(By Chambwa Moonga in Mansa)
SOME Mansa residents have cautioned President Edgar Lungu to desist from demeaning those who helped him to be where he is. And Bahati PF member of parliament Harry Kalaba has appealed to President Lungu to exercise diplomacy in his speech, realistically or analogically. During an Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ)-organised gala dinner in Lusaka last Wednesday, President Lungu said out of 10 thieves, six were Bemba.
At the same event, President Lungu quoted “someone” who told him that Chinese were like cockroaches because they survived everywhere.
“I wish to note that development also calls for the support of non-Zambians residing and conducting business in the country…. This cry about Chinese won’t help us! Chinese population is about 1.3 billion. The other day I was doing statistics and I came across one damning fact that out of 10 thieves, six will be Bemba. And I said ‘why’ but they said you have forgotten? There are so many Bembas. So, invariably, you’ll find that when you collect 10, six will be wrong ones,” President Lungu claimed.
“So, if the Chinese population is 1.8 billion, and then the world population is…you will find Chinese all over and when you say ‘eliminate Chinese from Zambia’, you are wasting your time. Similarly, when you say ‘eliminate Bemba from Zambia’, you are wasting your time. So, if you say ‘they are thieves’, yes you are bound to find a thief because they are many.”
On Chinese in Zambia, the President wondered how one would think of chasing them from the country when “in Europe they are there, in America they are there, in Australia they are there.”
“Someone told me they are like cockroaches…. So, let’s take a realistic approach to this and defend non-Zambians who are residing with us. Allow them to conduct business so that we work together and prosper our country. Let’s not be xenophobic, it will not help us.”
President added that the Chinese, typical of cockroaches, were resilient and able to survive in extreme temperatures.
“I must have offended when I said somebody referred to them as cockroaches. You know what this person told me about cockroaches? They are resilient, they survive in fridges, they survive in stoves, they survive [under] extreme temperatures, very cold rooms, you will find a cockroach, very hot temperatures, you will find a cockroach. So, this man was saying the Chinese are like cockroaches, they survive everywhere. We can’t eliminate them; let’s just work with them,” said President Lungu.
But a crowd of Mansa residents, led by Mansa Central Constituency’s suspended PF Chilyapa Ward councillor Chewe Ndila complained about President Lungu’s remarks about Bembas.
“How can he start to insinuate that we dominate in number and theft? We are not happy! I’m Chewe and I’m Bemba. I want to say, on behalf of all these people, that we are not happy that we are being associated with theft. Let him (President Lungu) shed more light on what he meant,” she said, on behalf of a tetchy crowd.
“When we were going to vote for him in 2015 and 2016, he never talked about our theft as Bembas. Lelo ilyo bese batwebe ati nifwe bakabwalala pantu bayamba ukulya bwino (how can he turn around today and call us thieves?) Awe twakana, tatutemenwe (we have refused, we are not happy.)”
The group charged that President Lungu’s remarks were an insult on all Bembas.
“Twalibasala mubwingi bwesu kabili lelo baluka bayamba ukwita aba Bemba ati nibakabwalala (we elected him in our numbers but today he has somersaulted and he is calling the Bembas as thieves!) Kabili tulelanda ukutila mukwai inshiku nashipwa, bemona ati apali 2021 patali sana, pantu ifi bayamba kapatulula (what we are saying is that time is running out [for President Lungu] let him not think that 2021 is far from now, because he has now chosen a discriminatory route),” an unindentified middle-aged man shouted from the group.
Many others made similar comments to express their irritation at the President’s remarks.
And Kalaba said he was always reluctant to talk about issues of tribalism because “that is what has divided us as a people for far too long.”
He observed that President Lungu was proposing the past instead of the future.
“I would want to concentrate on the future because we are not as divided as our politics want to suggest. The fact is that the President is saying six out of 10 thieves are Bembas is appalling. It’s not only offensive but it’s quite insulting. The President must be seen to unite the country and not to divide us – this is a unitary State,” Kalaba explained.
On President Lungu’s analogy of Chinese being like cockroaches, Kalaba asked why the Head of State could not give an example that would still dignify the people that he was referring to.
“In diplomatic circles, and I speak with authority because I’m one of the longest serving foreign affairs ministers this country has had, we don’t use language like that. The President must be measured in the way he wants to relate with other nationals. You can’t give an example as demeaning as the one that he gave about the Chinese,” noted Kalaba./