About the push to ‘repeal laws and enforce stiffer punishment for perpetrators of hate speech’: misplaced priorities, misplaced leadership


About the push to ‘repeal laws and enforce stiffer punishment for perpetrators of hate speech’: misplaced priorities, misplaced leadership

By Melicious Chongo

Since the President’s recent address, my mind has not gone to sleep.

Everything else agreed, but one thing stands out.

I don’t know about others, but the desire to “repeal laws and enact ones that put stiffer punishment for perpetrators of hate speech” is for me not just an isolated statement but deserves a critical analysis. So I decided to juxtapose my fourth part of the series that I have been running with this piece as it has a bearing on many aspects.

First, let’s give perspective to the matter here. In our context as a nation, President Hakainde Hichilema’s push to repeal laws and impose harsher penalties for hate speech may be seen as a well-intentioned effort to address rising intolerance and divisive rhetoric.

However, given the country’s weak institutions, this move raises concerns about potential misuse of power, censorship, and further erosion of democratic freedoms. Like I stated, this is not just an isolated statement, but it belongs to the larger scheme of wanting to consolidate power in the hands of a few individuals. I expect our President, being at the helm of the country’s leadership, to understand this better. We live at an inflection point in our Zambian political landscape. Is enacting laws with stiffer punishment for perpetrators of hate speech a priority at this point?

Like I have been arguing in my series, considering Zambia’s dark historical colonial legacy, what Zambia needs as a matter of urgency is a re-orientation of its institutions, systems and processes, a complete overhaul of its institutions and systems, aligning them to the needs of the masses, in a way that supports them in their individual goals to realise their potential, and growing a more broader and inclusive economy.

Institutions that promise more hope for the vulnerable masses, most of whom have to participate on the fringes of the economy because of exclusivist, intimidating, and oppressive institutions. We need to develop institutions, systems and processes that inspire confidence, promote the dignity and progress of individuals and not ones that inspire more fear and intimidation. We must insist on systems and institutions that distribute power broadly across all sectors of society than on systems and institutions that spread fear, intimidation and take away power from the masses.

We should be seeking to reach to levels where every individual will go to the police and they know they will come back smiling because of the humanity in the services they have received. Every Zambian must be able to go to the judiciary confident that they will not be denied of justice or be discriminated against on the basis of their affiliation, correctness of name, locality, or indeed on the basis of their social status; levels where every Zambian, must be able to access the services of a lawyer, even for free! We must raise our levels where every Zambian must visit constituent offices knowing they will be helped.

We must be in a hurry to see a Zambia where faith governs over fear in our leaders, where love rules over the inordinate desire for power in our elected officials, and where the desire to serve has replaced the pathological and primitive desire to accumulate for oneself, and where seeing every Zambian succeeding, rising above their sorry state makes us ever more happy and are willing to push them even higher as against wanting to see them ever down and even worsening their already terrible state.

Standing at such an inflection point in time, leadership is the deal maker. It’s reckless and fateful to continue to play small with leadership in the face of more pressing issues like growing the economy, poverty reduction, strengthening institutions, and bridging income and other inequalities. Leadership is the soul and blood to the nation without which, we collapse.

Hence, I couldn’t help but question the urgency for such measures, while Zambia faces those and more pressing issues. This focus on hate speech laws may divert resources and attention from more critical areas. So particularly, what is wrong with the statement? There is everything wrong with the statement. It is misplaced, reckless and irresponsible leadership. Much less, coming from the President, it rings of sterile leadership – it portends leadership in a state of fatigue.

In a political landscape with weak institutions like ours, such measures can only lead to abuse of power where vague hate speech laws can be exploited to silence political opponents, critics, and minority voices. They may be cleverly directed at censorship, where overly broad definitions of hate speech may stifle free speech, creativity, and public debate. In addition, there is a problem with selective enforcement, where weak institutions may enforce laws arbitrarily, targeting certain groups or individuals while ignoring others; thereby ultimately further worsening institutional weakening, which could in turn divert resources from strengthening institutions, perpetuating a cycle of weakness.

Like I have noted earlier, the statement may not be necessarily isolated. It may further hide deep seated dictatorial motives to consolidate power. President Hakainde may aim to expand executive influence, suppress dissent, thereby maintaining control.

It may also be seen as a political distraction, diverting attention from economic woes, governance issues, or other pressing concerns. It may be part of Hichilema’s ulterior desire for personal legacy where he seeks, hypocritically, to cement his legacy as a champion of social justice, despite potential unintended consequences.

To remain relevant to the prevailing political landscape, the President would do better to first consider public engagement and consultations, to ensure clear, nuanced definitions of hate speech. As it is, it seems there is hate speech for some and not for others! And he must insist first on strengthening institutions and systems to ensure fair enforcement, and balancing free speech with protection from harmful rhetoric. We must seek higher priorities, and engage in more high impact activities and debates. We can do better!

Holding leaders accountable for their actions and promoting transparency, accountability, and inclusivity must not be labelled as dissent needing “stiffer punishment”, much less in the twenty-first century. Demanding a much fairer share in the economy must not amount to public nuisance requiring an army of police, or law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to bestow “stiffer punishment”.

In a context like ours, it’s crucial to encourage fact-based discourse, support independent media and journalism, amplify diverse voices and perspectives. In one of my articles, I was I think among the first few to decry the diminishing voice of civil society. And such push “to enact laws that put stiffer punishment on perpetrators of hate speech” is just part of that larger scheme.

It remains ever more crucial in such contexts, to advocate for human rights and the rule of law (that is not applied arbitrarily), and promote dialogue and peaceful assembly and derive maximum pleasure in doing so rather than feeling threatened!

We must take pride in an engaged and enlightened citizenship. An engaged citizenship and critical thinking are vital in shaping a brighter future for Zambia and must not be seen as a threat. Mediocre leadership must no longer have a place in the twenty-first century – much less in Zambia.

The author is a mental health activist, clinician and IR expert. Send comments to:

Melicious2009@gmail.com, phone +260-979-549033.


  1. President Lungu was the main campaign agent for HH because he mentioned him wherever he had a meeting country wide, he even went ahead to proclaim that HH will never be president of Zambia.
    We never learn from history
    Today HH is mentioning Lungu wherever he goes, and he is insisting that Lungu will never be president again
    I call this a full circe of not learning from the past

  2. The author is just another formally schooled idiot with zero powers of analysis.
    The context for stiffer punishment for those uttering divisive statements the simple fact that Zambia is a unitary state composed of numerous tribes. There is no need to waste time ‘dialoguing’ with people whose shameless intentions are to plunge the country into another Rwanda in order that they may divert attention from their crimes of plundering the national treasury and stealing loans obtained in the name of Zambia.

    • Even the name is a pseudonym meant to mislead as the real author wants hide behind the diatribe they spew that lacks substance

  3. Just let Hichilema push for stiffer punishment for so called hate speech and he be jailed for that after he leaves power. Even his people like Imenda will be jailed after Upnd is out of power in 2026.

    • Mandanda you are now a PF Professional Specialist in talking m*tuvi iwe. Your PF Kelenkas will never come into power again to effect their vengeance on HH bwana. You have already tormented HH since 2017 pamene munayenda kunia kunyumba kwa HH you PF criminals. Abash guntrotting and Panga Wielding PF criminals forever.

  4. We need stiffer penalties for hate speech promoters. Anybody opposed to this is a fool. Extinguish the small fire before it becomes an inferno. It started like this in Rwanda the rest is history.

  5. No need to write such a long story. Point is simple and clear. We don’t need more laws, current laws are sufficient – people need to be educated by there parents, clans, etc (assuming they are not kambwili or Bbubba Malambo’s kids) on respect for other humans. They should extend that to animals snd plants (the whole ecosystem. That is the beginning of humanity!


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