The shameful saga surrounding Tendai Biti’s deportation out of Zambia is not surprising. Ever since President Lungu came into power, Zambia is no longer the safe haven that it once was for those running away from political repression and persecution.
Tendai Biti and those accompanying him should have known better. The Zambia situation is just as bad as, if not worse than, in Zimbabwe. The Zambia that once accepted all politically persecuted is today lawless and without compassion. President Lungu, his advisors and associates are de facto the law. They are the unrestricted alpha and omega over peoples lives. Local and international laws are of no consequence.
This reactionary development is also widely reflected in President Lungu’s foreign policy. Take the example of Zambia’s long-standing support for the Polisario Front. On February 19, 2016, the president still assured Salam El-Mami, Western Sahara’s ambassador to Zambia, of “our relentless collective calls for the independence of the people of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.” However, in February 2017, after the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, suddenly visited Zambia and signed 19 partnership agreements, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Harry Kalaba said Zambia does not recognise Western Sahara.
In clear terms, President Lungu had sold off the bond between our homeland and the struggling Sahrawi masses for some “pieces of silver”. It was a clear indication that the Zambian foreign policy was no longer about humanity and the common good of the Zambian masses. It was up for grabs to the highest bidder. The shame and disgrace this move brought on Zambia is immense.
Let us also not forget how this country has abandoned the Palestinian cause. President Chiluba initiated the process in 1997, but President Lungu completed it. The PF government re-opened the country’s embassy in Israel in 2015. This came 42 years after Zambia had joined progressive African countries to severe diplomatic ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War.
In addition, during the liberation struggle, Israel openly stood firm on the side of the colonial forces and Apartheid South Africa. Israeli weapons and know-how facilitated the slaughter of thousands of African civilians. The liberation struggle and the cause of the Palestinian people logically became inseparable. Southern Africa eventually got its nominal political independence, but the plight of the Palestinians continues. A foreign policy that ignores this historical link and human obligation is immoral and bankrupt.
The process surrounding Tendai Biti deportation is however highly revealing and points to President Lungu as a calculating and cold-blooded executioner. The security immigration and police officers at the border acted professionally and defended Biti against the overzealous Zimbabwean officers who were determined to arrest him from the Zambian side of the border.
Once in Lusaka, the Zambian courts also acted rationally. Despite the positive court ruling in favour of Biti’s continued stay in our homeland, he was forcibly thrown out of the country – back into the hands of the Zimbabwean authorities. All figures are directly pointing at President Lungu. He is ultimately responsible.
The entire global community is appalled and shocked. There are even threats from the United States government to withhold development aid. However, this will not move President Lungu and his PF government. Withholding American support in health, education and governance will hurt the poor beneficiaries. What would bother President Lungu and his 50 close associates plus family members would be a global freeze of all their over-seas assets, businesses, transactions and travel for the next 20 years. This is the only language this clique understands.