many to mean “you are free to enrich yourselves from public resources but do not finish everything.”

On the same day, the NDC, perhaps encouraged by the UPND stand, also issued a similar but longer statement via its Secretary General Mwenya Musenge in Kitwe.  The NDC insinuated that it was disappointed that President Edgar Lungu was now in the forefront championing corruption.

Exasperated with the deliberate and twisted balderdash that was being spewed by opposition leaders in order to gain political capital out of the Bemba idiom issue, the PF media director Sunday Chanda had this to say, and I quote:

“Uubomba Mwibala, alya Mwibala lelo tabatila ulye nembuto Kumo”, is a Bemba idiom meaning that while a person is expected to be rewarded in a manner they deserve from their labour, they are not permitted to consume the seed (What they don’t deserve).

In the words of scripture, the Bible speaks to this same scenario as follows: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deut 25:4).

The idea behind the law to not muzzle an ox while it is working to produce grain is that the ox deserves to partake in some of his own labor and so the command is to not to muzzle the ox. This means they allow him to eat from part of his labor while he treads out the grain. It seems cruel to make an animal work for man to produce food while depriving it of the same thing.

This is also the principle that can be taken out of this verse in the way we treat labourers. That is, the labourer should be treated fairly and not be deprived of the wages that they deserve. What the labourer or Ox is not allowed to do is to eat the seed.

So yes, President Edgar Lungu was spot on when he used the idiom, “Uubomba Mwibala, alya Mwibala lelo tabatila alye imbuto” to say to those serving in Government that they are allowed to get what they deserve (salaries, wages, etc) but must not eat the seed which is not what they deserve. Seed could mean public resources in this context. End of quote.

It is just a matter of time before NDC suffers the same fate as many others like UPND, according to political analysts, and before its exponents decamp to another party. Zambian politics are famed for politicians who abandon or get expelled from their parties and reinvent themselves. Indeed, a glimpse into Zambian history reveals that its political parties are not built on ideology and they hardly survive, although the politicians mutate and reinvent themselves as campaigners against corruption.

In any case, since when did NDC care about human rights in Zambia? Didn’t the NDC political consultant Chishimba Kambwili support plans for the hateful targeted xenophobic attacks against the Chinese nationals in Luanshya? Hasn’t NDC supported some of the odious acts of insolence in Zambia? For the avoidance of doubt, let me say here that I’m not against NDC leaders being made to answer for their crimes, using national justice. But ACC, DEC and Zambia Police must not do it selectively! And if national justice is to have any meaning, UPND and NDC leaders, like Hakainde Hichilema and Chishimba Kambwili whose disastrous inflammatory rhetoric has incited and incensed hundreds of thousands of innocent and peace-loving people, should also be made to answer for their crimes for unnecessarily creating tension in the nation.

And yet, the leaders of UPND and NDC who had wanted their cadres to be used to do xenophobic dirty work are free from prosecution today.

For Zambia, there is one lesson in this for us. We allowed ourselves, in late Frederick Chiluba’s case in London, to be dragooned into what is patently a political trial serving “Anglo American founders and British national interests” more than Zambia’s, and we shouldn’t complain when the South African-based regime change cartel comes for more, in the shape of President Edgar Lungu who is being unfairly accused of corruption. We dug our grave, and it is only fair that we lie in it. Meanwhile, opposition leaders are brazenly reaping political mileage amongst the gullible Zambians from the whirlwind of false graft accusations.

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