Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rupiah’s shameful racism

Rupiah’s shameful racism
By The Post
Thu 08 July 2010, 08:40 CAT

Rupiah Banda is not in any serious way apologising to our fellow citizens of Indian origin and other people of a similar race living in our country.

And his apology to Hakainde Hichilema for the remarks he made about his wife is also not sincere because this is not the first time Rupiah has said this. This was merely a repetition of the same statement he has been making about Hakainde and others, including the editor of this newspaper. Rupiah has never apologised to Hakainde or us for such statements.

Anyone who cares to carefully read the statement issued from State House purporting to apologise to Hakainde will see that Hakainde and his family are not the target of the so-called apology. Rupiah does not possess the decency to apologise to Hakainde or anybody sincerely. His pretence has been caught out and now Rupiah is trying to cover up.

It is a well-known fact that Rupiah has courted many of our compatriots of Indian origin looking for all sorts of support, financial and otherwise, from them. And in most cases, he got it and still gets it. Although Rupiah has been pretending to be friendly to Zambians of Indian extraction, he has been hiding his racist feelings against them. But now in his attempt to insult Hakainde, he let slip a derogatory remark against innocent citizens simply for having Indian heritage. The word mwenye which Rupiah used cannot be justified in any way because it is inherently derogatory.

So his attempt to give it a different meaning, a cleaner appearance will not in any way make it acceptable. The use of the word mwenye will always remain derogatory. And it has no other meaning or purpose other than that. And in his attempt to insult Hakainde, there was no way the word mwenye could have acquired a much nobler meaning than that inherent in it.

In a way, it would have been better if Rupiah had just kept quiet than to pretend to apologise. We say this because his attempt at an apology has clearly demonstrated what kind of person he is, the kind of things that he cares about.

Rupiah was not apologising because he caused offence to Hakainde or to our brothers and sisters of Indian heritage, the only reason he was attempting to apologise was that he realised he was threatening his own cash flow. How does he go to ask for money from people that he insults? This is Rupiah’s problem – nothing to do with whether he respects those people or not. This is why Rupiah could not keep quiet. But this is very shameful.

A President should behave better than this. No one can doubt that if Rupiah had not mentioned the word mwenye, he would not have apologised to Hakainde. Again, we say this because Rupiah has said so many nasty things about Hakainde for which he has never apologised. We have not forgotten that at one of the early press conferences of his presidency, Rupiah made derogatory remarks against the Tonga people.

These matters are on record, but he has never apologised. He has gone on to call Hakainde all sorts of names, including insulting his father, questioning his parentage. Rupiah has never apologised for any of these things. This apology has nothing to do with principle, with the sense of contrition, remorse or regret. It has everything to do with the money that Rupiah has been getting and wants to continue getting from these brothers and sisters of ours that he is today calling mwenyes. This is not a recipe for governing well.

This is not the One Zambia, One Nation, Kenneth Kaunda, the founder of this great nation of ours preached. None of such words ever came or could ever come from the mouth of that great follower of Mahatma Ghandi. Such words can only come from a dirty mouth of a dirty racist that is accustomed to dirty talk. This preoccupation with money is going to land Rupiah in a lot of problems.

What is annoying and embarrassing is Rupiah’s insults are coming at a time when our whole region of southern Africa is marking the 150th anniversary of the coming to this part of our world of the ancestors of our Indian brothers and sisters. It is 150 years now since they were extracted from India and brought to South Africa, to the southern region of our continent.

We mark these 150 years with honour and pride because of the great contributions these brothers and sisters have made to the liberation and development of the region – the contribution that in earnest started with Mahatma Ghandi himself in South Africa. And today in our own country, at another phase of our development, none of our political organisations – from UNIP to MMD, PF and UPND, among others – can deny the contribution of these sons and daughters of our people.

They have made great contribution to the many challenges and problems facing our country and our people not only in politics but also in agriculture, mining, trade and commerce in general. With all this, someone, for cheap political propaganda and lack of culture, can insult our people, a great and important part of our people and issue a fake and hollow apology and expect us to take it! Rupiah’s insult on our fellow citizens of Indian heritage is an insult to all of us without exception. It is an insult to KK and everything that he stood for.

In other civilised countries, in nations with principles and standards, Rupiah would have no choice today but to resign over his racist and insulting remark. But we are not in any way insinuating that this can or should happen because this society is not governed on the basis of such principles and standards – it is a society where the vain, the greedy and morons reign supreme.

What Rupiah has done should be a lesson to all of our people. We should never harbour racial or any other unjustifiable prejudices, even secretly. We say this because what we think is what we are.

This is the man who started his presidential campaign on a tribalistic basis. Launching his presidential campaign in Eastern Province in 2008, Rupiah told the people not to entertain anyone coming from another region of our country to campaign there. He directed them to tell whoever comes there to go back where they came from. We questioned vigorously Rupiah’s tribal and regionalistic approach to politics. And on account of this, we disqualified him from the top leadership of our country. We might have been seen to be malicious and totally misunderstood, but today we are yet again vindicated.

No one should make any mistake about this issue. This was not a simple oversight or a mistake on Rupiah’s part. This was deliberate and truly represented Rupiah’s innermost thinking and feelings. Rupiah’s politics is a danger to our young democracy. All well-meaning Zambians should fight this spirit of segregation that could lead to a division of our country on all sorts of ethnic, racial and other bases. Rupiah’s spirit is not the One Zambia, One Nation spirit. Rupiah represents the spirit of power at any cost. This is a dangerous spirit.

This is why his government has difficulties taking any principled stance on issues that matter to our people. It is not by chance that Rupiah’s government has taken the wrong position on political violence. It is also not coincidental that Rupiah and his government have taken the wrong position on corruption and its ravages on our economy. Rupiah’s presidency is an unprincipled one whose good decisions, if any, are not born out of principled positions but are incidental to their selfish schemes and plans. This is the kind of presidency our country is saddled with today.

At the beginning, Rupiah tried to pretend that he is was cultured man with distinguished manners. But his history told us that this was not true. When we raised the alarm, many of our people did not understand what we were trying to say. But it has not taken very long for Rupiah’s true colours to come out. He seems to be well-trained in everything that is wrong. The lesson remains that if you train yourself in wrong things, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to hide them, one day they will come out. This is what Rupiah’s mwenye remark has demonstrated.

But this issue of mwenye, this open and naked racism from a head of state and government is not a small thing. We have been warned about the consequences of this by many outstanding statesmen and leaders of our continent, including Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda and Haile Selasie. We remember that famous address of Haile Selasie to the Organisation of African Unity which Bob Marley popularised in a reggae rhythm:

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned…until there is no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the colour of a man’s skin is of no significance than the colour of his eyes…until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race…and until that day, the dream of lasting peace, rule of international morality will remain nothing but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained…”

We would add that until we stop having political leaders in our country like Rupiah who approach everything on the basis of tribe, race and money, our country will never make progress and we will be moving backwards in very long strides. For these reasons, let’s denounce tribalism and tribalists, racism and racists and give them no chance of dominating the affairs of our country because they will lead us to another Armageddon.

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