NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale says more work needs to be done in order for independence to be meaningful because many citizens are still under economic slavery.

In a statement on Zambia’s 53rd Independence Day today, Mwale urged citizens to rise up and exercise the highest levels of patriotism and guard the country’s sovereignty.

“The Non Governmental Organisations’ Coordinating Council joins the rest of the country in commemorating 53 years of Zambia’s independence this Tuesday, October 24, 2017 under the theme, ‘Celebrating our Freedom for continued Peace, Unity, Patriotism and Development’. While the country has made some remarkable progress in a number of sectors since October 24, 1964, so much still needs to be done to make independence more meaningful to all Zambians. It is sad that 53 years after independence, 54.5 percent of citizens still live in abject poverty. It is clear that the majority of the citizens are not fully independent as they are still under economic slavery in their own country,” Mwale stated.

And Mwale called upon leaders of both the ruling and the opposition to address tension in the country.

“It is NGOCC’s expectation that government, through our leadership, will strive to create an environment where peace is nurtured and unity of purpose is embraced across Zambia’s vast ethnic, ideological and geographical spread. We also call upon all citizens to rise up and exercise the highest levels of patriotism and guard our country’s sovereignty. As we reflect on our independence theme, we also call upon our leaders, both in the ruling and opposition political parties to address the current political tension and refocus the country’s priorities on nation building,” she stated.

She also expressed concern on the low numbers of women representation at local government level and in the National Assembly as the country could only achieve sustainable development if both women and men worked together.

“Further, it is also of great concern that Zambia’s legal framework still discriminates against women as evidenced by the low numbers of women representatives at local government level (9 percent) and in the National Assembly (17 percent). As Zambia commemorates this year’s independence, it is high time that the country moves towards putting in place measures that will ensure inclusiveness for both women and men to participate and equally benefit from the country’s development processes. Zambia will only be on its path to achieving sustainable development if women and men work together,” Engwase stated.

She stated that there was need for interventions from the leaders that would reduce the inequalities and poverty levels especially in rural areas as the country commemorates this years independence.

“As the country commemorates this year’s independence it is critical that our leaders take stock of the country’s development deficiencies that must be addressed. While appreciating the positive plans outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan, there is need for more targeted interventions that will help in reducing the existing inequalities and poverty levels in the country, especially in rural areas. It is saddening that half a century through after independence, we can still have majority citizens having challenges with accessing quality medical facilities and clean drinking water and sanitation. This has resulted in increased mortality rates for women and children. It is therefore imperative that these challenges are redressed in a more concerted manner if the country is to realize its development goals,” stated Engwase.