Zam­bia’s democ­racy very much alive

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

IN THE Star of Wed­nes­day, July 12, for­mer me­dia trainer and con­sul­tant Clayson Ha­masaka wrote a piece ti­tled “Zam­bia’s Democ­racy in tat­ters”.

In the ar­ti­cle he made var­i­ous as­ser­tions, chief among them that Zam­bia’s democ­racy had de­te­ri­o­rated and mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion, me­dia per­son­nel and those air­ing dis­sent­ing views are bru­talised and sys­tem­at­i­cally per­se­cuted by the state po­lice and, al­legedly, have no le­gal re­course.

He also claimed that Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu, as min­is­ter of jus­tice and min­is­ter of de­fence, rose to the party’s top po­si­tion fol­low­ing the death of Michael Sata by us­ing in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence, and al­legedly ex­clud­ing other can­di­dates.

Clearly, al­though he is en­ti­tled to it, Ha­masaka has abused the power of the pen by ex­press­ing a view de­void of bal­ance, truth and ob­jec­tiv­ity.

For ex­am­ple, at the time of Sata’s death in 2015, (in­ter­est­ing to note the gra­cious praises show­ered on Sata, a man that Ha­masaka has lam­pooned in many ar­ti­cles), Lungu handed over power to act­ing pres­i­dent Guy Lind­say Scott.

Scott or­gan­ised and ran all pro­cesses, in­clud­ing his ap­proved list of del­e­gates at­tend­ing the party con­ven­tion in Kabwe.

There­fore the claim that Lungu be­came party pres­i­dent and party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date us­ing threats, vi­o­lence and can­di­date ex­clu­sion has no ba­sis.

I, how­ever, should has­ten to say that any at­tempts by Scott to sneak in his per­sonal agenda or his pre­ferred can­di­date was pre­vented by the cen­tral com­mit­tee and party mem­bers. Zam­bia’s Democ­racy, in tat­ters? The ar­gu­ments be­ing used to cast doubt about the demo­cratic cre­den­tials of Zam­bia in­clude the fol­low­ing, which I will dis­cuss:

Me­dia clo­sures The Post clo­sure can be at­trib­uted to ut­ter mis­man­age­ment, poor busi­ness de­ci­sions and am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion ven­tures. A law­suit brought by the Zam­bia Rev­enue Author­ity in 2009 and con­cluded in the Supreme Court in June 2016 forced the rev­enue ser­vice to seize and at­tempt to re­cover from The Post an out­stand­ing ac­crued debt of $5 mil­lion. This ex­cluded other cur­rent out­stand­ing tax debts. It has since emerged from the pro­vi­sional liq­uida­tor that the pa­per ac­cu­mu­lated a to­tal debt in ex­cess of $35m.

From the above, it’s clear that its clo­sure is not part of a gov­ern­ment me­dia clam­p­down but as a re­sult of the weight of its own debts.

Zam­bia is a coun­try that needs all its re­sources, in­clud­ing taxes from news­pa­pers or me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The clo­sures of Muvi TV, Kom­boni Ra­dio and Itezhi Tezhi is self ex­plana­tory as the sta­tions breached elec­tion and free­dom of ex­pres­sion guide­lines. The two ra­dio sta­tions apol­o­gised for their breaches, pledged to strengthen pro­cesses and mech­a­nisms to avoid re-oc­cur­rence. The In­de­pen­dent Broad­cast­ing Author­ity promptly re­stored their broad­cast li­cences.

It should be noted that Zam­bia has more than 80 in­de­pen­dent ra­dio sta­tions, 15 tele­vi­sion sta­tions and more than 10 news­pa­pers. The coun­try also has new me­dia and on­line plat­forms, such as Face­book and Twit­ter, sup­port­ing a vi­brant on­line news­pa­per en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic de­bates. The Au­gust 2016 elec­tions

Al­though the op­po­si­tion dis­puted the out­come, the elec­tion and its out­come was af­firmed to have been held in a free, cred­i­ble and fair man­ner by an in­ter­na­tional ob­server mis­sion from SADC, the AU and the Elec­toral In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able Democ­racy in Africa.

The reports also recog­nised that al­though there had been con­cerns about pre-elec­tion vi­o­lence and some irregularities, the elec­tion and its out­come re­flected the will of Zam­bians that voted.

The pe­ti­tion against Pres­i­dent Lungu’s re-elec­tion was filed, heard and in­cluded by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court in ac­cor­dance with constitution.

Any fur­ther de­mands to force such a mat­ter back into courts would be clearly out­side the law.

The mat­ter of the ar­rest of op­po­si­tion UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is be­fore the court of law in Zam­bia and our ap­peal is to urge all in­volved to al­low the process to un­fold.

Our ju­di­ciary has al­ways demon­strated in­de­pen­dence and au­ton­omy and it has demon­strated over the years that it does not serve at the be­hest or di­rec­tion of politi­cians.

It is easy to show many cases that have re­sulted in court ac­quit­tals or dis­missals that in­volved mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion or where the state showed keen in­ter­est.

Such cases at­test to the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary.

With the procla­ma­tion of pub­lic safety on July 5, Pres­i­dent Lungu in­voked ar­ti­cle 31 of Zam­bia’s constitution.

Seven days later, par­lia­ment voted and ap­proved to up­hold the procla­ma­tion for a fur­ther 90 days.

This is not a state of emer­gency but an or­di­nary se­cu­rity mea­sure de­signed to give the po­lice pow­ers to speed­ily in­ves­ti­gate re­cent re­ported acts of ar­son and van­dal­ism to pub­lic build­ings. There is also no cur­few or pub­lic re­stric­tions.

This is a nor­mal se­cu­rity ac­tion un­der­taken in many democ­ra­cies if a sit­u­a­tion ex­ists that could lead to pub­lic in­se­cu­rity and, if left unchecked, could lead to a state of emer­gency.

We hold that Zam­bia’s democ­racy and its rule of law re­main on course and it’s some­thing that we as a peo­ple con­stantly as­pire to grow.

We have lived un­der colo­nial­ism and a par­tial dic­ta­tor­ship. There­fore, the peace we en­joy and demo­cratic gains we have made are highly cher­ished and, as a peo­ple, we can­not sac­ri­fice these values at the al­tar of pol­i­tics.

The demo­cratic gains we have made are highly cher­ished

Mwamba is Zam­bia’s High Com­mis­sioner to South Africa based in Pre­to­ria and also en­joys ex­tra-ac­cred­i­ta­tion to Le­sotho and Mada­gas­car

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