We are saddened by the news that our fellow musician and critic Chama Fumba aka Pilato has fled into exile in another country following alleged death threats on him by cadres of a named political party.
Artistes the world over are a rare and necessary species who are a vital catalyst for enhancing human freedoms as well as providing checks and balances for those in charge of public resources and governments and therefore, threats on artistes in whatever form and no matter from who are an injury to the very essence of democracy and good governance.
The fleeing of Pilato from his country of origin, a country that should be a trendsetter in African democracy, casts a dark shadow on President Edgar Lungu’s governance and tolerance or the lack of it by his ruling Patriotic Front. It is the first time in this era that we have seen an artiste from Zambia seeking refuge in a foreign country because they hold different views from those considered to be pro-government. Not even in Kaunda times did we give reasons for artistes to opt to flee Zambia. On top of that we are constantly made to believe that this country is a Christian nation, Lord have mercy!
This sad development calls for real artistes to rise and speak up for the poor masses and for the very survival of the creative industry which has been diluted by hunger-driven praise singers who have no passion or compassion for the very fans that make them the artistes they are. Intimidation of artistes must be condemned in the strongest terms by all well meaning Zambians because artistes are the voice of the voiceless especially in a country where the fourth estate (the media) seems to be as compromised as the very boot lickers who are threatening death on others. The National Arts Council and its affiliate associations including the Zambia Association of Musicians (ZAM) need to show leadership and protect artistes from state intimidation even if those artistes are not members of any arts association. An injury to one artiste is an injury to all artistes especially the genuine artistes. Forcing artistes into exile is reminiscent of racist white apartheid rule in South Africa.
There is no shadow of doubt that Zambia is no longer a safe country for artistes unless they are pro-government and we call upon the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Transparency International, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the United Nations and indeed the African Union to take keen interest in the deteriorating levels of human freedoms and artistic freedoms in Zambia.
As progressive artistes, we will continue to speak up for mother Zambia as long as corruption, looting, political intolerance, bad governance and threats on human freedoms persist. This is now the time to differentiate the real revolutionaries from the back benchers and opportunists.
Maiko Zulu – Lusaka