There comes a time in the life of a nation that citizens of all walks of life, of goodwill and bad will, tall and short, Tonga and Tumbuka, need to band together to resolve the ills afflicting their common existence. On Saturday, July 20, 2019, the people of Lusaka, and Zambia will have an infrequent opportunity to make it very clear to the present government, of their just grievances towards corruption and most importantly, towards the infamous Bill 10. The people must join Ms Laura Miti, Mr Pilato, Mr Michael Zulu and many others at Parliament grounds on Saturday. The people must do this for several reasons.
First, the people of Zambia are the vanguards of their democracy. Democracy dies when people stop to care about its significance. Zambian democracy will survive only to the extent that its benefactors safeguard it. Those benefactors are the ordinary people of Zambia – the people on the streets. We are therefore appealing to all the citizens to join in the yellow card call for personal and corporate mobilisation to send a message to power.
Second, the people of Zambia must join the protest on Saturday to send a clear message to President Edga Lungu that the people of Zambia will not stand idly while his Patriotic Front party and its erstwhile Justice Minister destroy Zambian democracy through unwanted amendments to the Constitution of Zambia. We are glad that the message has started to filter to those in power that the Zambians are mobilising themselves to safeguard their democracy. Already, we have noticed during the week that the PF party itself has begun to disown a bulk of the NDF resolutions that have found themselves in Bill 10. The PF is backpedalling due to the power of the people who have already started to make it clear that corruption and Bill 10 are entirely unacceptable in the Republic.
Third, the Saturday yellow card protest must be encouraged because peaceful protests and demonstrations are constitutionally acceptable for the people to express their just grievances. This is the challenge that the people must face on Saturday. Do not allow violence. Show the people in power that people can demonstrate peacefully without violence. A protest is a constitutional right, but violence is not. Moreover, we are looking forward to a very peaceful Saturday that expresses the genuine concerns of concerned people.
Fourth, we do believe that people have genuine concerns regarding the way Zambia is currently being managed. Just last week, a minister who was accused of theft and corruption walked free after an acquittal by the magistrate court. While a lot can be said about the acquittal, something is clear; however, Zambians are concerned that it is challenging to convict politically connected persons even in the presence of incriminating evidence. On Saturday, the people of Zambia should express their displeasure at the corruption now crippling the operations of the state.
Fifth, people must have genuine concerns over the turnover at the Ministry of Finance. The ministry will now have three ministers in as many years. It appears like it is not the ministers that are the problem – it is the government. A government that cannot seem to keep its Minister of Finance should look in the mirror. No matter how qualified Dr Bwalya Ng’andu is, he too will fail or be fired because the Ministry of Finance does not seem to be run from the ministry itself. It is being run from State House. It is junior officers at State House that are calling the shots. Also, with each shot comes a corresponding shooting into the proverbial feet of the nation. Zambia’s worst brain drain is not about the educated leaving Africa, but rather what happens to educated Zambians once they acquire political power.
Further, instead of looking at what Dr Ng’andu will do for the government, it is time to look and inquire into what the government is willing to do to let an otherwise qualified individual perform duties of the ministry without undue influence from the corrupt within the confines of State House. Dr Ng’andu will have an uphill battle to bring discipline among State House staff that have been doing whatever they want. On Saturday, the yellow card protest presents an opportunity for the people of Zambia to make it clear that if the economy of Zambia is to recover, brilliant minds like Dr Ng’andu must function freely without undue and undisciplined influence.
Sixth, the Saturday yellow card protest is a way to support institutions that are currently standing up for the people of Zambia. On Monday, July 15, 2019, the Law Association of Zambia issued its statement regarding Bill 10. In that statement, LAZ has made it very clear that Zambian democracy is under threat and has embarked on positive steps to seek redress. On Saturday, the people of Zambia must show that they stand with LAZ; and further, LAZ must show that it stands with the people of Zambia.
Seventh, and perhaps most importantly, the Saturday yellow card protest must bring pressure on Justice Minister Given Lubinda. Hon Lubinda has lost the moral authority to continue in government. He must resign. He no longer commands the confidence of the people of Zambia, and neither does he command the confidence of institutions such as LAZ that must work closely with his office. For pushing through Bill 10, a bill that seeks to undermine Zambia’s rule of law, Mr Lubinda has got to pack his bag and leave government. He has embarrassed himself and the people of Zambia. On Saturday, he must be shown a yellow card, by no less than the people of Zambia themselves.
On Saturday. Be there.
The author is a barrister and solicitor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and can be reached at [email protected]