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Who is Mercy Changwe who was honored by the President on Africa Freedom Day?

By Chimwemwe Mwanza

It’s certainly easy for opposition leaders to criticise decisions and policies of a sitting government because their vantage enables them to serve as the bulwark to reigning in on excesses of the government of the day.

As the leader of the largest opposition party then, President Hakainde Hichilema executed this role with much perfection and humility. For more than a decade and a half, he consistently positioned himself as a voice of reason – often providing critical checks and balances to past governments. The tables have since turned and opposition sharks are consistently circling his cage baying for his blood. Surprisingly, it’s worth noting the ease with which his foes have exposed his vulnerability to criticism.
For somebody that promised to de-link partisan politics from government, a few of his decisions are baffling to independent moderates – except if you are a UPND faithful. This political summersault is an apt reminder to his faithful that the President is but a fallible mere mortal that is susceptible to error. Lest we forget, HH as the incumbent President is no longer a UPND but a national asset whose decisions should transcend beyond party zealotry. And not everyone critical of his decisions is after his job, for some, it’s more about patriotism than self-interests.

That said, why should he be complicit in activities that seek to appropriate significant national events to his party?
Case in point, Africa Freedom Day is meant to celebrate and honour pre and post-independence leaders that have helped to positively shape Zambia as well as the continent’s social and economic trajectory. Accepted, the President may also use this opportunity to reward and acknowledge ordinary citizens that have served the country well in their respective areas of speciality.

Of significance though, this day is meant to celebrate luminaries such as Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Kenneth Kaunda, Amilcar Cabral, Augustinho Neto, and Ben Bella, among others for their role in helping to free the continent from political bondage.

On the local political scene, it’s unthinkable to celebrate this day without remembering the role that the likes of Harry Nkumbula, Simon Kapwepwe, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Mainza Chona, Grey Zulu, Alina Nyikosa, Nalumino Mundia, Mary Fulano and Chibesa Kankasa – just to mention a few struggle stalwarts that played a role towards liberating the country from colonial rule.
Presiding over the recent investiture ceremony at State House to mark Africa Freedom Day, the President honoured Mercy Changwe, commending her gallantry in defence of democracy and multipartyism. So, who is this Mercy Changwe that supposedly ranks high among a pantheon of African greats? What has she achieved thus far to deserve this prestigious award? A quick browse through Wikipedia or notable Zambian history books draws a blank to her name.

Then what criteria did State House use to accord her this honour? Ms Changwe – a vegetable hawker is supposedly a victim of PF brutality. She was allegedly assaulted several times by cadres from the former ruling party. Despite her ordeal she never renounced her membership of the UPND – this is according to State House.

Could this really have been a basis for conferring her with such a massive honour? Mind-boggling stuff, right? At another ceremony to mark Zambia’s independence day in October last year, the President bestowed the Order of the eagle of Zambia second division posthumously to the UPND’s Founder and President Anderson Mazoka for his immense contribution to Zambia’s plural politics and good governance.

Take nothing from Mazoka, he was a visionary that helped to elevate as well as transform Zambia’s railway transport sector but to deserve this award, ayikona man. The President further used the same ceremony to honour the UPND’s long time accountant, Backstone Mambo. As one of the founders of the UPND, Mambo was brutally assaulted by police when they raided the UPND offices – permanently damaging his spine.

Mercy Changwe’s Destroyed stand by PF cadres on the run up to 2021 elections

Never mind the duo’s contribution to the UPND’s rise to power, the governing party seems to have thrown its ideals of meritocracy in determining such decisions to the wind. In the case of Changwe, there is no evidence whatsoever to prove or suggest that her non-renunciation of her UPND membership helped transform Zambia’s political landscape. Her decision to stick to her party despite living in perpetual torture had little to do with a national cause.

In addition, the President owes it to the entire Zambian citizenry across the political divide to make rational decisions. And the trouble with entrenching such questionable decisions is that future national investitures risk becoming a partisan affair. An alternative perhaps is for the UPND to start organising its own party sanctioned investitures. Just a thought.

About the author: He is an avid reader of political history and philosophy. The only thing he supports is Kabwe Warriors and Liverpool. Congratulations to Man City – deserving champs, it still hurts a little bit. For feedback, contact: [email protected]