Govt infringed on people’s rights in 2018 – Chipenzi
By Staff Reporter
The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CSCA) has demanded that government desist abusing the law with impunity and infringing on people’s basic human rights.
Speaking when he addressed the press at the Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA) yesterday, CSCA chairman McDonald Chipenzi said his organisation was worried that even the limited rights and freedoms in the current Bill of rights were being trampled upon, circumvented, ignored and violated with impunity by the state machinery.
“Using the subsidiary laws at the expense of the supreme laws, citizens especially political parties and those holding critical views against the ruling elite cannot freely enjoy their rights and freedoms of conscience and expression, association and assembly without an eminent threat of deprivation of liberty through arbitrary arrests. Many times, efforts to convene a meeting even after notifying the police have been denied and those who resist have been arrested,” he said.
Chipenzi said those with critical voices and the opposition are rarely covered by the public media and if by luck they are covered, then it is always in the negative, stating that “this is usurping the power of the people that have declared for a multi-party state in the constitution that is governed by the same document”.
“It is no longer a secret that people’s will for a transparent, accountable, responsible leadership was not realized in 2018. And the outlook for 2019 seems to be the same. It will call for strong men, women and institutions to redirect the management and leadership of this country. The shrinking, civic, political and democratic spaces which have seen some of you human rights defenders, media and civil rights activist being tried and jailed, is a clarion call for resilience and bravity in the calling,” he said.
He said if left unchecked, this may lead to a general deterioration in the civic, media and political space in the country, stating that “Zambia’s democracy came under threat due to seemingly state capture of state institutions by the politicians, especially those from the ruling party and the executive”.
“Democracy implies diversity of interests and voices, including government, civil society, labour movement, student movement, media, scholars, critics, religious leaders, writers, small business men and women and large corporations and the leadership must just pay attention to all of them but also allow them free expression,” he said.
Chipenzi regretted that in 2018, there was an attempt to silence critical voices by either dismissing their demands or aligning them to main opposition political parties in the country.
He said student union activities at the University of Zambia and Copperbelt Universities were banned while political parties were denied their right to assemble.
“Police brutally in the policing of opposition party assemblies was also witnessed. Further even the impeachment process as provided by the law, an official mechanism to check the conduct of a sitting president was systematically prevented from being tabled in the National Assembly,” he lamented.
He cautioned that these and many more actions which included the disappearance and abduction of opposition election candidates just before the poll in various elections were signs of an undemocratic regime.
“Democracy does not believe in the manipulation of the law to advantage the political party in power. CSCA is of the view that no president from 1991 onwards is supposed to be elected and sworn in three times or to rule for more than ten years. Any strategy whether legal or judicial meant to manipulate the law in order to advantage one leader is undemocratic and likely to meet the full force of the resistance from citizens through the available democratic means,” Chipenzi said.
He said in 2018 his organization noticed the emergency of the executive that regards itself to be above the law as exhibited by the arrogance and refusal of the ministers to abide by the court order to have them pay the allowances they obtained when they stayed in office after the dissolution of parliament in 2016.
Chipenzi also encouraged all parties to participate in the national dialogue, urging the government to participate in the process and avoid dodging their involvement by changing goal posts.