Category: Opinions

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe

My two cents on the growing intolerance-Dr M’membe Featured

Intolerance – the unwillingness to put up with disagreeable ideas and groups – is increasingly becoming a staple of those who want to hear only one narrative in this country.

The topic is today no less important than it was in the days of UNIP and Dr Kenneth Kaunda. In those days people were dissuaded in all sorts of ways from uttering words against, or in opposition of, UNIP and Dr Kaunda.

The failure of truly democratizing our politics to embrace political freedom for all, even those in the opposition, is one of the most important impediments to the consolidation of our multiparty or plural politics.

Without protection of the right of all to participate in politics, the marketplace of ideas cannot function effectively. The idea of a marketplace is that anyone can put forth a product—an idea—for political consumers to consider. The success of the idea is determined by the level of support freely given in the market. The market encourages deliberation, through which superior ideas are found to be superior, and through which the flaws of bad ideas are exposed for all to see – almost as if guided by an invisible hand. Without a willingness to put up with all ideologies and ideas seeking to compete for the hearts and minds of the citizenry the market is likely to fail. Thus, a fairly simple theory is that democracies require the free and open debate of political differences, and such debate can only take place where political tolerance prevails.

Political tolerance in a democracy requires that all political ideas – and the groups holding them – get the same access to the marketplace of ideas as the access legally extended to the ideas dominating the system. This definition obviously precludes any form of violence, bullying and therefore I make no claim that political tolerance extends to the right of violent elements to engage in violence. It may, however, protect the speech rights of violent elements, or, more precisely, those who advocate violence.

Actions and behaviors related to efforts to persuade people and to compete for political power must be put up with. Obviously, illegal activity need not be countenanced, even if I acknowledge that the line between legal and illegal is often thin, given the power and propensity of our rulers to criminalize political activities by the opposition and other dissenters.

The marketplace of ideas approach anticipates two important – and interconnected – restraints on freedom. First, many fear that the government, typically under the guise of regulation, will usurp power and deny the expression of ideas threatening to the status quo – i.e. the power of the government of the day.

A second constraint on freedom is more subtle: it originates in the political culture of a polity – the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors of ordinary citizens. Restraints on freedom can certainly emanate from public policy; but they can also be found in subtle demands for conformity within a society’s culture. To the extent that ordinary citizens are intolerant of views challenging mainstream thought, the expression of such viewpoints is likely to generate sanctions and costs. This can in turn create a spiral of silence: a dynamic process in which those holding minority viewpoints increasingly learn about how rare their views are, thereby leading to silence, which in turn makes the ideas seem to be even less widely held, and therefore more dangerous or costly to express.

This growing intolerance, if not stopped, will create a silent generation, a cohort unwilling to express views that might be considered controversial or unpopular. And, to complete the circle, mass political intolerance can be a useful form of political capital for those who would in turn enact repressive legislation. To the extent that a political culture emphasizes conformity and penalizes those with contrarian ideas, little tolerance exists, and the likelihood of political repression is high.

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend – Fred M’membe

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend – Fred M’membe Featured

Dear comrades;

Fellow Zambians;

Today we begin to mourn the passing of a leader, a revolutionary, a patriot, a father, a fighter, an internationalist, a theoretician and an organizer. Indeed, it is the combination of all these qualities so splendidly in one individual, which made Comrade Simon Zukas the great African revolutionary that he was.

Men and women of rare qualities are few and hard to come by. And when they depart, the sense of loss is made the more profound and the more difficult to manage. Yet we do draw comfort, Comrade Simon: – from the knowledge that you left a legacy which we shall all strive to emulate; – from the knowledge, Comrade Simon, that you continue to live in each one of us through your force of example, vitality of spirit and passion for justice, fairness and humaneness.

Today, as the nation starts to mourn your death, we are at the same time starting to celebrate a life lived to the full; the richness of which touched the hearts of millions and made an indelible mark on the history of our country.One day when our people start enjoying a rising standard of living in a more just, fair and humane Zambia, they will be right to say, Comrade Simon was a chief architect who helped lay the foundation for a better life.

Comrade Simon was one of those who taught us that individuals do not make history. Yet, in each generation there are a few individuals who are endowed with the acumen and personal bearing which enable them to direct the course of events.

