Saturday, September 14, 2013
THE GARDEN HOTEL EXPERIENCE
A THOUSAND POINTS OF LIGHT: A TRIBUTE THE THE MULTIPARTY ACTIVISTS OF GARDEN HOTEL,
July 20, 1990 will go in my private diary as a day when I sang the Zambian National Anthem with emotion. I was moved by the realization that after all Zambia has a flickering possibility that she will not miss the social tides of democracy sweeping the world. There actually is hope that it can happen here.
If you ask me what gave rise to this optimism, I would hesitate to point a fingure on any one thing. But there is in fact, one overarching reality that suggest my sense of optimism. There are possibilities for a resurgence of a democratic fervour, a reclaim of our nature as political subjects, the demise of the politics of depoliticisation. I feel strongly that yesterday marked a rite of passage for most of us. It is above all the realization that there is some concrete history underlying this possibility. This hope has been kept alive by persons in our midst. It is this fact that spurred me to answer the question a young man posed rather nervously yesterday--- " Are we serious ? " I am indebted to him for asking it and for the forum to have given him the platform to make the question "thinkable".
If I see the event yesterday as a benevolent gift emanating from UNIP's own crisis of conscience, then I would doubt the essence of what is happening here. But nay, when I listened and looked, I saw faces of men and women in our midst to whom we, the " WE " people can with pride and confidence rise up and say "thank you for having kept the dream alive". These are men and women who kept the dream alive by sacrificing the comforts that they had and were entitled to. There are men and women here who lost their jobs because they dared to speak. There are men and women here who lost their peace of mind because they dared to defend those who dared to speak. There are men and women here who lost more than we could repay them here because they dared to stand up and say enough is enough. There are men here who have known the cold nights of political detention. There are men here whose privacy of homes and offices have been violated because they believed in the idea of democracy. There are men here whose characters have been "officially" assassinated, publicly insulted even before the referendum campaign starts. There are these men here and many more out there who have been flickering like a thousand points of light keeping the idea of democracy in Zambian skies alive! If not for any other reason but their sacrifice, we ought to assertively assure the enquiring mind of our young aspiring lawyer---yes friend we are serious!
I listened to these voices. They are not angry voices. They are not vindictive voices. They are not timid voices either. There are voices with courage and conviction enough to stand up and say " We may have even served UNIP and argued for a One-Party State at some point but we have the courage to admit we were wrong". These are men and women whose presence here alone is a measure of their conviction.
Last night when I left the Forum and before I faced my computer to process these thoughts I called a professional friend whose outsider's wisdom has always been invaluable to many. I shared with him an experience one friend in the audience expressed..."I am afraid of what will happen if we do not win". My wise friend said: you have good reason to be. The men your Forum will be confronting are not timid at being ruthless if their political survival is threatened. I knew he was right. Immediately I confirmed my inner thoughts that this Forum is not about kids' games. It is not simply a debating society. What is being said here has far-reaching implications to the people and to the "HIIIMs". This is serious business.
But what is the business ? One veteran yesterday cautioned that we keep the "ball" in mind. There is a referendum and it has to be won. Others attempted to set out the justifications for fighting for multi-party democracy. Some said that we stand the chance of confusing people if we do not simplify the essence of what this exercise is about. We have to tell them that multi-party will make a difference. How do we approach this question?
The referendum Commission has warned us that this is about helping people answer the question: Do you want the re-introduction of multi-party politics? It is not about character debates, etc. But I have learnt in my past endeavours that those who define the issue set the agenda. In the process of defining the issue of the referendum, the agenda issues raised have been that those who advocate for multi-party politics are of a certain character: tribalists, drug-dealers, mad dogs, misfits and enemies who want to plunge the country into a civil war, and so on. Men and women in Uniforms are even being incited into playing partisan politics by being taken into re-education night camps. They are being put in line.
