Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Consultant & NDC/CK Special Advisor-Policy
Since I repeatedly enjoy watching Ancient Roman Political documentaries and used to ‘force’ Antonio Mwanza watch them every time he visited me, he nicknamed me ‘Julius Caesar’ and I also started calling him ‘Pompey the Great’. I was one of the key monks for him to become University of Zambia Student Union (UNZASU) President in 2005/6 and consequently being impeached and expelled in 2006/7 respectively. We only got reunited in 2010 onwards and could even spend weeks together at my home as brothers. In 2013, I didn’t only help him to get back to UNZA to finish and obtain his Bachelor’s Degree, I also convinced and drove Antonio to Edith Nawakwi’s home to accept the FDD offer of being the party Spokesperson and/or National Youth Coordinator on condition that he uses the platform to enrich his political profile and decide his long term political career later. But in our 2 hours discussion in January, 2018, I passionately objected his idea of joining PF for known reasons. But this time, he cleverly promised me that ‘mark my words Caesar, I will turn down their offer regardless of the lucrative temptations for cars, dollars and everything’. Shockingly, I only learnt a week later that ‘Pompey’ was in PF. The simple fact is, I know Antonio very well as my friend, brother, confidant and comrade; he is ‘Pompey the Great’ to me.
Hence, when I read that the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) were featuring their new and first Deputy Media Director, Mr. Antonio Mwanza at the 19th March, 2018 Oasis Forum Public Discussion as their main speaker while President Lungu’s Press Aide, Amos Chanda and PF Media Director, Sunday Chanda were merely to sit in the audience, I told Debby that the remaining hope for the civil society to survive and win this debate, “Is Zambia in a crisis?”, is anchored on Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa my academic brother or Laura Miti. He asked me why? I simply said, “Our Pompey is out there to mercilessly fight to kill his master’s critics especially that the new PF political gladiator will be fighting this game with his immediate masters (Amos Chanda and Sunday Chanda) in the Colosseum Arena watching him. Pompey will be brutally mad and wickedly tough on all the PF’s political rivals this will be his deciding fight”. After reading the entire aftermath of the Oasis Forum Public Discussion, Debby called me and noted that I was true and correct about my predication, Pompey vomited fire and some participant’s tempers heated up.
Who is a gladiator? According to the simplified definition, the word gladiator is a Latin term for “swordsman”. In Ancient Roman Republic and Empire, Gladiators were ‘trained armed combatants who risked their lives to death for their masters by fighting to ‘entertain’ audiences in violent bloodbath and deadly betting fights with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals’. If you critically scrutinize and understand the purpose and role of Antonio Mwanza in PF, your conclusion will be the same: a sponsored heavyweight political gladiator who has been desperately hired to brutally fight crisis complex battles and win suicidal political bets for his wealth and powerful masters’ survival.
The challenges of being a political gladiator in modern Africa: The Case of Antonio Mwanza in the ruling PF
- Gladiators fight to win for their own survival: In our discussion late January 2018, I did my best to advise Antonio not to take up the lucrative offer from PF. “This is the worst political contradiction and embarrassment I wouldn’t recommend for you regardless of the amount involved”, I told my ‘Pompey’. You know Caesar, he responded, “Yes, yes I agree but, I am now above 40 years old, just suffering in the opposition while family responsibilities keep on growing huge”. At this point, I knew my Pompey was already in the ring to take all the wicked fights for his new masters as long as they made him financially and politically survive. Yes, all gladiators fight their master’s battles for their own survival.
- Gladiators are brutal, wicked and vicious fighters: Technically, Mwanza is by far a superior political package than many PF and government officials as he is a ripe gladiator who is politically brutal, rhetorically wicked and logically vicious than President Lungu, madam Wina, Amos Chanda, Steven Kampyongo, Sunday Chanda, Vincent Mwale, Dora Siliya, Kaizer Zulu or Davies Mwila.
- Gladiators fight without rules or mercy for their opponent: Antonio Mwanza is a natural gladiator as he debates by attacking the opponents first and later defends his side. This is what he is doing on radio, TV and public discussions for Lungu and the PF government. At the last Oasis Forum Public Discussion, Mwanza was even forced to apologize for mercilessly attacking a CSO participant, madam Mwalula; but that is what all gladiators know and do best.
- Gladiators fight to win for their masters: Despite having convinced Zambians for years that Lungu was the most corrupt President and PF was the worst government, Mwanza is now brutally defending Lungu as Zambia’s best president and upright statesman while the ruling PF is on the right path to develop the country. Any gladiator would do the same as they only fight to win for their new master.
