Silencing dissenting voices undermining democracy – CiSCA

The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) says government’s emerging trend of deliberately silencing voices in the country is dangerously undermining democracy.

In a media briefing on the end of the year 2018, Wednesday, CiSCA Publicity Chairperson McDonald Chipenzi said CiSCA observed that government attempted to silence critical voices by either dismissing their demands or aligning them to main opposition political parties in the country, citing student unions’ activities being banned at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU).

“We witness the denial of permits for political parties to assemble and we saw threats from the constitutional Court against citizen who would comment negatively on its judgment. Police brutality in the policing of opposition assemblies was also witnessed,” Chipenzi said, also citing issues of transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption as other major problems.

“These events unsettled CiSCA and came to the conclusion that, if nothing was done, Zambia’s democratic credentials would be completely eroded.”

Chipenzi noted that the ruling party enjoyed unlimited freedoms while the opposition and critics of the regime were vilified.

Meanwhile, Chipenzi said CiSCA was the saddened that the year 2018 ended without a definite roadmap on the conclusion of the constitutional refinement despite numerous submissions from several sections of the public.

“Of concern to CiSCA was government’s continued dragging of its feet and shift of goalposts on when the refined draft constitution would be delivered to the public for scrutiny and later on for enactment,” he said.

He observed that it was no longer a secret that people’s will for a transparent, accountable and responsive leadership was not realized in 2018, predicting that 2019 would follow the same trend.

Chipenzi observed that at the moment, the nation was broken and needed national healing and reconciliation through dialogue.

He asked Zambians to support the church-led national dialogue and reconciliation process.

“CiSCA condemns any hide and seek tactics being applied by some stakeholders towards this dialogue process. CiSCA believes in dialogue as one of the cornerstones of democracy and surest way of achieving national healing and reconciliation particularly in broken democracies,” Chipenzi said.

“We expect improvement in the same way things would be done by government, opposition, the church, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and ordinary citizens especially that 2019 is a build up to 2021 general elections…It is CiSCA’s hope that the church mother bodies mandated to facilitate the dialogue will be magnanimous enough to include other institutions such as the Zambia Centre for Interparty dialogue (ZCID) to add its comparative experience to the process. Our cry is one land and one nation, dignity and peace in our land Zambia.”

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