Country men and women ( please do not call me comrade) , the referendum is about "doable" ideas whose hour has come. If we tell people, this is simply about choosing many as opposed to one party, they will remember the warning that "you do not change your stewards in the middle of the sea". If we say that this is about changing "HIIIM", they will be asked in place of what? "Tribalists and drug-dealers....?" . In other words, this campaign has already been characterised. To stand up and disclaim we are not tribalists and drug dealers etc will not wash. We need "new thinking".
Let us remember that the thinking majority in Zambia have been silenced for too long. The One Party advocates have even threatened to disenfranchise the thinking majority and given the vote to vigilantes. Let us come out of here with a voice for them. Let us hear them speak. Let us go out and hear the previously muffled voices of our 73 tribes resonate like a hundred musical notes on a Silozi Xylephone. Let us go and speak to our Litungas, Mushimas, Chitimukulus, Mpezenis, Gawa Undis Kazembes, Monzes, Mukunis and Mushilis and all our indunas: that we value them too highly as custodians of our collective heritage to turn them into UNIP Card collectors. There are above partisan politics. Only they can guarantee our collective Bantu heritage as a definite people with our hundred languages and cultures that form Zambia's national mosaic. We are not ashamed of them, nor are we afraid of them because they are "WE". Let us challenge our lawyers to think of how this rich tribal culture and its institutions can constitutionally guarantee our collective identity as a nation and thereby lift it above partisan politics. Let us go to these tribes in the Western, North-Western, Copperbelt, Luapula, Central, Lusaka, Southern, Eastern and Northern provinces and proudly bring forth a thousand songs of hope for democracy in Zambia.
For your principled belief in the idea of democracy they will even call you a drug-dealer but you have reason to still be proud-- for democracy, is not a child killer!
CHARITABLE STEWARDS AND MID-SEA ECONOMIC SHIPS.
Economic structural adjustments in a one Party State can only give rise to "Crony Capitalism". In this system investment capital requires a special private understanding from individual leaders to operate. Economic and political liberalism succeeds not just at the whim of a few men but because they are nurtured in a society of men and of laws. Economic reforms under a multi-party democracy therefore is "the real thing".
POLITICALLY EDUCATING MEN IN UNIFORMS?
To a multi-party democracy, give it a professional soldier who will stand tall and proud to defend our borders and guarantee that we conduct our politics in peace. Give it a soldier boy or girl who can tell the difference between an enemy and a Zambian citizen capable of expressing political dissent. Give it a professional soldier who is proud of the barracks! And, to the One Party tyranny, surrender not a professional soldier but a vigilante, a graduate of re-education camps.
Give to the multi-party democracy, not only a law-enforcement officer but a servant of the public--- a friend of an old lady who has lost direction, of a child who is looking for mother, a peace-maker, an assuring presence that when you go window-shopping in the night in Cairo Rd ( it was possible before ), you will feel secure because these men and women are on the beat.
Give to the multi-party democracy such officers proud to be professional cops in clean uniforms and polished shoes not barefoot political vigilantes.
WE ARE A VOICE
The beauty that is hope for us all is that the strained atmosphere of the looming campaign, is giving rise to a Democratic Forum where voices of real men and women and not just the Party, can be heard. It is true that in order to confront the organized might of the UNIP establishment, we will need "designated hitters" who will provide clearly thought out positions of the Forum. This is the fact of organization. But let us not lose sight of the essence of democracy. The voices of designated hitters will be greatly enriched by the very fact of this process of realising our capacity to choose. In other words we should not sacrifice democratic debate including expressions of differences of opinion in the Forum in order to withstand One-Party fascism. We shall win because we are open to a multitude of ideas which we cajole out of the timid voices of our young members, and the ones we retrieve from the archives of our "skilful manipulators". We are democrats. If there are voices of dissent, let us hear them out and give them a platform. Because we have the strength of our collective commitment to expression and choice, we shall not fail to put the case across to our thinking majority that debate is the essence of the freedom they will choose.
Katele Kalumba (Dr)
July 21, 1990
After Garden Motel