- The master choose who the gladiator fights, why, when and how: Ordinarily as per protocol, the PF’s main speaker at the 19th March, 2018 Oasis Forum Public Discussion was supposed to be Hon. Dora Siliya, Chief Government Spokesperson or Amos Chanda, President Lungu’s Press Aide. But all the senior PF boys and girls chose to rest in the audience and risks to bet everything on the national table into the hands of their newly hired political gladiator, Pompey.The master choose who the gladiator fights, why, when and how.
- Gladiators are carefully selected from among the best brutal and skilled fighters: Apart from having other gladiators inside and outside PF such as Max Chongo, Chilufya Tayali, Ntazana Musukwa, Proud Garden or ‘Commando’, Hon. Steven Kampyongo, Amos Chanda, Kaizer Zulu and Sunday Chanda did a commendable job to select the right political gladiator in Antonio Mwanza to fight the deadly PF’s political battles on the horizon. He is certainly a heavyweight gladiator for this deadly fight.
- Gladiators are sacrificed to fight and be killed by lions, crocodiles, wild dogs or elephants: If you look at the 19th March, 2018 Oasis Forum Public Discussion, Amos and Sunda Chanda sat in the audience and intentionally crucified Mwanza to pay for all the political, moral, fiscal sins of the ruling PF which Mwanza himself passionately condemned before being hired. Everywhere, the PF masters present Mwanza as ‘public red meat’ to and for citizens to kill and chew as he is made to defend all their messes such as 42 fire trucks, 50 ambulances, topstar digital migration scandals, mukula timba illegal exports, distribution of branded tissues, books or bicycles, the K17, 000,000.00 New York presidential luxury expenditure, insulting HH and Chishimba Kambwili or defending Bowman Lusambo’s auctioning of Zambia to the Chinese using the national flag. To them, Mwanza is their hired gladiator who can be sacrificed to fight and be killed by Zambia’s political lions, crocodiles, wild dogs or elephants.
- Gladiators stop living their lives, they live and die for the masters: From the day Mwanza was employed as Deputy Media Director this year, President Lungu’s PF top team started to enjoy some sleep because their political weaknesses are now covered by my Pompey. Somehow, everyone in PF is now relaxed because there is a new reliable gladiator who lives for them and can die for them.
- Gladiators have no fixed political ideologies, principles, values or integrity: Every time my brother Mwanza is asked about what has changed for him to take a 360 degrees turn from condemning to defending Lungu and the ruling PF, he gives almost the same answer: “I exercised my constitutional right, that you also do have, that you can belong to any political party. Mr Muliokela is looking for members, you can join him. It is your constitutional right”. This only confirms one thing: my Pompey is now a political gladiator with no fixed political ideologies, principles, values or integrity-and I feel sad.
- Gladiators are not respected or loved, but only hired and used for master’s entertainment, betting and gambling: In Ancient Roman politics, gladiators were only hired and used for entertainment fights, betting and gambling as they were either enslaved barbarians or condemned criminals. When I hear what many PF cadres and officials speak about my Pompey, it is clear that they have no heart, love or respect for Mwanza apart from using him for their dirty political battles and survival.
- Gladiators sometimes win their freedom and become celebrities and masters too: This is my best hope for Mwanza as a brother and family friend. Irrespective of their origin, there were few gladiators in the Roman Empire who fought with brutal humans and vicious beasts but still conquered and survived. This made them win their freedom with public admiration, popularity and stardom. I pray and believe my Pompey can liberate himself someday and become a master too.
In conclusion, it is clear that being a gladiator presents three key challenges: (3) being brutally defeated and inhumanly killed in the fight while your master immediately hires a new one; (2) being crookedly betrayed or sold cheaply by your master when you begin to lose him many betting fights; or (3) being abruptly killed by your master especially when you are defeated in his highest bets since most gladiators are treated as condemned criminals or enslaved barbarians. This is what I fear for my comrade, brother and friend, Antonio Mwanza in PF. However, I pray and hope that Mwanza speedily becomes like Doro Siliya, Minister of Information and new government spokesperson who is both a political gladiator for President Lungu as well as a gladiator master herself (she has a legacy of corruption scandals in government and her being at the top serves both her interest and that of the PF government). But can Antonio’s immediate masters (Amos Chanda, Sunday Chanda, Hon. Steven Kampyongo or Kaiser Zulu allow him to ascend above their political stars? This is why he is a political gladiator and wish him God’s grace in the next fights while the chances of meeting his ‘Gaius Julius Caesar’ are now unavoidable.