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Of Government, free speech and fear

Hello! So, what would you be writing about?, my friend asked, his eyes trained on me like a laser beam.

“Public issues, generally. Law, politics and stuff”, I replied.  “Be careful Kgosi”. The warning was as stern as his gaze.  “A man must be what he is”, I protested. I should have acknowledged Schaefer’s Shane. I didn’t. “Be cautious Kgosi”, my friend warned, carefully mopping up the vestiges of the expended fowl with an equally ill-fated piece of toast.

That was three weeks ago.

The effort to strike a balance between the right to free speech on the one hand, and behavioral expectations and self-preservation on the other, is a tricky one. Who can forget the scantily garbed cartoon character and the gobbledygook it generated. For days, the nation brawled over a cartoon underwear. If the brawl confirmed anything, it is the poverty of local politics. If you aren’t with me in camp B, then you are a sycophant. If I don’t hate you enough to call you that then you are a reactionary. A reactionary, in political speak, means citizen garbage.  One must therefore, be who they are. The alternative is to be their detractor’s toady. Well, a toady all the same. If knowledge of the truth ever set anyone free, telling the truth was very likely the reason why they ended up in chains in the first place. Example? Jesus Christ.

Of course I have no intention, dear friends, of calling anyone out unless they are so obscenely exposed as to make silence itself an obscenity. Take, for example, the police motorcycle gang that blocked the Maruapula traffic intersection on BDF day. The southerly route leads into Extension 9, a vast residential and office area. The inner two lanes could have been cordoned off for special traffic; incoming and outgoing. It was all a scenario planning issue. Make no mistake about it, I have no trouble with our unsmiling, underpaid uniformed friends and their war games. Good reasons existed for traffic disruption. Firstly, BDF day is a justifiable waste of public money. So many children get entertained. Secondly, dignitaries required enhanced security. Thirdly, army vehicles required clear traffic lanes for the programme to flow and for children to be entertained. Most importantly, our national stadium needed to be exorcised, though a truly national event, of the P100 million bandit-fest that was BOT50.

True. All access routes into Extension 9 were blocked in literally every direction, including skyward. Residents had to park vehicles at Middlestar, Village or the Main Mall and to carry screaming children home on their shoulders. Asked for a designated access route, the Maruapula motorcycle gang pointed in the direction of Francistown. I gained access to my office after flashing a suicide-belt. Other

motorists swore all the way to Francistown. I was livid, who wouldn’t be? I calmed down the moment the prosecutor in me remembered that our motorcycle friends belonged to a Government machinery blessed with custody and access to all inventions of interplanetary exhibits. What the police did on BDF day was frankly, a truck-load of tripe.

 One should be generous in praise and less so in condemnation. I have learnt though, not to applaud too long or too early. Motives usually trail the event and good reasons are not always true reasons. Those charged with public trusts need to be constantly assessed and reminded, honestly, of their records. Reminded, because pious or crooked, we all know our worth. The trouble is that the bad desire the image and peace of the good whilst eschewing their struggles and poverty. It is the false prophet who screams the loudest, “touch not my anointed….”. A criminal hand gives more publicly. One who preaches about fornication and money to the near exclusion of anything and everything likely indulges in both to the near exclusion of anything and everything. Say you disagree.

You may agree, dear reader, that the most enriching conversations occur during those mental recesses when the lights are off and the mind can roam, free of risk and judgment, the full breadth of this momentary experience we call life. Outside that, glory belongs to the brave and free. Like the tanked-up character back home who entered a neighbour’s yard, leaked on her fence, and asked her to be grateful because if he had done it from the outside, the deluge would have ended up inside. After all, to err is human and speech freedom is constitutionally enshrined. One must therefore go where facts lead him, restrained only by law and conscience to the specific exclusion of fear and public opinion. That far, I must heed my friend’s admonition.

I have said a lot. Perhaps too much for a first installment. I merely mean to introduce the column and the writer’s philosophy. I will be here weekly to share views and to learn. The benefit of an education is demonstrable in one’s ability to step outside own views, to re-examine the same from critical distance, and to admit own folly, where appropriate, and the superior quality of those of others. When one loses objectivity, and begins to consult public opinion before settling their own, the earth is cursed with one more politician.

Of course, being objective is much more difficult than talking about it. Yet, that is what I hope to deliver. The verdict is yours.

Chief On Friday



Ugandan 2021 elections

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