The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) has called for for the immediate arrest of the individuals who invaded the government offices at the Ministry of Works and Supply and harassed a female civil servant on allegations of supporting the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND)
In a statement made available to the Media and signed by Mweelwa Muleya, Spokesperson, the Commission said that Zambia police must arrest the perpetrators and subject them to the due process of the law in order to end impunity, adding that such acts must be considered as full blown warning of potential political violence ahead of the forthcoming elections and must be immediately stopped.
Below is the full statement
14th April 2021
For Immediate Release
THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CALLS FOR THE IMMEDIATE ARREST OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHO HARASSED THE FEMALE CIVIL SERVANT AT THE MINISTRY OF WORKS AND SUPPLY
The Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls for the immediate arrest of the individuals who invaded the government offices at the Ministry of Works and Supply and harassed a female civil servant on allegations of supporting the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
The Commission further calls upon the government to put effective measures towards the protection of Ms. Sheilly Chatugwa from further harassment or victimisation and allow her to discharge her public service functions impartially and professionally.
Preliminary investigations by the Commission indicate that Ms. Chatugwa, who is an Inspector, was hounded out of her office by suspected PF cadres apparently led by a Mr. Charles Kakula on allegations of being a UPND cadre on 13th April 2021. The cadres locked up her office and dragged her to the office of the Ministry of Works and Supply Permanent Secretary, Mr. Lenox Kalonde, where they announced that they had locked her office and threatened to burn her her office if she went back. Such criminal behaviour is unacceptable and a violation of human rights as it constitutes, inter alia, criminal trespass, conduct likely to cause breach of peace and threatening violence.
The police must arrest the perpetrators and subject them to the due process of the law in order to end impunity. Such acts must be considered as full blown warning of potential political violence ahead of the forthcoming elections and must be immediately stopped.
It is the Commission’s considered view that the harassment of Ms. Chatugwa may be the culmination of systemic violation of the rights of hundreds of public workers who have in the recent past suffered from various forms of victimisation, including retirement in the national interest on trumped up allegation of being supporters or sympathisers of the opposition parties.
The Commission wishes to caution that if perpetrators of lawlessness and violation of human rights are left scot free, such criminal conduct may worsen and spread to other public service institutions to the detriment of public service delivery during the countdown to 12th August 2021 Presidential and General Elections.
Breakdown of law and order as witnessed through the video that has gone viral on social media where the cadres have the audacity, in broad day light, to invade government offices and hound out a civil servant, has potential to cause a wide range of human rights violations.
Zambia is not a failed state as it has fully functioning systems and channels which can be used to air or redress any grievances instead of taking the law into one’s own hands. The Government has a primary responsibility, through the Police, to maintain law and order in order to enable the Government to function normally before, during and after the August elections.
The Commission is already investigating the matter and will accordingly advise the respective authority and the victim through the recommendations arising from the investigation findings.
The Commission fully understands that public service workers are not supposed to engage in or practice partisan politics but that should be distinguished from holding an opinion, provided such an opinion does not result into manifestation of partisan and unprofessional conduct in the discharge of public functions.
The commission is therefore calling on all employers be it in the public or private sector to provide a safe work environment to all their employees without any form of discrimination, including based on one’s political opinion.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION