Mobocracy visas Democracy in Africa: Why President Lungu is Super Right on the Firing of Kambwili, Kabanshi and Chitotela
By Chris Zumani Zimba
When my cat was killed by a speeding car in September 2018, I instantly got another one because, where I stay in the bush, cats and dogs are not mere pets but ‘living guns’. But a week later, my nephews confirmed that it our new cat was deadly stealing in the house and terrorizing chicks outside. “Well, clear it then and look for another one”, I ordered. “We are still planning on how to clear it”, Patrick my oldest nephew reported to me after another week. The following day, I got a reliable metal bar, started feeding the cat and wickedly blew its head in their eyes at once. The cat was in ‘head pieces of blood’ and dead while they looked terrified. “This is how you clear such criminals or your enemy…Now go and bury it far in the bush, we don’t keep dangerous thieves or human enemies in homes”, I justified my actions.
Yes, according to the famous Ancient Roman proverb, ‘actions speak better or louder than words’. But after deep reflections, I now know that I committed many errors in the brutal murder of my cat above; I never took time to thoroughly investigate the matter as well as read and follow Zambian laws governing domestic animals. What if my nephews lied because they never just liked the new cat since ‘it looked too black with evil dark eyes’? What if the cat was innocent and it was my dogs? And even if it was my cat stealing, was killing and burying it in such savage manner justifiable? Where is the place for respect for animal rights here? What if there was some feelings of attachment between my nephews and their cat? And how did my brutal barbarian acts psychologically impact on my boys? These are among many crucial questions I omitted in my actions.
This story is one practical analogy and example of how many constitutionally elected African leaders govern their citizens; they find themselves governing as ‘mobocrats’ instead of being elected ‘democrats’. And in this modern quest of governing millions of citizens, it is important to insist that African presidents must stick to defending ‘constitutional democracy’ and not entertaining ‘constitutional mobocracy’ because the latter is a dangerous public fiction and an amiss political creation. Since many Africans especially my fellow Zambians are Christians, I will use one practical scenario in the Bible to define and discuss the concept of democracy visas mobocracy in the context of President Edgar Lungu and the cases of Hon. Chishimba Kambwili, Hon. Emerine Kabanshi and Hon. Ronald Chitotela in relation to the fight against corruption among top government officials.
According to John 18:28-32, the Bible accounts as follows: 28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor… 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. In addition, Mattew27:20-24, the Bible says: 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
When it comes to the fight against corruption especially when some top public official or high profiled figure has been named in some charges or financial crime investigations, many African presidents find themselves in the shoes of Pilate above. But Pilate was a Roman govern who was appointed by the Rome Emperor to govern Palestine based on Roman law. Hence, it was not possible for him to act anyhow or make impulsive political decisions based on the demands of the mob-Jewish Leaders. In this Bible story, Pilate’s correct response to the ‘illegal demands’ of the mob to execute Jesus shocked and angered the religious leaders. They seem to have expected Pilate to “rubber stamp” their ‘mob indictment’ of Jesus and to quickly authorize his execution. Instead, Pilate required them to follow the right procedure and declare formal charges against Jesus which they terribly failed to establish the whole day and night from the time Jesus was arrested. After noticing that the Jewish mob was on the wrong side of the law for using religious envy, mob malice and mere hostility against Jesus Christ, Pilate, as a law abiding Roman withdrew his role or involvement as a governor in the matter by washing his hands.
This is exactly how Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu (the Zambian elected Pilate) has acted on the growing public pressure or mob demands to have Hon. Ronald Chitotela instantly fired. On 4th February, 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) mad a rare and controversial move in seemingly pragmatic response to public outcry and the 2018 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index” against Zambia; they arrested a high profiled ruling party politician, the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Hon. Ronald Chitotela. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Assistant Public Relations Manager, Dorothy Mwanza confirmed the arrest of the 47 year old Cabinet Minister to ZNBC News in Lusaka by adding that, Hon.Chitotela was arrested on two counts of concealing property suspected of being proceeds of crime which is contrary to Section 71 subsection one of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010.
She said that details in the first count are that on unknown dates but between the July, 2016 and October 2018 in Lusaka District, Mr Chitotela did conceal a property namely plot number 148 of farm 50A situated in Makeni, Lusaka. She said that in the second count on dates unknown but between the July, 2016 and October 2018, the Minister did conceal a property namely the remaining extent of Subdivision A of lot 22183/M situated in Ibex Hill Lusaka. The ACC officer concluded that both properties were disguised in the names of Diris Mukange property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.
But while many Zambian ‘Jewish leaders’ (the mob) are calling upon President Lungu to fire (crucify) the named Cabinet Minister, the Zambian Head of State and Government has acted exactly like Pilate in the Bible by refusing to expel Hon. Chitotela based on mere allegations or premature investigations. Speaking to journalists at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport shortly before departure for Livingstone on 7th February, 2019, President Lungu said that Mr. Chitotela was innocent and that the prosecutors should be given chance to prove whether the corruption allegations placed on him are indeed true. The Head of State said that no one should be allowed to interfere in the process and that he will give leeway to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to take Mr. Chitotela to court. He added that he will only fire Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister, Ronald Chitotela if the court finds him guilty of corruption.
As a constitutionally elected leader, President Lungu is 100% right on how to handle such matters because the principle of ‘rule of law’ as well as the mantra of ‘presumption of innocence’ in our national legislations demand so. Under English Common Law, the UN International Human Rights Law specifically the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11 as well as the Zambian legislations, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial i.e. the accused is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. And in many African states, presumption of innocence is national law where the legal burden of proof is on the prosecution team, which must collect and present compelling evidence before the court and the judge or jury) is thus restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony presented in court. If the prosecution fail to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and reasonable doubt remains, the accused must be acquitted and declared innocent.
