I am ashamed of my Country & its Leadership

Hjoe Moono

Hjoe Moono

By Hjoe Moono

Building on from the debates on the police and political charges being levied on Kasama Central MP, GBM, I couldn’t help but compare what is happening to him with what the Russian Government under Vladimir Putin did to Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man and the world’s 16th wealthiest man according to Forbes Magazine in 2004. Not only was he a businessman (He was CEO of Yukos, an oil company), he was also a politician and once served as a minister under Vladimir Putin’s government until differences arose when he left government.

No sooner had he left government and focused on his business than did the government pounce on him and his business. Politically motivated cooked up charges, similar to those now being levied on GBM where read out, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005.

On 2 November 2010, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after appealing and appearing on new charges, he delivered his final words to the court in the closing of the second trial. The speech included the following passages.

“I am ashamed for my country. Your honour, I think we all perfectly understand the significance of our trial extends far beyond my fate. And even beyond the fates of all those who have innocently suffered in the course of the reprisals against YUKOS that have taken place on such a huge scale, those I found myself unable to protect, but about whom I have not forgotten. I remember every day.

Let’s ask ourselves, what does the entrepreneur, the top class organizer of production, or simply an educated, creative individual, think today looking at our trial and knowing that the result is absolutely predictable?

The obvious conclusion a thinking person would come to is chilling in its simplicity: the bureaucratic and law enforcement machine can do whatever it wants. There is no right of private property. No person who conflicts with the “system” has any rights whatsoever.

Even when enshrined in law, rights are not protected by the courts. Because the courts are either also afraid, or are part of the “system”. Does it come as a surprise that thinking people do not strive to realize themselves here in Russia?

I am far from being an ideal person, but I am a person with ideals. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in prison, and I do not want to die here.But if I have to, I will have no hesitation. What I believe in is worth dying for. I think I have shown this.”

If this is where we are headed, then I am too ashamed of my country and its leadership.

I have shared many times how our political system has no respect for enterprise and local entrepreneurship. Where there is justice and rule of law, success in business does not require one belong to the ruling elite or be on the side of government. In Zambia today, anyone that thinks his mind is an enemy of the system. If he/she is a university lecturer, like the unfortunate Evelyn Hone College Journalism lecturer, they are fired, and arrested. If it is businessmen like GBM, they are charged for being entrepreneurs.

We had seen such before under Kaunda’s UNIP. Looks like it is now back with greater ruthlessness. The Chiluba and Mwanawasa era bred and brought up, and to some extent respected private property and entrepreneurship. We saw GBM’s business tramped upon by the MMD’s Rupiah Banda merely for his support of the PF. Now, at a scale never seen before, the PF is on him, but this time going further than the MMD in its ruthless attempt to destroy his enterprise.

Like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, let’s ask ourselves, what does the entrepreneur, the top class organizer of production, or simply an educated, creative individual, think today looking at what happens to hard working entrepreneurs in Zambia?Should we fail to think, dream, aim and realise ourselves for fear of the “system”? The so called BOMA NI BOMA?

In 2011 Zambians made a historic choice by voting the MMD out. If the status quo continues, Zambia must and will have to make an even more historic and legendary choice in 2016 and/2021. Either we turn back from the dead end towards which we have been heading in since recent years – and we do it soon – or we continue in this direction and Zambia, in its current state, may regress and erode all the gains it has made over the years, and we will be back to year Zero.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not reflect views of the Publication or its Proprietors or Editors but the Author.