Tribal politics could send PF down the drain

Analysis by Jonathan Mulako

President Lungu and his Patriotic Front (PF) administration seem to enjoy raising their fingers at opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, accusing him of being the perpetrator of tribalism in the country. In their usual fashion of acting holy, quite a number of Zambians have been hoodwinked to think Edgar and his followers hated tribalism.

Through what appears to be a well- coordinated scheme of falsehood, President Lungu and his administration have launched a vicious blame game in an effort to completely dent the image of Hichilema and his political party. The PF is renowned for the skill of taking lies to be true by repeating them over and over to unsuspecting citizenry.

The nation has seen even Lungu’s political allies, compromised clergy and all types of hired supporters and some governmental civil society organisations joining the fray in condemning the opposition leader and his party for playing tribal politics. Edgar and his advisors seem be seriously handicapped in terms of wisdom to understand some words of the wise: “A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future.”

In over 50 years of independence, Zambians had managed to unite themselves and put tribalism on the shelves of history through the One Zambia, One Nation motto. Thus, you can no longer see or identify yourself solely as a member of a tribe, but as a citizen of a nation of one people working towards a common purpose. This means those appearing to champion the disgraceful act of tribalism for political gains should be declared enemies of peace and unity.

The PF administration is one grouping which is determined to undo the achievements of Zambia as a united country. Self-preservation and political survival are forcing president lungu and his administration to carpet the fact that through love, Zambian tribes have been intermixing colours to reveal a rainbow nation. And as more time could have passed, the racial and cultural blending should have eventually made it harder for any Zambian to elevate one tribe and demean another.

But going by the amount of tribal talks spearheaded by the rank and file in the ruling party, Edgar appears to be determined to destroy everything to do with national unity. As Zambians have come to know, the Zambian leader would rather keep power than national unity – if that is what it takes to overstay on the presidential throne.

During a tour of Southern province, Edgar, probably irked by the reality on the ground how his party weak, he lost his cool and lamented: “One day a Tonga will be president but not the UPND leader Hichilema,” he said, referring to his main political rival.

Many Zambians viewed Edgar’s statement as condescending, tribal and divisive. In an effort to clean himself, Edgar through the state-controlled media later played up the narrative of having been misquoted. The government media explained that what President Lungu meant in his statement was that Hichilema cannot be Head of state, not that a Tonga cannot be president.

As Zambians were still battling to comprehend with the semantic noise created by the state media on the issue, President Lungu amasingly relapsed into tribal talks again. Late last year, the Head of state on his return visit to Southern Province could not resist engaging himself in tribal politics: “People who are in the opposition here don’t mean well, they want to portray this region as being tribal, a section of people who want to vote on tribal lines…… if there is a democratic party, it is PF; not the one man party with a pocket agenda which is to take one man to state house. That is not a political party, it is a cult,” Lungu told a gathering in Southern province.

This tribal talk yet gain triggered anger among the general citizenry. Edgar was roundly condemned. On Edgar’s part, his reluctance to do away with tribal commentary left no one in doubt that his administration was benefiting more from divisive politics. With shocking ethnic talks in a short space of time coming from the head of state, his blame game on tribalism is now a reminiscent of a clear case of a mischievous boy caught with powder milk in the mouth but has the audacity of shifting blame on an innocent nearby neighbor.

Commenting on president Lungu’s usual antics of labeling UPND leader as tribal, former livestock and fisheries deputy minister Luxon Kazabu described the current Zambian leader as a person who is trapped in his own lies: “I want to say he has been caught up in his own web of lies on the issue of tribalism……….. He has actually demonstrated himself as a man of shocking contradictions,”Kazabu said.

Before President Lungu could devise another tactic to shift blame, the Chilubi constituency parliamentary by-election pushed tribal campaign messages and hate speech to a record high by members of the ruling party, unprecedented in the history of Zambia.

Having lost all their talking point advantage because of the high-levels of poverty among the people of Chilubi, the ruling party shamelessly unleashed their tribalism trump card to gunner support. Three party officials, Fisheries & Livestock minister Professor Nkandu Luo, and Chanda Nyela shamelessly raised the bar of tribal politics in a desperate attempt to win votes.

‘ Mukwai, ine shikwete ama shiwi ayengi, Nachibalila pa ku lumbula ati ndi mu bisa, ndi mubemba. Kanshi ku mwesu ne ku lingana ne miteto yesu, tatwi ima ati twaya muku pyanika umutu…………ne mu Bemba nafwa, abati iyo ka sendeni umu tonga uwa ku Monze,” livestock and fisheries minister Professor Nkandu Luo told Chilubi residents in Bemba. In simple terms, Luo was directing people in Chilubi to vote on tribal lines. The residents were instructed to vote against any party whose leader was Tonga.

In a short space of time, her tribal remarks were followed by another hate speech from PF national mobilisation committee member, Bizwell Mutale.

