Sunday, March 3, 2024

An open letter to President Edgar Lungu over human rights

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Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa flying the flag of Zambia
Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa flying the flag of Zambia

Dear President Lungu,

I am writing to you today regarding the serious matter of the continued and unjustifiable incarceration of one of our fellow Zambians. The citizen in question is Fresher Siwale, leader of a small opposition party named New Labour. He is being held under section 69 of the Penal Code, which provides that “Any person who, with intent to bring the President into hatred, ridicule or contempt, publishes any defamatory or insulting matter, whether by writing, print, word of mouth or in any other manner, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years”.

Siwale was arrested on 24 April 2018 for claiming that your real identity is Jonathan Mutaware, born in 1956 to Malawian parents working on the Copperbelt mines, not Edgar Chagwa Lungu. The implication of his accusation, if established, is that you were not eligible to contest the 2015 presidential election since the Constitution at the time provided that ‘A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if both his parents are Zambian by birth or descent’. Prior to his arrest, Siwale had appeared on different media platforms, challenging you to respond to his assertion that you inherited the identity and profile of the real Edgar Chagwa Lungu, whom he alleges is deceased. Following his arrest, it took more than three days before he was formally charged and over a week before he finally appeared in court on 3 May 2018. For reasons that I outline below, Siwale remains in police custody as of today, Monday, 14 May 2018, nearly three weeks after he was detained. Media reports suggest that he has been subjected to appalling and undignified treatment while in detention such as being denied food.

Siwale has been imprisoned not due to your own actions but in your name. Regrettably, it seems to be part of our political tradition that almost each President of Zambia, a former one or a major political leader, faces accusations that he is an identity fraud or a foreigner, or that their parent is one. You will remember that his political opponents, led by Patrick Katyoka and Remmy Mushota, once accused founding president Kenneth Kaunda, who was born to Malawian parents, of not being Zambian. The duo sued Kaunda in the Ndola High Court and judge Chalendo Sakala, in agreeing with the petitioners, declared Kaunda stateless in early 1999. It was not until October 2000 that his citizenship was reinstated following a Supreme Court ruling that reversed the lower court’s decision.

Kaunda’s successor, Frederick Chiluba, was supposedly a Congolese who assumed the identity of a former schoolmate and whose father was of Congolese origin. At the time, in 1996, the Constitution provided that ‘A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if both his parents are Zambian by birth or descent’. Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika sued Chiluba after the latter won the 1996 polls on grounds that he was not qualified to be President since one of his parents was not Zambian. The Supreme Court eventually declared Chiluba a Zambian on grounds that those, like you, who were in the country at independence automatically became citizens. Levy Mwanawasa was also alleged to be a Yao from Mangoche in Malawi. His challenger was a man you surely know, one Michael Sata who made the extraordinary claim in November 2001. Mwanawasa however declined to pursue the matter in courts of law, choosing instead to provide political responses to the accusations, a strategy that appear to have been effective.

Rupiah Banda, by his own admission, was born in Zimbabwe. As a result, he was spared this persistent accusation. Although Sata did not suffer this accusation while in power, Katyoka had earlier in 2001 claimed that his father was Tanzanian. Sata personally sued his accuser for this remark in the Magistrate’s Court, months before the case was discontinued after Katyoka apologised to the then Patriotic Front leader. The apology followed Katyoka’s confession that he had been asked by Chiluba to accuse Sata as a way of undermining his political standing and presidential bid in 2001. A decade later, in 2011, then Minister of Information and Government Spokesperson Ronnie Shikapwasha resuscitated the matter when he claimed that Sata had Tanzanian roots. The PF leader simply ignored Shikapwasha’s accusations.

Given the aforementioned political history, it must be expected then that some of your opponents would accuse you of being non-Zambian. This much is the same as before. What is different and curious is your apparent reaction to these accusations. As noted above, your predecessors simply denied the accusations and occasionally engaged in court battles to assert or prove their identity and citizenship. One major thing they did not do, however, was turn on their critics, or criminalise any discussion relating to their identity. Not even Chiluba, whose case generally mirrors yours, did that. They recognised that criticism, even unfair criticism, is part of political debate in any functioning democracy. I urge you to learn from their example when it comes to how to respond to this enduring political accusation.

