The boldness exhibited by the Zambia Agricultural and Commercial Show Society to cancel a contract of performance of the Congolese rhumba maestro Koffi Olomide is justified and commendable.
This follows his violent conduct at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where he was captured on video physically attacking one of his female dancers.
Moreover, the Congolese musician has had a record of violent conduct even on our soil – he had physically assaulted our award-winning photo journalist, Jean Mandela, about three years ago.
The Zambia Police Service decided to drop Mr Mandela’s case and the following year Olomide returned to our country for a series of concerts. Shockingly, hitherto there has been no talk about that case.
The Kenyan government decision to expel Olomide from the country and deport him to the Democratic Republic of Congo has exposed the mediocre approach that we have taken when it comes to handling gender-based violence cases. Much more so the hypocritical stance some Non-Governmental Organisations, particularly those purporting to advocate for women’s rights, have taken. It has put them on a pedestal.
We understand that an NGO is a private voluntary grouping of individuals or associations, whether corporate or unincorporated, not established or operated for profit, partisan politics or any commercial purposes, and who or which have organised themselves for the promotion of civic education, advocacy, human rights, social welfare, development, charity, research or other activity or programme for the benefit or interest of the public, through resources mobilised from sources within or outside Zambia.
Do some NGOs mirror such objectives to be relevant to society? How effective are they in representing and fighting for the marginalised people?
Alas, some of such organisations have not lived up to their set thrust. They have become more personal-to-holder and money spinning conduits.
They are so politically inclined that they have ultimately lost touch with the reality on the ground and a sense of voluntary service to our society, let alone neutrality when confronted with issues of public interest such as the referendum on the Bill of Rights.
Partly, it is on account that superintending over NGO activities has become a matter of personal aggrandisement. If as an executive director, one can drive a luxurious car, live in a grand mansion and work in a fully air-coned office, all is well.
As such, they have no faintest idea and zeal to fight for victims of social vices like gender-based violence and such related ills.
The docility with which such NGOs carry out their voluntary work is what is not only irksome but also betrayal of trust of both their funders and the differently marginalised groups of people they are supposed to represent.
What is even more worrisome is that organisations premised on advocating women’s rights have weakly condemned some politicians who are aspiring to become national leaders even when such individuals have a documented track record of gender-based violence towards their spouses and others around them.
This is how weak their advocacy against such social vices is.
It is baffling to note that women organisations seem to have found their lost voice and now welcome the ACSZ decision. It was anticipated that the Zambia Association of Musicians (ZAM) should have been supported by such NGOs in condemning the violent act but this was not the case.
Had the ACSZ not cancelled the contract, we doubt such organisations and civil society could have done anything to persuade Government and the show organisers to change their position. It could have been the usual verbal talk and no compelling action taken.
NGOs must be vigilant in championing the fight against many social vices in our society of which gender-based violence is just but one.
As NGOs, they must realise that there is a lot that is expected of them as reliable partners to Government in addressing some of these social challenges. It is high time they took their rightful, active roles and began to act as vanguards and to be a voice for the voiceless.