When Hon. Emerine Kabamshi was expelled as Minister of Community Development in September, 2018 based on the demand by the Zambian mob (NGOs, donors, politicians, clerics and citizen public outcry) to have her crucified, I overtly objected the act and vehemently denounced it as a total political wrong because the gesture meant anointing mobocracy instead of democracy. To that effect, I posted a detailed article on my blog www.afrodemocracyjournal.com entitled “Scoring an own goal offside: the case of Lungu in the firing of Kabanshi’s dismissal over British aid corruption allegations”. In the case of Chitotela, the President has acted in a manner which anoints and strengthen democracy instead of mobocracy. As Head of State and Government in a constitutional democracy, President Lungu must always desist from taking the law into his own hands based on mob demands on the street. Law a abiding, wise and educated Pilate in the Bible left a good governance legacy by asking the Jewish leaders to produce convincing evidence against Jesus Christ before he could approve his execution and therafter, he declined to sanction their unfair mob demand. President Lungu must ensure to avoid suspending or firing any top public official on account of mere ACC charges because his government can also be captured by his rivals and inner opponents to use either ACC or police to divide his team or present him as the ruling emperor than an elected constitutional leader.
In addition, President Lungu’s position on Hon. Chitotela is super correct in terms of consolidating the principle of separation of powers between the executive and judiciary. The moment the president starts firing or suspending anyone who is named in some investigation report, is the moment he will take the full role and functions of a judicial judge or justice jury; this will have a technical influence on how the courts handle the cases and outcome. So what stops the judiciary from crucifying a weak political citizen who has already been axed by the President? By expelling whoever is named in some corruption report, the president will be undermining the independence and integrity of the judiciary; an act which violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers as he now stand as a lead statesman and judge.
The main problem here is that, many ‘Zambian mobs’ in the name of loud citizens, civil society organizations, scholars, media or religious leaders behave exactly like ancient Jewish leaders in the Bible story above; they just want their president to rubber stamp and approve their execution verdict of a Jesus (corruption suspect). Let’s remind each other on President Lungu’s consistency on such matters as the case of Hon. Chitotela is not the first one that he has said or acted in this manner. For example, on 10th December according to Lusaka Times, 2017, President Lungu revealed that he had to immediately fire Mr Kambwili who when called for investigations by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) became a challenge and tried to flex his muscle that he was a minister.
“I want it to be known that an allegation of corruption against a minister will not entail that he has to be dropped, no, he has to be investigated, once he is investigated he should be brought to book, no one is above the law, but in this particular case I am talking about, this minister was questioned and he said ‘who are you? I am a minister’,” said the president and then added, ” And then ACC told me ‘look, your minister is not cooperating’, I said ‘I will drop him’…If you say ‘Given Lubinda is corrupt, I will not drop him, I will allow you to investigate him and if you find him wanting, you can prosecute him but if Given Lubinda becomes a challenge to your inquiries and investigations, I will drop him, that’s how I work. I want to make this very clear that if Given Lubinda says ‘no, you can’t talk to me because I am minister, then me and Given Lubinda will part company and that is how I part company with some ministers”, the Zambian political leader added.
Thus, his position on Hon. Chitotela is his standard approach and commendable legacy on such matters. In a functional democracy, it is not morally right or constitutionally correct for a president to impulsively fire or suspend any top official whose blood is being demanded by the public or mob for crucifixion. Generally, it is not right for an elected president who was sworn in to defend the constitution to govern his sovereign state in the name of being the ‘unquestionable alpha and omega of the republic’ by unilaterally approving every death sentence of his own citizens who are accused by their fellows for committing blasphemy. Like Pilate acted in the Bible, the people who demand for the execution of leader A or B must be subjected to answer many legal questions and follow rigorous lay down procedures to convict the suspect. And based on his stance, President Lungu has expressly empowered the Zambian citizens, civil society organizations, scholars, media outfits and everyone to work or support the police, ACC and the court to speed up the investigations and prosecution of Hon. Chitotela. In other words, he has washed his hands as Zambian law does not allow him to fire and expel whoever the mob demand to crucify; let the investigative wings and courts validate his financial crimes first.
In conclusion, it is ripe for us all to start cerebrating and dancing ‘Songwe’ at once because, the Zambian political leader with reference to the cases of Hon. Chitotela as well as Hon. Kambwili has emerged to be a true democrat; one who governs the republic based on the constitution and rule of law; he is a local Pilate. This is imperative bacause, President Lungu has proven to be very consistent on how he approaches the fight against corruption among his advisors and ministers because, what he said on the case of Kambwili in 2017 and now on Chitotela in 2019 as captioned above is the same message-rule of law and not the mob. This is where he differs with “the Zambian Jewish Leaders”, the mob anarchists who want any public official who they demand “crucify him/her” be instantly fired based on their loud mob voices.
In the cases of Kambwili and Chitotela, President Lungu has shown us that he is super right, our Bible Pilate- a true democrat who respects sovereign existing laws and governance institutions in his/her day to day decision making as opposed to be a mobocrat, a typical authoritarian who governs based on his/her personal feelings and mob/public engineered impulsive decisions to unilaterally hire and fire or brutally create and destroy; to me, the latter seems exactly what happened in the firing of Hon. Emerine Kabamshi in 2018 and the Zambian President seem to have taken note and leant on the political dangers of allowing mobocracy to reign in a democracy. Other African presidents have a good opportunity to learn from the Zambian leader on how to fight corruption among top government officials especially if democracy is what they desire to defend as opposed to this growing mobocracy in the region.’
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Radio, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:20hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS) outside his usual commitments.