POSITION PAPER BY EMINENT PERSONS, SENIOR CITIZENS AND FREEDOM FIGHTERS ON THE PREVAILING POLITICAL SITUATION IN OUR COUNTRY.
We, the Eminent Persons, Senior Citizens and Freedom Fighters from various parts of this country, consider it our patriotic duty to add our voices to the grave concerns being expressed by others on the current prevailing political situation in our country. We find the current political situation unhealthy, unpleasant and a threat to the very foundation of our country’s core values.
Our decision to speak out comes in view of our unparalleled participation in nation building and coupled with our vast experience and knowledge of this nation from the time of its conception, birth and growth. Some of us have also been involved in promoting peace in other countries faced with similar political dilemmas.
We are here not to impose any solution to the current political stand-off, but to suggest alternatives that may be helpful to bridge the widening political divide currently obtaining in Zambia. We are convinced that Zambia’s problems can be handled and resolved by Zambians themselves and if need be, by applying other African solutions such as the SADC TROIKA for Politics, Defence and Security; the AU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution; and the Zambia Center for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID).
From the onset, we want to recognise and acknowledge the concerns expressed by our Churches, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the International Community and other eminent persons on the current political situation. Their messages on this issue have been loud and clear which now require practical action from the powers that be rather than glossing over these concerns.
To this end, we, the Eminent Persons, Senior Citizens and Freedom Fighters have noted with great concern the political divisions, discrimination based on regions, tribal and political associations not only in the political arena but even at work places to an extent that many innocent people have been retired or fired in the national interest!! just for perceived exercise of their rights to political and tribal association.
We have also noted the increasing intolerance and disrespect in our society and the declining and shrinking democratic, political, civic, and media spaces in our country and hereby wish to express our resolve to speak out whenever such vices emerge because we have realised that our continued silence on such matters has actually encouraged these democratic ills. The continuous political tension that has engulfed our country after the 2016 General Elections largely exacerbated by the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear the Presidential Petition filed by the aggrieved political parties, has created the potential to risk our country’s peace and stability.
We also want to express great concern on the breakdown of the rule of law, the absence of separation of powers among the three arms of state and constitutionalism in the country. This is visibly observed by the continued exhibition of impunity by some state institutions to disobey court orders as was recently the case in the Hakainde Hichilema and four others, which is currently in court.
In this incident the police disobeyed the Court Order to return seized property during the raid at Mr. Hichilema’s residence in Lusaka on April 10, 2017. The continued presence of heavily armed police with dogs at court grounds, whenever there is a high profile case not at the invitation of the Judiciary, but seemingly on instructions from the executive arm of the state.
We, the Eminent Persons, Senior Citizens and Freedom Fighters, wish to note with further consternation the increasing culture of fear and silence emerging among citizens on many national issues. This potentially threatens the country’s democracy, erodes the rule of law and grossly undermines good governance as a result of increasing state intimidation, suppression and intolerance of critical opinions which has scared away many citizens from effectively participating in national processes as well as the enjoyment of their birth rights and freedoms. These include such freedoms as the right to assembly, expression, movement and association. This, we feel, is contrary to the spirit and letter of our Republican Constitution, independence and freedom struggle and to the vision of our freedom fighters.
It is also our considered view that the recent judgment by the magistrate court in the case of using insulting language involving Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and others, is a cause for serious soul searching among the leadership of the Zambia Police Service and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA). The judgment has clearly exposed the incompetence and unprofessional conduct of some officers from the two institutions. The judgment has further brought to the fore the inherent credibility deficiencies of some of our men and women in uniform in the discharge of their duties. This judgment has brought a ray of hope in the independence and credibility of our judiciary, which is at its lowest ebb in terms of public confidence and trust.
We also note with serious concern that democratic centralism which started way back in the post-independence era, has continued to characterise our governance system leading to leadership deficiencies due to too much power deposited in the Presidency. This has led to state capture of citizens’ rights on one hand and executive capture of the other wings of government on the other. The continued abuse and misapplication of the Public Order Act (POA) as amended in 1996, has undermined the respect of the Bill of Rights by the State. The current misapplication and abuse of the Public Order Act is one of the clearest examples of the state capturing citizens’ rights. The continued existence of a one party dominated National Assembly on one hand has led to the arrogance of numbers resulting into the passage of laws that are non-user friendly to citizens on the other.
We also note that the state capture of the judiciary has led to passing of questionable court judgments as recently observed. The above scenario is one of the pointers of Executive domination. We want to reiterate our desire to see an independent, impartial, efficient and practical co-existence of the three arms of the state. In this regard, our purpose in this statement is also to present to the President as well as to demonstrate our sense of patriotism and national pride. We want Zambia to remain a shining example of a country in Africa firmly anchored on multiparty democracy and stability. We feel that this position paper is timely to prevent our country from slipping off its democratic credentials which have earned us international acclaim and cohesion. In the spirit of this national pride, we advise President Lungu, political parties and all citizens to scrupulously respect and uphold the Constitution, the Rule of Law and the Bill of Rights, if we are to maintain this national pride.
