Zam­bia calls state of emer­gency

Lungu re­acts to sus­pected ar­son

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - CAJ NEWS LUSAKA

THE BURN­ING of Zam­bia’s big­gest mar­ket – the lat­est in a se­ries of in­fer­nos – along with ap­par­ent cel­e­bra­tions of the tragedy, and a sub­se­quent state of emer­gency have driven a fur­ther wedge be­tween the na­tional govern­ment and op­po­si­tion par­ties, as well as civil so­ci­ety groups.

Early on Tues­day, a fire rav­aged Lusaka City Mar­ket in the cap­i­tal, de­stroy­ing prop­erty worth mil­lions of kwachas in what is be­lieved to be an act by ar­son­ists whom the govern­ment sus­pects are sup­port­ers of the main op­po­si­tion United Party for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment (UPND).

The party has been protest­ing against the months-long de­ten­tion of op­po­si­tion leader Hakainde Hichilema on al­le­ga­tions of trea­son after he al­legedly blocked the con­voy of Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu.

No sooner had the smoke set­tled on the mar­ket than a Bri­tain-based ad­viser of the UPND, Larry Mweetwa, added fuel to the fire by prais­ing the al­leged ar­son­ists for a “job well done”.

“Let us in­ten­sify such acts! Zam­bia is on fire as I speak due to the ar­rest of HH (Hakainde Hichilema),” Mweetwa posted on his Face­book page.

Po­lice have is­sued a re­ward of K500 000 (about R740 000) to help the ar­rest of the cul­prits, none of whom had been ar­rested at the time of go­ing to print.

On Wed­nes­day, much to the con­cern of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, Lungu de­clared a state of emer­gency in the coun­try, which is still reel­ing from tense elec­tions that kept him in power last in Au­gust, but which have been re­jected by govern­ment crit­ics and op­po­si­tion as flawed.

Lungu threat­ened “dras­tic ac­tions”.

“If it means tak­ing mea­sures which are un­prece­dented we will do just that.

“Some people will have to lose their rights. So, if I be­come a dic­ta­tor for once, bear with me,” Lungu said.

“My govern­ment has de­cided to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 31 (lead­ing) to a state of pub­lic emer­gency.”

How­ever, Civil So­ci­ety Con­sti­tu­tional Agenda chair­per­son, John Mambo, de­nounced the state of emer­gency.

He said it was a “totally mis­placed and knee-jerk re­ac­tion to an in­ci­dent that has not even been in­ves­ti­gated”.

Mambo ex­pressed sym­pa­thy with af­fected traders at the mar­ket where 3 000 stalls were de­stroyed.

“We do not, how­ever, accept that the in­ci­dent at the city mar­ket is enough jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the dec­la­ra­tion of a pub­lic emer­gency or dec­la­ra­tion re­lat­ing to a threat­ened emer­gency,” he said.

“We there­fore strongly urge the pres­i­dent not to use his con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers un­der ar­ti­cles 30, and 31… loosely.”

Mambo crit­i­cised the dec­la­ra­tion of an emer­gency, sus­pend­ing some rights en­joyed by cit­i­zens.

“The full pro­tec­tion of these rights, which can­not be sus­pended, is im­pos­si­ble to im­ple­ment in a state of emer­gency.

“It will in­fringe on them be­cause hu­man rights are in­ter­re­lated, in­ter­de­pen­dent and in­di­vis­i­ble,” said Mambo.

The pres­i­dent of the Law As­so­ci­a­tion of Zam­bia, Linda Ka­sonde, also urged the govern­ment to ex­er­cise re­straint un­til the mat­ter was fully and thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated.

The burn­ing of the mar­ket fol­lows the re­cent torch­ing of a Lusaka court, also by un­known ar­son­ists who are be­lieved to be pro-Hichilema.

In May, South Africa’s op­po­si­tion DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, was barred from en­ter­ing Zam­bia to at­tend Hichilema’s trial.


Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu walks through a guard of hon­our in the cap­i­tal Lusaka.

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