Comrade Simon, the first recipient of the Socialist Party’s highest honor – the Nsingu award, belonged in that category. In that sense he was a rare species, an institution. To reflect on Simon’s contribution is, therefore, to retrace the evolution of Zambian politics in the past six or seven decades. Such is the life we have started celebrating today: a life not so much of white generosity to the black people of our country; for Comrade Simon did not see himself as a white Zambian but as a Zambian. He was a full part of our people, his people, acting together with them for a more just, fair and humane order.

Comrade Simon lived the life not merely of a theoretician, confined to the boardroom and library. He was at all stages of struggle there at the forefront, generating ideas, and there too, in their implementation.

Comrade Simon was a full human being at heart. And he possessed the passion and natural intellect to see reality for what it was. He had, at an early age joined the Communist Party of South Africa. He had decided that in his life there was only one target, and that target was to remove the racist regime in South Africa and colonialism in Africa and obtain power for the people.

Those of us who had the honor to be closely associated with Comrade Simon, know that he lived true top the dedication he knew fully well that he would walk again and again through the valley of the shadow of death to reach the mountain-tops of his desires. I was fortunate to be close to him and to be with him in many struggles. With his wife, Cynthia, we would debate many issues.His sharp intellect and incisive mind would always light the way.

Comrade Simon was a well-rounded human being. Up to his last days, he lived life to the full. It is this passion for happiness in his life and the lives of others that we saw in his contribution to the campaigns of the working people and the poor. It is precisely because of his seminal contribution to the liberation struggle that Comrade Simon was loved by those struggling for freedom.

Though the defenders of apartheid and colonialism sought to obliterate his memory, the struggling people knew that he was an effective and skillful freedom fighter.The most central factor in his approach to struggle on any front was the understanding of the political situation, the balance of forces and thus the approaches necessary to advance that struggle. Thus he was able to appreciate changes in the objective conditions and initiate discussions on changes to the tactics to be applied.He knew when to compromise. Yet he never compromised his principles.

He was a revolutionary. Yet a revolutionary who knew how to plan, assess concrete situations and emerge with rational solutions to problems.The advocates of racial superiority could not understand how Comrade Simon could be part of the liberation struggle and operate under the leadership of the hapless inferiors they despised. But Comrade Simon took part in struggle as an equal, as part of the people.

The defenders of colonial exploitation and subjugation could not understand why Comrade Simon would seek to end the dominance of his racial kith and kin. But Comrade Simon’s kin was all humanity, especially the very poor. The champions of privilege and concentration of wealth could not fathom why Comrade Simon identified with the wretched of the earth. But Comrade Simon knew that these were the creators of wealth and they deserved their fair share.

Let it be said loud and clear today, that the qualities Comrade Simon demonstrated in abundance in the past few decades were the same attributes that spurred him to struggle, the qualities that drove him to join the Communist Party of South Africa, the independence struggle in Zambia and the qualities that he helped engender in these struggles.

We in the Socialist Party know intimately what vacuum Comrade Simon’s departure has left in our midst. We shall miss not only his incisiveness, experience and verve. We are conscious that it is given to a few to so ably combine theory and practice, as Comrade Simon demonstrated in our struggles.But we know too that he has left us a legacy which will continue to guide our approach. And that is to mobilize all the role-players in any area of work for joint efforts to build a better life for all. If we have taken liberty to claim Comrade Simon as ours today, this merely underlines that there are those to whom he was more than just a revolutionary and a friend.

We know, dear dear Comrade Cynthia and your family that you feel this pain more deeply. We cannot fully grasp the magnitude of your grief. Please be comforted by the fact that the nation shares your grief; and we shall always be at your side.Like you, our sorrow is made the more intense because we have lost not just one of our leaders; we have lost a veteran whose qualities are in many respects unequaled. He is irreplaceable.

Comrade Simon, if you see tears welling in our eyes, it is because we cannot bear saying:

Farewell dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend!

Comrade Grey Zulu was a selfless, incorruptible leader – Dr M’membe

Comrade Grey Zulu was a selfless, incorruptible leader – Dr M’membe Featured

Last week was a year after the death of the great freedom fighter and nation builder Comrade Grey Alexander Zulu.

And on Sunday we gathered at Agrippa Village in Chipangali where he is buried for a memorial service.

Comrade Zulu’s very high sense of patriotism, selfishlessness, and spirit of sacrifice will continue to inspire those of us committed to building a more fair, just, and humane society – a socialist Zambia.

Comrade Grey Zulu was a sincere, selfless, humble, incorruptible, and reliable leader of our people who dedicated his whole life to the cause of the people.

