Saturday, September 20, 2008

The politics of Comrade Aka

The politics of Comrade Aka
By Editor
Saturday September 20, 2008 [04:00]

We are not one of those people that criticise political figures who have been satanised by their enemies in order to please anyone. But we are not going to be so foolish as not to say something we have the right to say. Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika has been a comrade of ours for many years and we have fought many battles together. We respect his right to criticise us and our work. We accept the fact that as human beings, not everything we do can be said to be perfect.

There will always be room for perfection. But the criticism should be honest. We know we are in the midst of an election campaign and some people believe campaign time is the time to throw around the biggest tonnes of lies against those they feel stand in their way. This shouldn’t be so. Campaigns should be time for telling the truth so that our people make the best judgements based on facts and truth.

It is difficult for us to attack a comrade like Aka. This man has struggled and suffered a lot trying to defend certain ideas, certain values of paramount importance when many of our politicians were busy prostituting themselves and feathering their own nests.

And if Comrade Aka became opportunistic today, we would still be sympathetic and understand him because very few would have managed to keep their dignity for this long with the problems he has had to endure.

But we have a duty to defend ourselves and our work from unjustified attacks and lies. We don’t think it is a crime to defend ourselves, and there is no historical process that hasn’t defended itself, in one way or another.

The entire country is aware of the show that takes place every time we have presidential nominations and elections, the lies and calumny that are spread about us whenever we take a strong stand on any issue, whenever we challenge the suitability of any candidate, whenever we raise issues of corruption against certain politicians, their sponsors and supporters.

Defending oneself is the most legitimate thing one can do, because if one doesn’t, one should resign and get the hell out – go somewhere and become a preacher, become a pastor, preach the gospel, which we are not against, because it has a lot of positive things in it. But we didn’t choose the career of pastor or preacher, we chose to be progressive and independent journalists, and to act ethically.

From the very beginning, we have never thought things were going to be easy. We are prepared to meet difficulties, to meet opposition and sometimes even betrayal by comrades.

We have difficulties now, and we will have even greater ones in the future, even if we do things the right way – and we should do them the right way, even if it calls for our greatest efforts. We have to cope with the objective problems in our country, the growing opportunism in our country’s politics.

It is sad that Comrade Aka can accuse us of not telling the truth about Rupiah Banda’s donations of sugar and mealie-meal in Katete and about the fact that he was campaigning to be elected president on October 30.

We have not exaggerated anything on this issue. We have a tape recording of everything that Rupiah said on that day in addition to his images, the pictures. If there is anyone whose objectivity is greatly impaired on this issue, it is not us but Comrade Aka.

But this is what happens to people, even the best of our people, when they become blinded by the pursuit of power, favours and privilege; this is what happens when ideas are lost; this is what happens when principles are abandoned or traded on the altar of political expedience.

Comrade Aka has travelled a difficult road over the last 17 years. He is the number one founder of the MMD, a party which he had to abandon in 1993 because he believed there was growing corruption in the party and its government.

He later that same year, together with others, founded the National Party. And again he abandoned this political party to form Agenda for Zambia and put his sister Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2001 elections.

But later on, Aka had to do a 360 degrees maneouver and rejoin the MMD when Levy Mwanawasa became president. Aka did this under the banner of ‘reunion’ and even wrote a book under the same title.

It is understandable the comrade may be tired but he can do with honour and integrity – without lies and desperation.

And we have discovered that in the struggle against negative events and actions, the work of the press is very important. We will always promote a critical spirit because it is fundamental to perfecting our system of governance.

Of course we know that there are drawbacks. And despite the possible consequences, anything is better than the absence of criticism.

The media should be used to educate, to teach, to create values. We are totally convinced, from our own experience, that values can be sown in the souls of men and women, in their intelligence and in their hearts.

We hold no brief for hypocrisies of any kind when some people talk about what our role should be. Our dream is of another press, of a country that is educated and informed, of a country that has a holistic general culture and can communicate with the world.

