Of course, we are laughing at the law enforcement agencies for wasting the court’s time to hear a case which shouldn’t have been enlisted in the first place.
And yes indeed, we are also singing praises for Kasama magistrate Vincent Siloka for promoting freedom of expression in Zambia
If the Police had taken care to listen to the Radio Mano programme over which Fr Bwalya was arrested, they wouldn’t have in the first arrested the Alliance for Better Zambia (ABZ) president and later on arraigned him.
Had the Police acted professionally, they wouldn’t have been a laughing stock in the manner they handed allegations against Fr Bwalya.
But we are not surprised by Police’s recent actions or is it inactions to perform according to democratic norms and dictates.
We have seen a tendency by our Police to opt for actions which serve to please those in the corridors of power.
What the Police seem not to realise is that there is a limit to which power can be abused and the judgment by Magistrate Siloka is one such a case.
Zambia as a democracy has certain safe-guards and men and women of integrity who would stand up for the truth as prescribed in our governance systems.
Fr Bwalya was yesterday acquitted of charges of defaming President Michael Sata in a case in which he had likened the Head of State to a sweet potato.
In January this year, Father Bwalya was arrested after he used a Bemba idiom; ‘chumbu munshololwa’ in reference to President Sata’s unbending tendences on national issues.
This was when Fr Bwalya featured on Radio Mano, on a paid programme.
In acquitting Fr Bwalya, Kasama Magistrate Siloka said he had listened more than ten times to the recording in which it was alleged that the ABZ leader had insulted President Sata but did not hear any at point of the recordingwhere the opposition leader disparaged the Head of State.
Magistrate Siloka said the words he heard from the radio recording was Fr Bwalya likening President Sata to a sweet potato when he said the Head of State was chumbu munshololwa which was not an insult but an idiom.
He however emphasised the need to respect the office of President while stating that freedom of expression should be observed at all times.
We agree with the magistrate that while the President and his party must be protected, this does not mean they are insulated from criticism in the way they exercise statecraft.
As rightly pointed out, Fr Bwalya is a politician who has a right to criticize the President and his party so that the electorate can judge who is better placed to run the affairs of the nation in a just manner. This is what is called offering checks and balances.
Mr Siloka’s ruling will certainly go a long way in promoting freedom of expression and democracy in Zambia.
The ruling will also be used as reference point by many who have been victims of high handedness by the enemies of freedom of expression and democracy.