By Mumbi Phiri
The Patriotic Front has a duty to call out lies and cheap propaganda manufactured against itself whether locally or abroad. We have our good name to protect.
In this regard, Patriotic Front takes great exception to the article written by someone who has identified himself as Nic Cheeseman, so called Professor of Democracy at Birmingham University and published by theconversation.com and some local newspaper in Zambia. In this misleading article, he writes about Zambia as having fallen from grace under President Edgar Lungu. We know for a fact that Cheeseman only knows Zambia from looking at the World Map. He knows too little about our country, our laws and governance systems. Cheeseman is nothing but an attention-seeking Professor who thinks he can lecture us about democracy. He is among those who seek to misinform the world that Zambia is a country on fire, when the opposite is true. Let Cheeseman visit Zambia and he will see that we are a nation at peace with itself and with her neighbouring countries.
Cheeseman’s article must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves especially that the author claims to be a professor in democracy but understands very little about what democracy is. We’ll seek to comment on several lies he has raised in his article.
Professor Cheeseman should revisit his academic definition of democracy as stated by former US President Abraham Lincoln who said a democracy is “a government of the people, for the people and by the people”. Cheeseman would also be wise to know that the voice of the people, is the voice of God.
The Government of President Lungu draws its mandate from the power of the ballot box. The people of Zambia spoke through the vote and their wishes must be respected by all, including Cheeseman and a Opposition leader appearing in Zambian Courts.
Cheeseman creates the impression that there was a letter authored by all Catholic Bishops which labelled Zambia as a dictatorship. We wish to clarify that there is a difference between an opinion expressed by an individual and a common position taken by the collective. Cheeseman would be wise to know what constitutes a Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops for him to draw the sort of conclusions he has made in his article. For the record, there was no Pastoral letter by Catholic Bishops as Cheeseman attempts to show in his article. What was there was an opinion expressed by His Lordship the Archbishop and covered in the media. On the other hand, a pastoral letter carries signatures by all Catholic Bishops and is read to the congregants across the country. While a Pastoral letter is read is all parishes across the country, the other one is not. Suffice to say the Patriotic Front respects the freedom of expression and right to hold an opinion as the Archbishop did. We commend President Lungu over his decision to engage the Church directly and not through the media.
It is irresponsible for Cheeseman to compare ours with late President Frederick Chiluba’s third-term bid. The view that the current constitution allows President Lungu to seek re-election to office in 2021 subject to being re-adopted as the Party’s candidate when the Party holds its General Conference is not about amending the law to accommodate our view. Ours is informed by the current law and of course, we are mindful that this matter is before the Courts of law. As always, the Patriotic Front will respect the outcome of the Court system.
Patriotic Front’s intra-party democracy cannot be compared to any political party in Zambia. After President Michael Sata died, we went to the Convention and elected a leader. The same cannot be said about HH and UPND. The Party has never been to a convention since 2006 and HH rules by decree. While he is in prison, ADD President Charles Milupi is the one chairing UPND National Management Committee meetings simply because the National Chairperson is from another region. We are also informed that their Vice President for Administration Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM) has been absent trying to seek asylum within the Region. UPND is in a limbo because its undemocratic and one-man regional party.
We wish to state that President Lungu’s good governance record remains solid to this day. His administration has focused on improving the country’s governance and economic conditions. It was President Lungu’s administration that took the Referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to the people and this was held alongside the August 11th, 2016 elections. The world would be interested to know that it was UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who campaigned countrywide against the improved Bill of Rights, denying Zambians far and better rights. It is President Lungu’s administration which allowed for the 50 per cent plus 1 clause in the Constitution, the running mate clause, and reduction of Presidential powers – something all previous Presidents of Zambia refused to do despite different generations of Zambians demanding for it.
President Lungu believes in an independent judiciary and this he has demonstrated from 2015 to date. Today, Zambia has a Constitutional Court, something that was unheard of in the history of our nation. While the Opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, President Lungu remained calm for close to 60 days until the matter expired after 14 days as the Constitution provides, thanks to the UPND lawyers. President Lungu respects the Courts and will never interfere with their independence and operations even if that works against his administration’s interests.
We wish to correct the view that human rights of politicians in trouble with the law, together with their partners in crime are being violated.
Citizens who are also politicians and on trial have appeared in court within a week of being charged and they have since been properly taken to court for continued trial. The due process of the law is clearly being followed to the letter.
President Lungu believes that we can have differences as politicians without being personally disagreeable. He believes that politicians can celebrate diversity and use it in nation-building. President Lungu has always stated that by working together, we can make Zambia a better place for ALL if only we change the way we do politics. He believes in politics of hope, issues and collective responsibility. President Lungu believes that to face that great future promised in our national anthem – a land of work and joy in unity, all one strong and free – Zambia cannot continue to practice politics of personalities and individual character assassination, finger-pointing and of arrogance. President Lungu believes in politics of patriotism that no one should taint Zambia’s name to score politically. Zambia is our collective heritage whose good name must be preserved by all political players.
Professor Cheeseman ‘s day dream maintained that Zambia is falling from grace because of HH’s arrest is a lie and written to mislead the world. We speak with confidence that Patriotic Front has already made giant steps towards the course of democracy and Zambia remains a shining example of democracy not only on the African continent but world over.
One Zambia, One Nation. God Bless Zambia!
The Author is the Deputy Secretary General of Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party