We also note that one of the causes of the democratic and leadership deficiencies in our governance system, has been the defective Constitution of 2016 and wish to advise that the Constitution be redone as a matter of urgency through a more inclusive, transparent, consultative and accountable process. The Constitution revisiting process must take a nationalistic approach, rather than that of narrow political interests which, in the past, have resulted in the delivery of a defective Constitution. It is through such a process that we shall arrive at a national consensus and agreement for the sake of the nation, present and future generations. Further, it is imperative that we move towards sustainable peace and stability in our country. We request all political parties, citizens and other stakeholders not to put pre-conditions to dialogue on national matters and further urge them to develop a selfless desire to find LOCAL SOLUTIONS to our national challenges through INCLUSIVE CONSULTATIVE PROCESSES.
THE WAY FORWARD
TO THIS END, we, the Eminent Persons, Senior Citizens and Freedom Fighters hereby;
1. URGE His Excellency, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of the Republic of Zambia to be a genuine bearer of a message of unity, patriotism for the love of the country by initiating GENUINE, UNCONDITIONAL and CONSTRUCTIVE dialogue between himself and his political opponent, United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and his party. We are of the view that such dialogue will relax tensions among warring political party sympathisers and supporters thereby promote peace and stability in our nation. We do not want President Edgar C. Lungu and UPND President Mr. Hakainde Hichilema to regard each other as enemies but mere political opponents, because this is what democracy demands.
2. We further URGE him to release UPND leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema as a prelude to peace and national reconciliation, together with other political prisoners like Hon Obvious Mwaliteta among others, currently being held at various detention and other correctional facilities across the country immediately;
3. We REAFFIRM our resolve to pursue and preach NATIONAL UNITY across regions, tribes and political affiliations of citizens and in addition call for respect of democratic tenets such as freedom of assembly, expression, opinion and association in the governance of this country from those entrusted with state power;
4. We CONFIRM and RE-AFFIRM our resolve to uphold the National Motto of “One Zambia, One Nation” which has served our country well since independence in October 1964.Hence our plea to President Lungu to promote conditions of oneness by releasing political prisoners and his brother, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema in furtherance of this Motto;
5. In addition, we APPEAL to President Lungu to censure divisive elements within his political party and government perpetuating tribal and political divisions in the country which are observable in their actions and utterances. We also appeal to UPND leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema once released and other political party leaders to do the same.
6. Further, we URGE government to genuinely involve and consult citizens and stakeholders in addressing the current Constitutional lacunas without prejudice and also start the consultative process on the national referendum for the expanded Bill of Rights. We also call on government to exhibit genuine and practical steps aimed at reviewing the Public Order Act
7. And finally, we make an EARNEST APPEAL to President Lungu to honour and respect freedom fighters living and posthumously through the establishment and maintenance of Freedom Fighters’ Burial Sites for all freedom fighters such as Godwin Mbikusita-Lewanika, Lawrence Katilungu, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Nalumino Mundia, Arthur Wina, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Reuben Kamanga, Elijah Mudenda, Mainza Chona, Julia Chikamoneka, Mukwae Nakatindi Nganga, Solomon Kalulu, Omelo Mumba, Lewis Changufu, Mukuka Nkoloso, Mungoni Liso, Paul Kalichini, Kapasa Makasa, Zeniah Ndhlovu, Leah Hamusonde, Mathew Nkoloma, William Nkanza, Jethro Mutti, Mama Mary Fulano, Samuel Mbilishi, Maria Nankolongo, John Mwanakatwe, Peter Matoka, Fines Bulawayo, Andrew Mutemba, among others too many to mention here.
8. We are of the view that such an undertaking will display the diversity under which these freedom fighters operated when put at one resting place, It would further help the current and future generations to appreciate the sense of unity, patriotism and love these gallant men and women exhibited for the sake of mother Zambia regardless of their political, tribal, regional and social status. We are convinced that this will help bridge some of the emerging divisions in the country based on the aforementioned fault lines.
It is our sincere hope, trust and prayer that our serious concerns to President Lungu will be given the respect and due attention they deserve and further wish to state that we are available to meet with him through a selected delegation of five (5) persons from amongst our group in furtherance of these national objectives.
GOD BLESS THE REPUBLIC
AGREED AND SIGNED BY;
TUESDAY, 16TH MAY, 2017
1. Amb. Sketchley D. Sacika
2. Levy Chimpinde
3. Martin Jangulo
4. Amb Joe Mwale
5. Ompie Nkumbula Liebenthal
6. Dr. Shimwaayi Muntemba
7. Hon. Shuresh M. Desai
8. Amb. Amon Chibanda
9. Amb. Lily A.W Monze
10. Dr. Vernon. J Mwaanga
11. Brig.Gen. Dr. Brian Chituwo
12. Dr Michael M. Mabenga
13. Mr. Willard Ntalasha