As you probably know, the conditions under which Siwale is being held are intolerable. He has not been convicted of any crime. Neither has he been accused of a serious offense that would make him a danger to the public, such as murder or aggravated robbery. Yet he remains in detention and seemingly indefinitely even before his case is heard. At his first hearing, the magistrate imposed extraordinary bail conditions. Siwale had to not only provide ZMW 10,000 cash but also two working sureties, one of which must be a person working at the level of director or above in government. As you know, Mr President, such individuals are appointed in your name and would not sign a surety for a man accused of insulting your dignity without your permission. It is therefore very unlikely that Siwale would meet the stringent bail conditions imposed on him anytime soon. The result is that this fellow citizen, even after trial commences on 23 May, would remain imprisoned indefinitely without conviction.

I am aware that Section 126 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, under Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia, allows Siwale to apply to the High Court for the variation of his bail conditions. I am also aware that he can use the constitutional route to seek the same outcome. What worries me greatly, and I think what should also worry you, is that many cases proceed slowly through Zambia’s courts and so Siwale faces the prospect of being imprisoned for years while seeking to meet the bail conditions as they presently stand or to satisfy another court to vary them. How is this justice? Is this the kind of a society you wish to preside over? Do you wish for criticism of you to be punished in this way? Media reports say that the Magistrate who imposed the stringent bail conditions stated that she was willing to vary them if Siwale fails to meet the set requirements, which raises questions about why she set them in the first place.

I implore you to show your magnanimity and that you are unafraid of criticism by instructing those acting in your name – as though they are the custodians of your identity or historical background – to halt the case as the facts of the matter can easily be resolved without imprisoning a fellow citizen. This manner of proceeding would also be in your interest. The harsh reaction to Siwale’s questions has raised people’s suspicions. After all, if there is no truth in the matter, and I would like to believe there is not, then there is no need for citizens to be arrested and imprisoned the way Siwale has been. All that is needed is a political rebuttal or a challenge to those aggrieved to seek redress in the courts of law, as did those who accused your predecessors of identity fraud or not being Zambian. To allow the matter proceed beyond the point it has reached, and under the prevailing circumstances, may only raise more suspicions around your identity in the public eye. Already, there are some who are claiming that the reason why Mike Mulongoti – another citizen and leader of a small opposition party who has raised questions about your identity – was not arrested is that you are seeking, through Siwale’s example, to silence or intimidate other critics, including him. You would do well to allay these suspicions by refusing to pursue harsh measures against your opponents.

The legal implication of this case is that it is an attack on fundamental human rights such as the presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty and the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. We may not like what others say about us, but this does not give us the right to shut them up or violate their human rights. The Constitution that you swore to uphold specifically requires you to rise above individual considerations to defend and protect even the rights of your severest critics or political adversaries. Many people may find the constant questioning of the identity and nationality of Zambia’s presidents distasteful and distracting. Yet it remains a fact of political life in Zambia, and one that cannot be entirely avoided. If people wish to say these things, it is their right. If people are jailed indefinitely for expressing an opinion, even before their case is heard, then we will become a country where people are afraid to say what they think and we will all be poorer after that. Is this the type of country you wish to lead as President?

I look forward to your response, either in words or in actions.

Warmest regards,

Sishuwa Sishuwa
The last Zambian nationalist

42 COMMENTS

  1. What goes around comes around, he that have ears, let him hear. Its a miscarriage of justice, such trivial issues should not reach such levels. A true democrat will simply overlook and forge ahead.

    • Uko!
      Its clear to the majority of people that visionless Lungu~now populous known as “Jonathan Mutaware” as reviewed by Fresher Siwale & Mike Mulongoti~does not respect the constitution of the country.
      1~Lungu become PF president by use of violence & lifting of axes, hands & pangas at the Rock of Authority in Kabwe.
      2~Lungu was “anointed” in 2015 elections by PF cadres & supported to be 1st elected by the biased ECZ.
      3~During the 2016 elections, ECZ plus Isaacs with Chavula IT saver room & Chulu announcing wrong results. Chulu said Chitulinka was a constituency & gave Lungu over 33,000 votes when in fact its a village with less than 279 registered voters.
      4~Lungu failed to hand over power to the speaker according to the constitution when the presidential petition was lodged…

    • 5~Lungu kept PF MPs illegally in office after parley was dissolved.
      6~Lungu sworn in as President by a court clerk or kapaso & not Chief Justice.
      7~LUNGU threatens judges~PFudges~on his bid for a 3rd term against the constitution.
      8~Lungu after being elected twice or anointed by PF cadres, now all govt institutions are PF like PFolice, PFudiciary.
      The list is endless. Lungu has no empathy.
      The Skeleton Key
      ~206~

    • As far as its Human Rights record is concerned, Zambia is deep down in the gutter. We can’t be said to belong to the Southern Region. We are now part of what we were once thought to be – Central Africa. By our record, that’s where we now belong. And more likely than not, it’s where Edgar Lungu hails from. He has a different stream of blood flowing through his veins.