Those who fear free thought don’t educate their people, don’t give them anything, don’t encourage them to acquire the highest possible level of culture, the broadest and deepest possible knowledge of history and politics, and to value things for their own intrinsic value, to encourage them to use their own heads, to reach their own conclusions. In order to do that, to use their own heads, they need the facts on which to reach those conclusions.

When the mass media first emerged, they took over people’s minds, and they governed on the basis not just of lies, but also of conditioned reflexes. A lie is not the same thing as a conditioned reflex.

Lies have a negative effect on knowledge; a conditioned reflex has a negative effect on the ability to think. And it is not the same thing to be uninformed, or disinformed, as to have lost the ability to think because your mind is full of reflexes. That’s the way parrots are taught to speak, and bears are taught to dance, and lions to crouch down respectfully.

We know what society can achieve in knowledge, in culture, in quality of life, and in peace by using the media for the social good and not for the support or propping up of petty, greedy, selfish and unscrupulous politicians in their pursuit of power.

The more information, knowledge, education a person has, the better he can understand that the increasingly complex problems of this world cannot be solved through means that strip a society of its ability to think, or its ability to reason.

As for our friends who have to denounce us, tell lies about us to win the favour of those in charge or they want to put in charge of government jobs and resources, we say ‘do whatever suits your immediate political, social and financial interests’.

We don’t want anybody to have any difficulties in their lives, in their careers – political or otherwise – on account of us. Everyone should handle the issue of their relations with us in the way that best suits their personal circumstances.

We believe in ideas and we believe in awareness, in knowledge, in culture, and especially political culture. We have devoted many years to creating an awareness, and we have great faith, shall we say, in education and culture, especially in political culture.

Comrade Aka should know better than anyone, because he has struggled to bring political culture to bear upon on problems as complicated as the new economic order and neo-liberal globalization.

Our faith lies in the tremendous strength of ideas, in what we have learnt about the value of ideas and of knowledge. And yet there are still dangers, so we always try to educate, more and more, educate the new generations.

We believe that quality of life lies in knowledge, in culture. Values are what constitute true quality of life, the supreme quality of life, even above food, shelter and clothing.

But Comrade Aka should know that for us it’s not an issue of popularity, or who wins an election, that really matters. Whoever wins, we will still be here. The presidency of this country has changed hands three times and we are still here.

We have a duty not to be swept up by public opinion, not to blindly follow a point of view, however popular, or even dominant, it may be, when, of course, it may appear to be questionable.

We have had the privilege of fighting against people motivated mainly by ambitions of a material nature, ambitions of a political and economic nature, and a social nature.

We have seen what power can do. We have come to understand what power means to some people. Oh, power is power!

The most difficult, the most important fight that anyone with power faces is the fight against himself, the struggle for self-control; and against the corruption made possible by power and even against the abuse of one’s prerogatives. One has to have a well-trained, strong conscience, a great deal of awareness, because we have seen people become full of themselves and use power the wrong way: the use of power in the wrong way is something you have to be in constant watch for.

We are seeing craziness in the way Rupiah and his sponsors are abusing their control of government today. We fear for this country. What will happen when an opportunity comes for them to assume the full powers that go with the office of president?

There is nothing wrong, as Comrade Aka acknowledged, in looking for a job. But it has to be done in a decent and honest manner. There is so much excitement in the Rupiah camp.

Moreover, Comrade Aka should realise that political leadership is not just a job, is not just any other job, it is something that has to do with service to the community and it has a serious bearing on a nation’s destiny.

It is interesting to note that the man who is facing corruption charges, Katele Kalumba, is coming out to be the best, the most realistic, the most reasonable, the most decent, the most honest of the Rupiah camp.

Katele is acknowledging mistakes, errors and weaknesses. He is coming out as a more cultured, more tolerant person. And this confirms what we had stated some time back in one of our editorial comments, that it is sad for a person like Katele to have been lost through corruption because he is an educated, intelligent and cultured man. We hope it is not too late for him to bear on his friends to conduct themselves in an honest and decent manner.



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