M'membe prisoner of conscience

by mazuba mwiinga

Writer, Moris West once wrote in his book Shoes of the Fisherman that, “It takes so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price”.

And such vivid reassuring words reminds me of how The Post newspaper at the helm of one inspiring man Fred M’membe have dared all the odds of journalism to buttress the principles of free press and truth searching this country has been denied before, for more than 20 years now.

And it’s true (Amos Chanda, The Post June 7, 2010) there is nothing more befitting than calling M’membe a prisoner of conscience, and free press hero.

Reasons for jailing M’membe leave much to be believed in this circumstance. According to our Penal Code, CAP 87 of the Laws of Zambia, Section 26 (3), says: “A person convicted of a felony, other than manslaughter, may be sentenced to pay a fine in addition to imprisonment: Provided that, where such person is a corporation, the corporation may be sentenced to a fine instead of imprisonment”.

The law (CAP 87 (4)(b), defines a felony as “offence which is declared by law to be a felony or, if not declared to be a misdemeanour, is punishable, without proof of previous conviction, with death, or with imprisonment with hard labour for three years or more”.

We all know that M’membe and The Post’s case is a misdemeanour. And the law defines a misdemeanour as “any offence which is not a felony”.

To this effect we can deduce that a felony is heavier a charge than a misdemeanour. And if a heavier charge, in this case a felony is given the power by the law to just fine an erring corporation rather giving it a custodial sentence as CAP 87 (26) (3) says as quoted above, why then did the trailing Magistrate in the M’membe case slap a custodial sentence over a misdemeanour on M’membe’s second charge he is serving on behalf of The Post instead of fining The Post? Where does it leave our thoughts on, with the other charge M’membe was convicted on?

I have said it before, that those who relish on such convictions should know that steel bars do not make a person a prisoner, nor high concentrated Prison Walls make one a jail bird, for freedom comes from the heart and not from out of confinement. If the heart is free and not guilt of what a person is fighting for; no rehabilitation is taking place and no retribution is being achieved even when you throw him in jaws of incarceration. You are not even scaring so called would be offenders, but rather strengthen their urge.

M’membe and The Post have today remained forces to reckon with in the promotion of free press; and its this price they are paying just because the only crime they have committed is to promote and defend free press and the truth; and the truth does not always emerge unless someone digs it out, the course of which The Post has been sailing on.

Those who now have feasts of celebrations for M’membe’s conviction should know that journalists are born and not made. True ones like M’membe can be liked to the legend phoenix; burn it today, tomorrow it will resurface from its ashes and continue living; even more ardently than ever before.

And those who are born with the spirit of transformation and reformation for the nation, never live seeing things go to the dogs as they sit idly. As William Saidi says in his book Day of the Baboons, “practical people never leave conversations unfinished”, so has been The Post’s unwavering duty for this nation.

As M’membe said on Saturday’s editorial, the truth will surely triumph for it always does. It may not be today or tomorrow, but days are numbered. To us M’membe is not a convict but a purely prisoner of conscience, deemed a threat by those who call a spade a big spoon. He will ever remain our free press hero.

Copyright: June 7, 2010

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