Tomorrow a hundred of us will be killed

By Mbinji Mufalo

“No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

 

– John Donne’s Meditation XVII – No man is an island

 

Mbinji Mufalo

Mbinji Mufalo

The brutal violence of November 7, 2013 involving youths from differing opinions on leadership in the Patriotic Front (PF) Party is tragic. There have been various comments on the incident in multifarious social media, and indeed from stalwart political players. Of concern to me, are the unfortunate comments used to describe the villains and victims of the brutal mayhem.

 

“Thugs, mad people, uneducated youths, criminals”, are but some of the comments I find wanting. In addition, we have had words of solace from some political stalwarts at the eye of the storm.

 

I here argue that to call the villains and victims of the November 7 PF intra-party violence as thugs or criminals merely serves to minimize the underlying reason any group of individuals can decided to butcher each other with machetes like pigs in a slaughterhouse. We must accept that these youths have souls as beautiful as we have. They are humane and they can reason. The problem however is that, the practice of their humanness and reasoning is constrained by the very people they dance for euphorically during elections, and more so on September 20, 2011.

 

We should not, today, bury our heads in the sand, and pretend to forget that the youths we are calling “thugs” had their hopes raised by empty promises by those in power today.

 

“More money in the pocket, enough employment, et cetera”, were the hit lullabies at the time. Lest we forget, not long ago we had a brave political office holder curtly tell us that the promises made were mere political rhetoric. In short, Miles Sampa told us that the promises sermonized during the 2011 political campaigns, were just meant to lure votes. Nothing else. Sic.

 

That the youths in most of urban Zambia are desperate, disgruntled and hungry is a fact only those who live in ivory towers can deny. This is chiefly due to unsustainable high levels of youth unemployment. News of youths stampeding for jobs (with occurrence of death as in the Mpulungu fishing factory saga mid last 2012), is clear evidence of youth desperation in this country. In addition, our pursuit of a rather archaic education system that does not prepare our children with appropriate life skills when out of school has also continued to merely serve to increase the numbers of desperate and hungry youths.

 

This has been the case before, and it is the case now. The only difference is that, the Patriotic Front in 2011 gave them what they deemed infallible hope that their misery will now end. I know there are some who will counter argue that surely the youths should have reasoned that the political sermons were merely water in a reed basket. However, we must often realise that poverty, desperation renders reasoning worthless.

 

Youth is a virginal experience. It is highly susceptible to experimentation, peer pressure, and more so exploitation by those that realize their vulnerability. When youth is imbued in desperate poverty levels, its susceptibility is even higher. This is the state of the youths that today without shame we are calling thugs, criminals or whatever derogatory term that we can conjure.

 

Someone comfortable, someone who never thinks of where his or her next meal will come from knows the objective susceptibility of the urban youth in this country. It is he or she that we should be calling a “thug, criminal”, not the youths. He or she, exploited their desperation, armed them with machetes or perhaps instructed them to find any weapon that can cause serious injury or death to another human.

 

My sincere plea is that we should be demanding that the Zambia Police investigates, arrests and prosecutes whosoever is behind the use of vulnerable youths for political dominance. Simply arresting the youths involved in the mayhem is not the solution its in entirety. Tomorrow, there will still be more youths to prey on.

 

In any case, it is folly of us to believe that these youths can waste their own money buying machetes, axes, knives, knobkerries, if someone somewhere is not promising a better tomorrow in the long term, or mostly likely some coins to fender off their immediate hunger needs in the now times!

 

If we so choose not to reason and mitigate the vulnerability of the youth to political hegemony in our country, then we should not be surprised if tomorrow a hundred of us will be killed.

Mbinji Mufalo is Human Rights and Governance Consultant