Duncan Money deposited Defamation of the president, racial nationalism, and the Roy Clarke affair in Zambia on Humanities Commons 6 months, 3 weeks ago
In January 2004, residents of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, were treated to a disturbing sight. Over 200 members of the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy party marched through the streets of the capital carrying a mock coffin bearing the name of Roy Clarke, a prominent newspaper satirist and white British national who had been a permanent resident in the country since the early 1960s. The protesters accused Clarke of insulting and defaming President Levy Mwanawasa in his previous column and demanded his immediate deportation. The Minister of Home Affairs obliged, but the satirist successfully challenged his deportation in Zambia’s courts. Drawing from newspaper sources, court documents, and interviews with key informants, this article shows that these protests were anything but a spontaneous demonstration of public outrage. Instead, they had been carefully orchestrated by Mwanawasa and his close allies to bolster Mwanawasa’s beleaguered presidency. The article argues that deportation orders and racial nationalism against racial minorities are strategies adopted by political elites during periods of weakness, even when these ideas have little or no popular support. More broadly, we argue that the status of racial minorities and other foreigners in Zambia is often provisional, depending on political considerations.