Holding political rallies has become a nightmare – VJ

By Staff Reporter
Veteran politician Vernon Mwanga is concerned with increasing suppression of divergent political views in Zambia.
And Dr Fred M’membe extolled Mwaanga for his humbleness in dealing with other human beings regardless of their standing in society.
Speaking when Dr  M’membe, the Socialist Party 2021 presidential candidate called on him at his residence in Olympia to mark his 75th birthday this morning, Mwaanga who is a freedom fighter sympathized with active politicians that they could not be allowed to hold their meetings freely.
“Just a small meeting you will be arrested , so really I think that as a country we have entered a very difficult phase and it is a strange  phase, especially for those of us  who were involved in the struggle for independence and  then afterwards we became part of the third republic,” he said. “We are supposed to be more tolerant to each other’s views, we are not a monolithic state where everyone is going to state  the same things or hold the same views, it was just not possible. When that happens I know that something has gone wrong in our country, we must always have  divergent views, ” he said.
Mwaanga said people with divergent views should not be viewed as enemies but those who hold different views.
“We were not enemies to Dr Kaunda (first President), I remained close with Dr Kaunda, he looked at me as a young man, he trusted me with leadership at a young age up to the time when I started  getting to the top of things. So the situation now has changed , the system now has become less tolerant  of other people’s  views and this was supposed to be a multiparty dispensation which you and I fought for,” he told Dr M’membe.
He regretted that those in power were abusing the political space that people fought for in 1991.
“We are the ones that sacrificed and fought for it. I remember when we went to garden house they were people who were scared to come to  garden house. Some were hiding in the bush for fear of being arrested, so really  I think that  our country has got  great potential and we should not misuse it,” Mwaanga explained.
He said harassing political opponents as is the case now was detrimental to the values of multi-partism, which people sacrificed their lives for.
“I fear for people like yourself Fred and others who are active in politics. I would like to see you being given an opportunity to sale your ideas to people freely without  interference, let the people decide, it is the people who should decide not the leaders to decide on behalf of the people,” he said.
“It makes me very sad sometimes, I go to bed wondering what kind of  country we left for you guys who are now involved in active politics and I fear for the future. We have to change this culture. There has to be determination to change this culture, because this culture was not going to take this country anywhere, it will take us backwards which we don’t want”.
Mwaanga said the current restrictions and oppression of divergent views made his blood boil with frustration in view of the gains that had been made.
“During colonial time at least they allowed us to address meetings, we were not being prevented from addressing meetings,” he said.
“I really want to see a culture where we can tolerate each other’s views, respect each other’s views even when we differ, differences are normal . You political leaders should not treat each other as enemies but mare opponents”.
Mwaanga called for selflessness in providing service to the people.
“New  ideas are always good for the country. Therefore, you Fred and your colleagues we wish you all the best and we know that you can do it,” he said.
 And Dr M’membe reminded Mwaanga that he had learnt a lot from his approach towards other human beings.
Dr M’membe all else was useless without human beings.
“I believe in the feeling of being near and necessary to other people and you taught me that. So I thought today on your birthday I should come and see you, I could not come for the main cerebration. As you know I had a rally on the Copperbelt, it was quite a busy period then, today I said let me see my teacher,” said Dr M’membe.
He commended Mwaanga and Arthur Wina for maintaining their humility towards the founding President Dr Kaunda.
Dr M’membe remembered how Dr Kaunda allowed them to hold campaign meetings and rallies under the one party state without interference.
“This time things have changed, just a small meeting you will be arrested, those days we were not, Dr Kaunda was not our enemy. We did not agree with the one party state, we did not agree with UNIP to continue in government that time but we were not enemies of Dr Kaunda. Thereafter we demonstrated that we were not enemies by being very close to him,” he said
Dr M’membe asked Mwaanga on what should be done now that people’s liberties they fought for had been taken away.
He extolled the liberation heroes for sacrificing their lives and personal achievements they would have made if they didn’t engage in the struggle.
“What do we do? What should we do? The struggle continues, Aluta continua!.
You did not have fear, you sacrificed everything, you sacrificed your education, your life, you sacrificed everything. You could have gone to universities but you were consumed by the struggle. If you sacrificed your life why shouldn’t we? Are our lives more valuable than yours? Are we special than you?” questioned Dr M’membe
He added that the country needed more revolutionaries to continue the struggle for a better country.
“We socialists do not believe we are the only revolutionaries,” Dr M’membe said.
“And for you comrades who fought for the independence of our country for the liberties of our people we remain indebted eternally, you will be in our hearts, you will be in our action, you will be in our decisions all the time, we will respect your contributions”.
Mwaanga turned 75 on June 25, 2019.