A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations says attacks on Constitutional lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel are a sign of shrinking democratic space in Zambia.
In a joint statement, Tuesday, Chapter One Foundation;
ActionAid Zambia; Alliance for Community Action; Caritas Zambia, CiSCA; the Centre for Trade Policy and Development and NGOCC said attacks on those with divergent views should not be encouraged as such acts were characteristics of the shrinking civic space in the country.
“We would like to show solidarity with Mr. Sangwa SC who has come under personal attack for expressing his views on the interpretation of the Constitution. Article 2 of the Constitution of Zambia recognizes the right of every person to defend the Constitution and places a duty on everyone that feels the Constitution is being overthrown, suspended or illegally abrogated to defend the Constitution. The attacks on Mr. Sangwa are characteristics of the shrinking civic space in Zambia. Incidences such as cadres disrupting the Law Association of Zambia debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill No. 10 and increased incidences of arrests for social media posts is worrying. Attacks on people discussing important governance topics such as the Constitution should be discouraged in our growing democracy as democracy thrives when the marketplace of ideas is allowed to flourish,” the statement read.
The consortium noted that the right or every Zambian citizen to express their opinion without interference were guaranteed in the country’s Constitution.
“Article 20 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of Zambia recognizes every person’s right to express ideas and information without undue interference. Attacks and especially personal attacks on people expressing opinions discourage discourse on important national issues. Intimidation and fear are characteristic of a by-gone political era,” the statement read.
The consortium further encouraged all stakeholders to be open to hearing opposing opinions, saying doing so would build a culture of dialogue rather than conflict.
“We are of the view that the issue of understanding who is eligible to stand for election as President and how long a President can remain in office is a subject that is integral to the fabric of our governance and democracy. We would like to encourage all stakeholders to be open to hearing opposing opinions as this builds a culture of dialogue rather than conflict. We wish to state that human rights are interrelated. In the book 1984 author George Orwell stated perhaps forebodingly ‘if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,’ We would therefore like to encourage and commend all citizens who speak up on important national issues in spite of any intimidation or personal attacks. The sanctity of our democracy depends on it,” read the statement.