  2. People should never be afraid to speak the truth but, should always be afraid to spread a lie. No story here.

  3. Fimbi ifintu fyakuifwailafye. Why do people suffer for things where they can never even gain anything. This world is full of injustices and you make a choice to take yourself right into these injustices and make your family suffer. For what? The time Mr Siwale spends in prison without receiving a fair judgement should have been spent doing something constructive. Finally he will come out and nothing more will be done.

  4. Fresher Siwale was granted bail but failed to bring forth two working sureties. Whose fault?? He has been given the right to defend himself in a court of law but why didn’t Sishuwa and others who are supporting Fresher stand as his sureties?? Sishuwa should channel his energies towards more productive matters, if he really cares about human rights, why doesn’t he spend time in the prisons and start lobbying the Judiciary, Parliament and the Justice Ministry to decongest the prisons and help those who have spent years for stealing boom and have no legal representation???

  5. Dr shishuwa whatever your names please go and find two suritues for Siwale and show your patriotism than writing crap

  6. Muppet! Who deemed you to be the only “nationalist” in Zambia? You are clearly insane and just an attention seeking opportunist. “The last Zambian nationalist” my foot!

  7. Bo Sishuwa, Fresher Siwale had ECL’S National Registration Cards without ECL’s permission.If I got your NRC without your permission and rushed to Prime TV to display it, wouldn’t you report me to the police?

  8. Arrests are based on probability of guilty. Arrests are executive powers are service of love, peace and harmony in society. Indeed where arrests were proven unjust, remedies were also applied at public expense. The judiciary must determine whether or not an accused person is guilty or not. The innocence of an accused person needs to be proven in open court. Political causes by definition have opponents and proponents. If opponents can not dictate terms of argumentation to the proponents, then likewise proponents can not dictate terms of reasoning and argumentation to opponent. When proven, false denunciation, insinuation, allegation or falsification of an individual’s identity using media or oral attacks can not go unpunished. If that happened in the past, then that will not happen now.

    • This arrest is both shameful and indefensible period. Lungu is not up to the job. He is not very useful to the country with no character no humanity and no candor. Ninshi Onse Uwanya Akasushi kumujela? Chalo chashani icho? We need a presidency that can make this republic proud and free again!

  9. Thanks Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa. A fair piece I must say. You have every right to express your opinion. May I remind you that there are rights and duties. The two go together! From my perspective, these ‘outrageous accounts’ of nationality/citizenship regarding incumbents should stop. We are Zambians for heaven’s sake and should always put our rights/duties within our culture(s). Let’s be contextual and not universal. Zambia is not the US.

  10. When you are talking about ones rights don’t you think that the other has also got his rights. Please big man do balance your equation. You forcely produce an nrc to champion your own ego? NRCs are kept by the owners how did he obtain that nrc?
    The man is in it for his own sake. No rights should be talked about here.
    Let wait for the law to take its cause.
    Thanks for letting us know about this joke.

    • A coin has two sides. It can’t be a coin with only one side. Lungu like Siwale needs protection too. In our laws I think it’s section 169 correct me…you can take someone to court for insulting, using threatening language and defamation. If found guilty that person can be imprisoned or fined depending on the depth of the case. Lungu by law cannot sue you but the system will do it for him.

  11. The reference to Dr Kaunda is misplaced. Dr Kaunda was subjected to this nonsense because of the hatred the entire MMD had for the old man. KK never hid the fact that his parents came from Nyasaland. The high court ruled that anyone who was found in Northern Rhodesia at the time it became Zambia automatically became a Zambian. …this was in defense of Frederick Chiluba against Akashambatwa and others who had taken FTJ to court on account that he wasn’t a Zambian. If this applied to FTJ why not to KK a man who had lead the liberation of this country? Siwale is facing multiple charges. And why haven’t our lawyers represented him? My take is it’s either is a pauper or they know that he’s guilty as hell and one should not stake their reputation.

  12. Human rights should not be misunderstood as a license to utter careless statements or mislead the masses into believing false allegations.

