CHAPTER One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde says it will be a violation of human rights for Lusaka Province minister Bowman Lusambo to start whipping individuals patronising bars and night clubs against the directive that facilities should be closed in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

And Zitukule Consortium executive director Nicolas Phiri has wondered why President Edgar Lungu has kept quiet while some of his ministers were infringing the citizens’ human rights.

During an interview with News Diggers!, Lusambo disclosed that he had procured whips to use on individuals who would be found patronising bars and nights clubs.

But in an interview Kasonde said there must be a balance between securing order in a country and the observance of human rights.

“The bill of rights is still in operation even during this time when people have the right not to be abused. We understand that mostly, there must be a balance between securing order and securing the provision of rights and definitely whipping of people is not observing human rights. So we would encourage the authorities to desist from such action,” said Kasonde.

“I think you know there is a time when democracy was under threat and pushing the boundaries of economic principles, I would say the same about human rights, they are always under threat and it requires people to push back to ensure that their rights are not infringed. So it is a constant battle for every single country. So we have to be very vigilant and fight back any abuse on the people’s human rights which we try and do as Chapter One Foundation. The idea is to push for Human Rights and push back any infringement of human rights. Whipping of people is definitely an abuse on Human Rights.”

And Phiri said there was no law that permitted Lusambo to whip individuals and that the suggestion was unacceptable.

“The way that Bowman Lusambo has been conducting himself is really unacceptable and there is no law whatsoever that permits him to do that. In order for civil liberties, for human rights to be suspended, there should be a condition, for example when you are having a state of emergency, then you can derogate from civil liberties. But what we have seen from Bowman is complete mischief of a Minister. It is complete misbehaviour from a Minister who represents a regime that has no respect whatsoever for human rights,” Phiri said.

“If Bowman and his government are so concerned about human rights, about people’s lives, about the life of citizens, there are a lot of things they could have done which they have not done. For example, let us talk about a simple issue of closing the borders; if indeed this government was so concerned about the lives of people in the wake of COVID-19, we should have been seriously discussing the possibilities of closing our borders and what we do in closing our borders to ensure that the lives of citizens is not disrupted. But what have they done? They have left the borders open. In other words, they are saying COVID-19 is welcome and they are now telling us we are going to get whips and whip people because we don’t want them to get sick. That is completely illogical! What kind of thinking is that? On one hand, we are saying our borders are open, COVID-19 is welcome into our country and then on the other hand, we are saying we want to make sure that when COVID-19 comes, we will begin to isolate people. What kind of reasoning is that?”

He said President Lungu’s silence on the abrogation of human rights by his ministers may be an endorsement of the wrongs being committed against citizens.

“What Bowman said is completely unacceptable but we are not surprised, it’s not the first time that Bowman Lusambo has bluntly violated the rights of citizens in this country and his boss, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, is very quiet! That quietness is an endorsement of the nonsense that Bowman is doing. Bowman has gone to an extent of arresting people for buying mealie meal; which law is Bowman using? Bowman has gone to an extent of insulting the dignity of our citizens and his boss is very much quiet. Which law is Bowman using? So we know that what Bowman is doing is complete lawlessness and is not only his act but it is an act of President Lungu. Remember, these Ministers have told us that they are acting on behalf of the President. So we know that what Bowman is doing is on instruction from President Lungu,” said Phiri said.

“This is the style that the President is using of letting his Ministers do all sorts of things and then he keeps quiet. You saw the issue of many other Ministers doing things that are not backed by law and the President is very quiet? So we don’t know now who to appeal to. The moment Bowman started hurting young people that were buying mealie meal, that was the time President Lungu needed to cast the whip, the President has never said anything up to now. What if citizens also said ‘okay, we are also going to buy whips [because] Bowman cannot whip all of us’? Some people will react and say we are also going to buy whips and whip him back, so what are we going to create?”