Senior citizen and freedom fighter, Simon Zukas, has observed that Zambia is becoming ungovernable because political cadres have usurped so much power and are ruling the country while police are failing to stop them.
And Zukas wondered why the PF government would be hiding the country’s actual debt figures, saying even secretly acquired loans will have to be repaid.
Meanwhile, Zukas said it does not make sense for the ruling party to have unlimited access to public media while the rest of the opposition parties were blacked out.
Speaking to News Diggers! in an interview at his house yesterday, Zukas noted that PF cadres were too involved in the governance process of the country, and police were demonstrating no willingness to intervene.
“The police have got a job to stop cadre interference in the matters affecting the country and not just PF, both sides have got violent cadres. The events in Monze I think they were the other way round where the cadres from the opposition attacked those from the ruling party. So a good thing would be if we have dialogue of cadres also. We should try and get cadres to be political but not violent against each other. But the problem with cadres is that they are unemployed. Cadres are unemployed people with no good jobs and they probably get paid by the party that uses them to do these things. But the sort of violence that is currently going on with the cadres is not part of good governance or democratic life. The interference by cadres in the running of the country should be phased out. Cadres must be controlled and they can only be controlled by the police force,” Zukas said.
“Cadres have got big control in this government [but] they mustn’t rule the country. Cadres mustn’t restrict our freedoms. So the police have a job to do here, that is what they are paid for. They are not only paid as traffic police, they are paid to maintain law and order. So if a cadre interferes with my speech, it’s up to the police to control them. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes as far as I am concerned and as far as good governance is concerned, the police must be impartial and should make decisions that are impartial. Even when the MMD was formed, the ruling party UNIP at the time didn’t like us but we had freedom to gather and campaign. I don’t remember being interfered with by the cadres. The police used to come with their cameras to observe who is at the meeting and so on but we had freedoms. In fact, I don’t remember members of the UNIP ever interfering with us. So things gone wrong now, it’s gone wrong that the present police policy seems to be partisan.”
He observed that the Public Order Act was a law that had been abused for a long time to stifle democracy.
“The Public Order Act in itself should not be there, in a democracy there should be free speech and there is no need for an Act like this one where you have to give notice that you are going to have a group of people getting together. In a good governing democracy, there is no need for that. However, because of unruly cadres, people do get disturbances at meetings. So the police have got a role to make sure that disturbances are controlled. But their job is to deal with the guilty who cause disturbances, not with the people who want to speak. The whole business of getting permissions should not be there. But since this Public Order Act is there, it should be applied in a non partisan way. It shouldn’t favour the ruling party nor should it be discriminating against anyone else as it happens from what I read in the papers, the police have been applying the Public Order Act in a partisan way. That should stop. Otherwise, we are not a democracy,” Zukas said.
Meanwhile, Zukas urged the government to stop hiding the country’s actual debt figures from the international community.
“There is a lot being written about the real debt problem. There are two aspects to the debt, first of all, the debt is the money that government owes not the private debt. So this government debt also includes debt from parastals as well and from institutions like the military. Now the important thing with debt is to use the money that you borrow on necessities which will help the country become economically more viable. You know, to build a road for people just to walk backwards or forward, is not what we should borrow money for. We should borrow money for a road that will have traffic for development and to do that, before you build a road, there should be a feasibility study which is normal but we have gone ahead and indulge in construction of roads on a big scale without examining which road is good for immediate economic benefit to the economy. In fact, most of them are probably politically chosen, which doesn’t help because debt has got to be paid back. The only way you can pay it back is from earning more in the economy.”
“So the question of how much debt the country has contracted is a big issue around and people say that the debt that government discloses has other debt which are not disclosed and they are called hidden debts. But we shouldn’t have hidden debts because in the end it’s got to be paid back. So we need to know how much the hidden debt is. This hidden debt is something which even the IMF is trying to find out about, but government has only disclosed a debt amounting to K8.7 billion.”
Further, Zukas observed that the public media in Zambia had been monopolised by the PF government where the opposition political parties had little or no coverage.
“The public media which include the two Newspapers (Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily mail) and ZNBC have all become very biased towards not only government but the ruling party too. Everything public media houses do have emphasis in favour of the ruling party while the opposition hardly gets any attention from the public media. You can have the [News] Diggers, you can have the Mast Newspaper but the public media are financed by the public and the tax payers. So the public media belongs to everyone, not just a ruling party. A ruling party has every right to be covered, but so is every other party,” said Zukas.
“I was Director of the Daily mail for a short while and I resigned when I saw that government wanted it to become very much in favour of the ruling party. When I was appointed under Sata, we were told to run the paper on a business-like basis but that stopped after all. So we need to go back to the fact that the public media belongs to the public. It belongs to all the tax payers and all the people and we must get it balanced. I am not against them giving publicity to government as such but the ruling party should not get any more prominence than any other party. The President (Lungu) at that SADC double Troika meeting going on in Angola gave a lecture that good governance and democracy is the basis that we should adhere to but we are not doing that here [in Zambia].”