University of Zambia Political Science lecturer Lee Habasonda says he is concerned about the Patriotic Front’s style of governance because they do not consult before formulating policies.

And Habasonda says the Constitutional Court was too ambitious when it allowed prisoners to vote.

In an interview with News Diggers! Habasonda observed that Zambia was being dragged towards an authoritarian style of governance.

“Government has no business prying in the private life of its citizens. Government should not just wake up and declare mandatory [HIV] testing for its citizens, this is a sensitive matter and therefore, they should have first taken it to Parliament and a full Parliament because the Parliament that sits now is one part of Zambia. After that, they should have created debate in the media, civil societies and in Universities and after building consensus that would given them legitimacy to pass such a law because Zambians would have agreed to say yes, this is a problem we need to address this way,” Habasonda said.

“But no it just looks like it’s a copycat from the Rwandan President Paul Kagame whose democratic credentials are questionable even if he gets 98 percent (votes). So Zambians are worried that the country is sliding towards authoritarian style of governance where people just wake up and impose mandatory HIV testing, they wake up and unbundle the University of Zambia without talking to the stakeholders. So these are the concerns that we have.”

And Habasonda wondered why the Constitutional Court allowed prisoners to vote when their rights were suspended.
“I think that things like allowing prisoners to vote may be a good thing but the law suspends the rights of individuals when they are in incarceration so I don’t know whether voting rights have a special meaning if prisoners are allowed to participate. I only agree with the ruling to the extent that because they live in prisons which are determined by the State then their votes can contribute to changing the conditions in prisons but in principle I do believe that when you are a prisoner, actually some of your rights are suspended and you don’t need to enjoy them by virtue of being in prison,” Habasonda said.

“So with regard to the Constitutional Court, I am saying yes it is a right that must be enjoyed because it reflects on the conditions in prisons but I think that Zambians needed to debate this carefully because really what I see in our democracy is that while some ideas may be good they were not subjected before the majority of the Zambians and as a result, all the time we don’t get decisions that are unanimously accepted. I think building consensus around some of those decisions is important and I am not saying that the ConCourt must go and consult because they follow the law and from where I stand obviously I am experienced in the area of human rights and there is nothing wrong with our prisoners voting but for our situation in Zambia, I think that prisoners have not gotten to a level where they can be voting.”

He said it would have made more sense for Zambians in the dispora to vote.

“So I think priority should have been given to people in the diaspora to vote. Those who have not any of their rights suspended. How do you allow a prisoner to vote and not a person who is in the diaspora? So those are the difficulties I have with the ConCourt’s kind of thinking. Let’s allow the diaspora people to vote then we can look at those groups whose rights are suspended because they have been imprisoned,” said Habasonda.

“I am assuming that we are referring to prisoners and not detainees, so these are people who have been found guilty and have been kept in prison either Mukobeko or Mwembeshi for a long time. I think the voting is practical except that as we have said most of our institutions are politicized so the prison authorities may behave the way that police does and so again exclusive participation comes in and eventually the system doesn’t work. So because of the state of democracy in Zambia the ConCourt is a little too ambitious.”