By Isaac Mwanza
A video circulating on social media platforms in which some youths were being tortured, subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment by some military personnel for pouring some expletives against President Hakainde Hichilema for alleged failure to honour some promises is just a tip of an iceberg of what has become common treatment of suspects who are poor and ordinary in Zambia.
Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia states:
“No person shall be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other like treatment.”
Beyond these written words must be a realisation that our country’s Constitution is a useless and meaningless document to millions of poor, ordinary Zambians but a treasure to elites and politicians in their quest to gain, use or manage political power.
For the record, I have don’t support anyone who insult the Republican President, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with such a President. It may be okay, legal or cultural in America to find Americans who vent their anger and insults on the American President but Zambia is not America.
Zambia, like all other African countries, has an African culture that emphasises respect for elderly persons, especially those who provide leadership in our homes, church or country as a whole. President Hichilema deserves the same respect we all can give to our father, regardless of whether we annoyed with the failures or even lies of our biological to deliver his promises.
But the issue here is simple and require us to reflect on the meaning of our constitution. The Zambian Constitution is only good for our courts and academic elitist debates and giving powerful elements some advantages in our society. The Zambian Constitution is not about the interests of ordinary and poor Zambians.
Unfortunately, our courts have also become a subtle accomplice in the violation of the rights of those who are seemingly weak, poor or ordinary in our society. The courts have failed to personally hold and punish officials who violate our people’s protected human rights, especially when these violations are done against ordinary and poor Zambians.
Compensation for human rights violations have only been possible when the same are done to politicians and their allies who can sue and walk away with thousands and millions of taxpayers money for wrongful detention, torture, degrading or inhuman treatment. What is a Constitution for when law enforcers and not the military can violate the rights of others, including children, with impunity?
But that is the kind of constitution Zambia has today – useless and meaningless document to millions but a useful document the country’s political power. The Constitution is good and enforceable when the powerful and affluent class is affected and but it doesn’t matter when it is the poor about who are subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment by our law enforcement agencies. This kind of treatment ends with valueless media statements from some toothless Human Rights Commission
It is indeed a curse to be born in a Komboni or village in this country.
Worse still, our country is now witnessing a new wave in which people are politically reported to police posts in far-flung, less developed areas, arrests are done in one districts, suspects transported and abandoned in other rural districts, away from their families or where they can get help. When all this is happening, the Executive and the Judiciary go to bed as accomplices in their failure to frown and stop this practice.
The once vocal international community, through their Embassies, have also become conspicuously mute or probably don’t want to be caught in a crossfire which will stop their countries from exploiting our natural resources under the new management. Is this an endorsement that all is okay or they will begin to speak out only when their interests begin to be threatened?
I am deeply troubled by this video of torture and I repeat; the Zambian Constitution is a useless document to millions of poor Zambians. Beyond that document being useful to politicians in the management of political power, it does not serve or protect the interests of ordinary Zambians whose rights keep being violated.
In Zambia, you get promoted for violating the human rights of ordinary citizens especially if it done to please the powers-that-be.