A group of veteran politicians calling itself “eminent persons, senior citizens and freedom fighters” says if local solutions to the political standoff between Zambia’s ruling PF and the opposition UPND have failed, the SADC TROIKA for Politics, Defence and Security as well as the AU mechanism for conflict prevention must step in.

In a statement signed by Sketchley Sacika, Willard Ntalasha, Michael Mabenga, Brig.Gen. Dr. Brian Chituwo, Vernon. J Mwaanga, Lily Monze and Amon Chibanda, the freedom fighters said the continuous political tension in the country had been largely exacerbated by the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear the Presidential election petition.

Others who signed the statement are Shimwaayi Muntemba, Shuresh Desai, Ompie Nkumbula Liebenthal, Ambassador Joe Mwale, Levy Chimpinde and Martin Jangulo.

“The continuous political tension that has engulfed our country after the 2016 General Elections largely exacerbated by the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear the Presidential Petition filed by the aggrieved political parties, has created the potential to risk our country’s peace and stability,” read the statement.

“We are here not to impose any solution to the current political stand-off, but to suggest alternatives that may be helpful to bridge the widening political divide currently obtaining in Zambia. We are convinced that Zambia’s problems can be handled and resolved by Zambians themselves and if need be, by applying other African solutions such as the SADC TROIKA for politics, defence and security; the AU mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution; and the Zambia Center for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID).”

The freedom fighters regretted the narrowing democratic space in the country.

“We have also noted the increasing intolerance and disrespect in our society and the declining and shrinking democratic, political, civic, and media spaces in our country and hereby wish to express our resolve to speak out whenever such vices emerge because we have realised that our continued silence on such matters has actually encouraged these democratic ills,” statement read.

“We have noted with great concern the political divisions, discrimination based on regions, tribal and political associations not only in the political arena but even at work places to an extent that many innocent people have been retired or fired in the national interest! We also want to express great concern on the breakdown of the rule of law, the absence of separation of powers among the three arms of state and constitutionalism in the country. This is visibly observed by the continued exhibition of impunity by some state institutions to disobey court orders as was recently the case in the Hakainde Hichilema and four others, which is currently in court. In this incident the police disobeyed the Court Order to return seized property during the raid at Mr. Hichilema’s residence in Lusaka on April 10, 2017.”

The freedom fighters said the recent acquittal of Hakainde Hichilema embarrassed the police service.

“It is also our considered view that the recent judgment by the magistrate court in the case of using insulting language involving Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and others, is a cause for serious soul searching among the leadership of the Zambia Police Service and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA). The judgment has clearly exposed the incompetence and unprofessional conduct of some officers from the two institutions. The judgment has further brought to the fore the inherent credibility deficiencies of some of our men and women in uniform in the discharge of their duties. This judgment has brought a ray of hope in the independence and credibility of our judiciary, which is at its lowest ebb in terms of public confidence and trust,” read the statement.

“In the spirit of this national pride, we advise President Lungu, political parties and all citizens to scrupulously respect and uphold the Constitution, the Rule of Law and the Bill of Rights, if we are to maintain this national pride. To this end, we, the Eminent Persons, Senior Citizens and Freedom Fighters hereby; urge President Edgar Lungu, to be a genuine bearer of a message of unity, patriotism for the love of the country by initiating genuine, unconditional and constructive dialogue between himself and his political opponent, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema.”

They said “We further urge him to release Mr Hichilema as a prelude to peace and national reconciliation, together with other political prisoners like Hon Obvious Mwaliteta among others, currently being held at various detention and other correctional facilities across the country immediately. We also appeal to President Lungu to censure divisive elements within his political party and government perpetuating tribal and political divisions in the country which are observable in their actions and utterances. We also appeal to UPND leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema once released and other political party leaders to do the same.”

“Finally, we make an earnest appeal to President Lungu to honour and respect freedom fighters living and posthumously through the establishment and maintenance of Freedom Fighters’ Burial Sites for all freedom fighters such as Godwin Mbikusita-Lewanika, Lawrence Katilungu, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Nalumino Mundia, Arthur Wina, Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Reuben Kamanga, Elijah Mudenda, Mainza Chona, Julia Chikamoneka, Mukwae Nakatindi Nganga, Solomon Kalulu, Omelo Mumba, Lewis Changufu, Mukuka Nkoloso, Mungoni Liso, Paul Kalichini, Kapasa Makasa, Zeniah Ndhlovu, Leah Hamusonde, Mathew Nkoloma, William Nkanza, Jethro Mutti, Mama Mary Fulano, Samuel Mbilishi, Maria Nankolongo, John Mwanakatwe, Peter Matoka, Fines Bulawayo, Andrew Mutemba, among others too many to mention here.”