    Mr. Siwale and Mr. Shishuwa should know that this door swings both ways. We Bembas say “mwikala patalala mwine apatalalika” – he who wants to enjoy peace should be a peacemaker himself.

    • For any country around the world, suppression of the Freedom of the Press, is the first indicator that things are going the wrong way. It shows that the country is doing something it doesn’t want the world to know, much less to see. When I read recently that Zambia is ranked number 113 in the world on the Freedom of the Press Index, I became convinced that something is amiss. By comparison, Ghana is ranked number 23, the highest in Africa; Namibia and South Africa second and third, respectively. Where is Zambia, and why?

    • @Imute, ask yourself first who does those rankings and why.

      Fact is, their definition of “Freedom” is much different from ours. Freedom for them means everything from insulting authorities, to a man getting married to a man and a woman getting married to her dog.
      There are things that we should never tolerate no matter what the world says. It is the only way of maintaining our national identity.

    • Nine, the ranking is done by Reporters without Borders. Any wonder the United Kingdom is ranked number 40 and not number 4, and the all powerful United States of America, number 45 instead of number 5. They report fairly, for the whole world.

    • It should concern us all that, when it comes to freedom of the press, Zambia is ranked number 29 in Africa, along side Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville. I don’t believe that’s the family of countries to which Zambia is supposed to belong.

    • Nine, by further comparison, Botswana is ranked number 6 in Africa, Malawi, number 12 and Lesotho, number 13. Why can’t Zambia be ranked number 14? Why is it number 29, along side notorious central African countries, and in the process, rubbing shoulders with despicable Uganda? Is that the family of countries to which we want to belong?

  13. Bo Sishuwa, you have made a good appeal but what you go on to say does not make sense. Why should you justify a wrong in the name of Humans rights. Edgar is a person who has feelings just like you. This issue of accusing presidents of being foreigners will continue as long as culprits are not brought to book. Let us correct a wrong and never let it happen again. Besides that he is a thief. Where did he get the Reg from? These are seriouse matters .His financiers are busy jumping up and down free including mulongoti.Let them bail him out .
    Please if indeed you are a humanist talk about the thousands of people (Some innocent) languishing in remand prisons in filthy conditions thn talk about a man who new what he was doing . A leader who cant afford ten Pin. Whom shall he lead. You? This…

  14. Is it that UPND will MAKE -A-CRIMES-FREE Zambia because of HUMAN RIGHTS..or ALL POLITICIANS will be above the LAW when HH becomes a president? Who did the STORY of SIWALE and HIS colleagues.?They were jumping from one media station to another SAYING That HE knew it all beyond reasonable DOUBT that ECL is a foreigner.Peope advised them to realize that they were committing an offense but they didn’t take heed,.LET FACE WRATH OF LAWSUITS

  15. What I fail to understand is why people should be so heartless as to accept the incarceration of a person who has not been proven guilty. Whether you like ECL or despise him, it’s wrong for his system to keep a fellow citizen locked up ‘to teach him a lesson’. Is this the way in which we are going to run affairs in this country? Mr Siwale laid an accusation and the logical next step should be for the President to follow correct channels to prove him wrong. Why is it so difficult to just provide credible evidence to show that the President is in deed Zambian? Please learn to have a heart for your fellow human beings facing persecution.

  16. If you people respected God and everything made in his image this country would have been better country to live in.
    What about those people who don’t have BIG names are being denied there human rights and you do not speak on there behalf .
    By his country
    Thomas.

  17. The arrested boy must apologize for peddling lies that ECL is not Zambian. If people have confirmconfirmed having spend their lives with ECL as former Pri. Sch. classmate, childhood friend, unza classmate etc, why then didn’t this boy examine his data b4 going public with his facts?
    Now he is suffering for things he would have avoided.
    Just advise him to apologize to the head of state & asked for renience, period.
    Remember that whether or not he has human rights, the rights have not rescued him from the said harsh treatment.
    Also remember that ECL has the entire govt to wip this boy.
    So let the boy wake up & act in a clever manner to save himself by apologizing.

  18. One can easily see that the writer of the article is UPND canopy. Please lets encourage people ti do the right thing before than to beg the offended to forgive the offenders.

  19. Sometimes we react without knowing the ‘loot kozi’. Ask Mwinemushi. State secrets will remain in the abyss unless someone foolishly reveals the niche and no one sane will give you explanation that you are able to grasp. Cheers guyz.

  20. Human Rights indeed swing both ways. Let’s respect each other as Zambians. Demeaning an elected people’s representative is totally uncouth!

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