On Monday, 22 June 2020, some notable young people in Zambia staged a protest in an undisclosed location, lamenting Zambia’s multiple woes. Before the protest, the youth had sought legal channels for protest, but the government made it clear that those channels were not open to the would-be protesters. Influential members of the ruling Patriotic Front, starting with the president, had sounded ominous warnings about the planned the protest. Bowman Lusambo, the Minister of Lusaka, has dismissed the leading protesters as “disgruntled” people who know next to nothing about governance On the appointed date, the government sent police forces into the centre of the capital city, only to be outfoxed by the sizable number of protesters who opted to carry out their visual-recorded protest at an undisclosed location..
The courageous Zambians that staged the June 22 protest deserve support. The government’s unwillingness to engage with the youth on reasonable issues reinforces the importance of putting the authorities under constant duress to renounce the country’s current brand of politics. Apart from being dictatorial, the current government is thoroughly corrupt machinery whose actions have previously incurred that wrath of some traditional donors. In a development that is likely to embarrass the government, on 24 June 2020, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Zambia arrested Chitalu Chilufya, the country’s Minister of Health and charged him “with four counts of possession of property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime contrary to section 71 subsection 1 of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act No. 19 of 2010.” Chilufya is by far not the only high-ranking government official with suspicion hanging over his head. The ACC will enhance its reputation by spreading its net wide so as to capture other culpable officials.
Left to its devices, the current government will plunge the country into more crises than it has already done. It is thus laudable that patriotic Zambians have taken up the initiative to lament and rebel against Zambia’s current situation. Those who convened the June 22 protest have enjoined all Zambians to protest in various ways on the 22nd of every month for the near future. This consistency will keep the bad governance of Edgar Lungu’s government in the spotlight. What is currently lacking in the commendable efforts is a countrywide synergy whereby outcries will not only be concentrated in Lusaka, the country’s capital city. Disenchanted citizens in other provinces of Zambia, even outside the country, should explore initiatives that can amplify their voices as they denounce the current malaise. Apart from a widespread effort, it is also imperative that the initiative is strictly non-partisan. Understandably, this is a difficult line to tread because an indictment on the current government is ipso facto an indictment on the Patriotic Front (PF) party. However, the protesters could assert their non-partisan orientation by insisting that they are against the use of party apparel. This insistence is likely to encourage even some disheartened members of the PF to lend their voice to the crusade. What is at stake now is the future of Zambia, more than the fortunes of a political organisation.
The election outcome in Malawi will no doubt have an impact on how Zambians will act going into next year’s election. Already, the nullification of Malawi’s 2019 election provoked some envy in Zambia, where the judiciary has been criticised for favouring the ruling government, thereby abandoning the ideals of judicial impartiality. A victory by the opposition in Malawi after the presidential rerun will also give hope to the neighbouring Zambians who seek to vote the PF government out of office in the August 2021 elections. The PF government has had numerous opportunities to address the concerns of Zambians, but it has forfeited all these opportunities; it has rather resorted to intimidation and violence. Thus, one would be forgiven for thinking that the current government is an incorrigible structure. If the PF is voted out of office in 2021, the activism that has been happening thus far will have to continue so that even future governments are constantly kept in check. The future of democracy demands this continuity and it is for this reason that those who have taken up the initiative to frustrate bad governance merit the support of well-meaning Zambians.
Emmanuel Matambo is a Senior Researcher at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS)