THE MAST COMMENT
Lessons from Kambwili’s conviction, imprisonment
It shouldn’t have come to this for Chishimba Kambwili. His sentencing to five months imprisonment speaks volumes on where we have come from and are in terms of our political discourse. The country has not moved on that much. We don’t conduct our politics for national good or in the nation’s interests because of the lingering tribal or regional lens! But tribe and regionalism cannot be a cornerstone of our politics in the 21st century. Certainly, darkness cannot drive darkness. It’s practically impossible. Once you veer into those territories, there must be consequences.
We should all be answerable to and for our actions!
On Thursday, the Kasama Magistrate Court
sentenced Kambwili to five months imprisonment with hard labour for hate speech. This is in a case where he was charged with the offence of expressing hatred and ridicule for the people of Southern Province based on tribe and place of origin.
Commenting on the sentence, Alliance for Community Action executive director Laura Miti said Kambwili unapologetically used tribal hate as a political tool.
“His greatest crime for me was to band all the Tonga people with his political rival, HH (Hakainde Hichilema). Yoh, my insides would turn as I would imagine what it felt like to be an ordinary citizen, who happened to be Tonga, vilified for your DNA. Cast as inherently evil,” wrote Miti, a commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, on her Facebook wall. “I hope this conviction teaches us all to never try to get benefit, or harm others, simply on the basis of something no one chooses – like tribe, race or circumstances of birth. All that said, I wish Mr Kambwili well. I hope he too has had a chance to think deeply about his ways. My guess is this will go to the High Court on appeal.”
Indeed, Kambwili should reflect on his politics and all of us should learn a lesson from this conviction. None of us is perfect but we should always tame our tongues when dealing with public or national issues.
Let’s be humane, civil in our language and see the humanity in all of us despite divergent political views and otherwise. Even when in an era of scotched earth politics, we should not accept that our politics have become unacceptably uncivil! We need cool heads and polite exchange of views, even at the height of electoral campaigns.
Globally there’s been a movement to discourage and indeed criminalise hate speech because of the evils it has occasioned in society.
‘Hate crimes’ are simply crimes that are hostile and prejudiced in their manner, when targeting a person merely as a result of their disability, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
While we must vigorously support free speech, we should always condemn hate speech regardless the mouth expressing it.
Germany Kent guides that, “Speak with caution. Even if someone forgives harsh words you have spoken, they may be too hurt to ever forget them. Don’t leave a legacy of pain and regret of things you never should have said.”
This lesson is not only for Kambwili, it is also for other politicians, especially those in the ruling party. They may not express hate speech openly but through actions. And people are able to interpret these actions correctly. So, all our leaders, starting with the President, should use a language, actions, and expressions that unite the country. There is no need of harbouring grudges throughout and you keep complaining about the same things at every podium. Please move on and show that you are a leader for every Zambian. Otherwise, your perpetual complaints about the same things will eventually alienate other Zambians. Show leadership by breaking away from the past. Embrace the future and build on it.