Oasis Forum chairperson Eddie Mwitwa says as the country celebrates Africa Freedom Day, it is important to bear in mind that falling into a debt trap does not symbolize liberty.

And Mwitwa says biased application of the deficient Pubic Order Act, lack of an independent and impartial police service and the shrinking space for citizens to freely express themselves has led to the current state of unforeseen polarisation.

In a statement to commemorate Africa Freedom Day, Mwitwa stated that the Oasis Forum, which is comprised of the Law Association of Zambia, Council of Churches Zambia, NGOCC and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, would vigilantly monitor the management of national debt.

He observed that no highly indebted country could be said to be free.

“The Oasis Forum is further mindful of the fact that not long ago, Zambia was caught up in a debt trap and could not channel most of its meager resources towards the needy sectors of education, health and agriculture due to its contractual obligations with financing institutions. Therefore, we do not take lightly the growing concerns and on-going debate over the real magnitude of Zambia’s debt, the unclear plan of payment of this obscure debt burden and the impact this debt will eventually have on the livelihood of ordinary Zambians in the many years to come. We therefore commit ourselves to work closely with like-minded actors in vigilantly monitoring the management of our national debt. Indeed, we cannot be truly free if we are but falling into a national debt that will almost be impossible to repay in this generation,” Mwitwa stated.

And Mwitwa stated highlighted some of the things that had caused divisions in the country.

“The Oasis Forum believes that the biased application of the deficient POA, the lack of an independent and impartial police service and the shrinking space for citizens to freely express themselves and belong to a political party of their choice has led to the current state of unforeseen polarisation. Unfortunately, our political leaders, on both sides of the divide, have not taken serious steps to adequately address the growing sense of division along political, tribal and regional lines. Additionally, we recently emerged from a highly disputed general election and have witnessed a growing trend of politically motivated violence. As such, the majority of Zambians agree that we need to engage in national dialogue in order to resolve these and other major issues. We therefore take this opportunity to call upon Zambian leaders to rise above their partisan agenda and engage in a genuine and inclusive dialogue, preferably led by a credible institution such as the three Church mother bodies and is truly aimed at national reconciliation that is anchored on peace, truth and justice,” he stated.

“We urge the government to refrain from taking any action or making any utterances that may undermine the image and reputation of the country as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. We urge the government and all citizens to help foster responsible freedom, reconciliation, peace and unity in the nation as we aspire for true economic freedom. Indeed, united we stand, divided we fall.”

Mwitwa bemoaned the wasteful usage of public resources, saying it deprived citizens of social economic benefits.

“Freedom without access to food, clean water, good sanitation, quality education, quality health services and quality jobs is not true freedom. For Zambians to appreciate and truly enjoy their freedom as children of God and citizens of our resource-rich nation, we must unite and fight against the root causes of the high levels of poverty in our beloved country. In this land of freedom, well-meaning citizens must not only stand up and sing of freedom under the Zambian sun or the Zambian flag, but also gather the courage to hold their leaders accountable and defend the rights’ holders. If we desire to be economically free, we must stand up and question whether the management of our national resources is such that they are prudently used to free the majority Zambians from the yoke of abject poverty. We therefore bemoan conduct such as the questionable trade of Mukula trees; the scandalous purchase of fire engines at an exorbitant price; and the recent mind-boggling theft of life-saving drugs at Medical Stores Limited,” he stated.

On the proposed amendments to the Constitution, Mwitwa insisted that it must be done without adding or subtracting anything.

“Regarding the proposed refinement of the 2016 amendments to the Constitution, we wish to emphasize that any refinement of the Constitution must be done in order to make the reading, interpretation and implementation of the Constitution clearer and in line with the will of the Zambian people. We believe that the process of refinement should not include the removal or addition of any clauses in the Constitution which are contrary to what the will of the people is, as expressed in the Technical Committee’s Final Report of 2014 and without sufficiently consulting the people of Zambia. We also believe that the terms of reference for the process of refinement should be guided and protected by the law to ensure that the process is free from partisan and political interference,” stated Mwitwa.

Mwitwa also demanded a review of the Public Order Act and respect for the rights to association and freedom of expression.