Comrade Zulu was a strong, honest and wise man who always looked into the future with confidence. He embodied the high ideals of a politician, citizen and patriot who wholeheartedly believed in the cause of the people, to which he devoted his entire life.

Socialists in Zambia and beyond will always cherish his memory in their hearts. We are fully confident that this spirit will never die and that it will continue to enlighten and inspire our people, especially the youth, for continuing to peacefully struggle to finally liberate our nation from capitalist neo-colonial domination, humiliation and exploitation.

May his indomitable spirit live on in the struggles of our poor people.

Fred M’membe

A Message from the Socialist Party President to the President Elect

A Message from the Socialist Party President to the President Elect Featured

The day after the elections, I wished our President-elect and his party well, I do so again.

Socialists are patriots and we wish to see our country succeed, with or without us. We wish to see the economy and the living conditions of our people improve. There has been a lot of talk about national unity. And the focus has mainly been on tribalism and regionalism. The ultimate strength of our country will lie not in the power of our security and defence forces or financial resources but will lie in the unity of our people.

Speaking of Kwa and Ku, I am absolutely convinced that as long as there is enormous inequality among the people of our country, there can’t be any meaningful unity. A country that has enormous social differences, inequality and social injustice or one where millions of people are unemployed, lack medical attention or have no schools, have no food cannot have meaningful national unity.
The existence of a glaring disparity in income levels indicates an intolerable imbalance in the way wealth and resources are distributed. Our reality is such that poverty levels in some of our provinces are above 80 per cent and rural poverty averages 76.6 per cent.

History abounds with instances where the rich and powerful have brought about their own downfall by refusing to recognize in good time the legitimate demands of the majority. And as long as this gap remains at its current scandalous level, the future of our country is at risk and our people will look for alternative leadership.
By tolerating such high levels of poverty, the Zambian economy undermines the common good, and fails to demonstrate the solidarity that our shared human dignity demands and consequently undermines national unity.

Politicians can ask, plead for national unity, but unity comes only from the hearts of people, from establishing a system of governance anchored on honesty, equity, humility and solidarity.
And we should never forget that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in.

To our new government – as you are ushered in we urge you to remember the cries of the Zambian people. The cries that the previous government ignored to their own peril.

You will soon be appointing your cabinet. This must be the beginning of a different trajectory for this country. A lean cabinet must be a priority. We hope this will be the beginning of the abolition of Ministries that can be government departments. As the Socialist party, we have stated that this country can be run effectively and efficiently by reducing the number of ministers from 22 to 10.

We promise to be a loyal opposition party – We will provide very strong checks and balances. It won’t be a one party state but we do recognize, that the journey to recovery will not be easy. Our voice will be heard loud and clear on all important national issues. For us, to see wrongs being committed, and not to speak will be a great betrayal to the Zambian people. Losing an election will not shut us up nor temper our resolve to call out the wrongs in our society.
For the sake of the Zambian people, we implore you to prove to us that you and the PF are not siamese twins.

Fred M’membe

Statement of the Socialist Party on the ongoing killings

Statement of the Socialist Party on the ongoing killings Featured

No political anger, no political differences, no electoral malpractices or violations can justify atrocious acts such as the physical elimination of political opponents.

No crime can be committed in the name of politics, elections or protecting the vote.

If people are caught trying to rig elections or commit any crime, it is not right to instantly kill them. This is lawlessness. It runs contrary to the rule of law. Make a citizen arrest and subject them to prosecution.

In our last virtual rally on Wednesday I said, “We go into these elections with blood on the hands of some of members of the PF and UPND. Its votes covered in blood. Theirs are not clean votes; they are blood soiled votes. They have confused electoral campaigns with a battlefield where the aim is to destroy the other.”

The killings have continued. The leaders of these two ‘siamese twins’ parties have failed to stop this violence. They are very quick to make condemnations when it is their own members at the receiving end. They are literary mute when it is their own members doing the killing. This is not leadership. To them, it would seem, the life that is valuable is only that of their members.

But all human life is sacred, holy, and precious. The sanctity of life is inherent as man cannot create life. Therefore, man has no authority to destroy life. It is the only way for humankind to exist.

We demand that the leaders of these two violent, and unfit to govern, parties take responsibility and stop these killings. These elections are competition to serve and not a ‘do or die’ contest.

Fred M’membe
President of the Socialist Party

August 12, 2021

Lusaka