“You are waiting for a Tonga President? It will never happen. I want you to get it straight from me. There will be no Tonga President in Southern province who is going to save Zambia beyond 2021, “Mutale sparked another tribal debate during his mobilization tour of Southern Province.

It may appear practicing tribalism is entrenched within the ruling party. Stakeholders have continued to rebuke acts of tribalism coming from the PF administration without any sign of success.

“Sentiments of tribalism coming from the ruling party officials are retrogressive and an insult to the founding fathers’ efforts of united Zambia,” Historian and University of Zambia lecturer professor Bisek Phiri warned.

With tribal expected and hate speech reaching crescendo, one would have expected the head of state to come out strongly on the issue, but his role as an accomplice has put him in an duzzling dilemma. Green party leader Peter Sinkamba is one of the politicians in the country with no kind words for the PF administration: “Instead of playing tribal politics, the ruling party should concentrate on solving the economic problems the country is facing,” Sinkamba said.

Another Zambian citizen George Kunda warned: “This PF administration has the capacity to destroy the country by advancing polarized politics. They are a danger to national unity and peace,” Kunda expressed concern.

Realising the damage caused by their own disgraceful act, the PF has gone in full gear to try to clean its own mess. In a dramatic style, Sunday Chanda, the PF media director was the first to disown his own senior members of the party. :” Tribal remarks made by senior members of the party were made in their personal capacity and do not represent the PF’s position,” Chanda dropped the bombshell.

Understandably, Chanda is paid to make statements to protect the image of the party even when his sentiments make very little sense to average followers.

Another attempt to save face by the Minister of guidance and religious affairs Reverend Godfridah Sumaili, equally exposed her as a poor handler of party crisis. Fearing to pinpoint the culprits, she deliberately opted to portray that tribalism and hate speech was engineered by outsiders: “My ministry is deeply concerned with the persistent incidences of tribal remarks, “Sumailli flatly commented.

President Lungu added more spice to the comedy on the issue: “ I kneel before you to help us stop tribalism in this country, “Lungu pleaded before Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba speaking people in Northern Zambia, before adding: “ We have four paramount chiefs in this country, so help us to stop tribalism and hate speech.”

Really! With due respect, Mr President, why do you want to fool our traditional leaders like that? It may not please you to know that the four paramount Chiefs are fully aware that tribal remarks and hate speech have come from your own mouth and senior members of the PF. What you are implying is that the chiefs should tell you to stop your evil conduct!

Not to be outsmarted, chief government spokesperson and Information minister Dora Siliya attempted to launder the PF by stating on the World radio day on February 13, this year that all those who had propagated tribalism should be shamed. Effectively, the information minister was calling for citizens to shame the head of state, Minister Nkandu Luo and all senior members of the party who are on record preaching tribalism. Indeed, shame on them all.

Siliya, has not only ended there. She once again came on state media with a blame game act to try to keep the PF boat afloat. In a distasteful show, Siliya says, “The people of Zambia will not sit quiet and allow politicians who always raise allegations of tribalism which they cannot substantiate.”

Perhaps Siliya should be reminded that President knelt before Chitimukulu pleading for support to fight tribalism. So, what are you telling us about your own President? That he is a liar? Help us make sense out of this drama.

Why is Siliya beating about the bush? Zambians are alert to the fact that tribalism has for a long time been used as a divide and rule tact by those in power to oppress common citizens and perpetuate their stay in power. Equally well known is that when those in power, in this case, Edgar and his administration, have tried everything and discover that nothing is working, they have a track record of reverting to what they know best- divisive tribal messages.

To many Zambians, Edgar is seen as a non-beneficiary of the Bemba versus the Tonga tribal talks propagated by the ruling party. However, the truth is that deliberately raising accent on this issue is essential to make known the connection of Edgar’s tribe to the Bembas. From this single piece of information, you can trace the lines of patronage and allegiance that define the state.

UPP President Saviour Chishimba, irked by tribal politics in the PF administration commented: “There is no single tribe which is superior to all others. I am astounded and shocked, but not surprised that the PF led government appear to be nursing hate speech against the Tongas. This is very dangerous because tomorrow it will be another tribe that will be target for political gains.

“I told the nation that PF was not the Messiah political grouping because some of the elements who served in wicked regimes had joined the party and were given prominent roles,” Chishimba, a founder member of the ruling party explained.

Despite calls by citizens to arrest tribalists in his party, the president has failed to be decisive on this matter, to the disappointment of Zambians. The penal code Act Chapter V11, section 70(1) says “any person who utters words or publishes any writing expressing or showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for any person or group of persons wholly or mainly because of his or their race, tribe, place of origin or colour is quilt of an offense and is liable of conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.

In countries which respect the rule of law, many seniors’ members of the PF administration could have been cited. However, what can’t be hidden anymore is the fact that Zambians have come to know the real perpetrators of tribalism and hate speech in the country for political gains.

This is seen as the lifeline of the PF administration. The tribal tool might have worked for them previously but might go down crashing them if they don’t change.