LEADER of Opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says the ruling Patriotic Front has dented Zambia’s image by their arrogance and intolerance to opposing views.

And Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo says it is no longer a secret that the PF has killed the Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs) space in Zambia.

The duo said this in Parliament, Tuesday, when they debated on a report of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Human Rights, National Guidance, Gender Matters and Governance for the fourth session of the 12th National Assembly laid on the table on June 11, 2020.

Committee chairperson Mathew Jere lamented that the implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) had for the past seven years suffered low budgetary allocations and appealed to the Executive to fund it to revitalize its agenda.

Mumbwa UPND member of parliament Credo Nanjuwa said there was need to integrate the APRM, together with other programmes like the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the National Budget to make it effective.

He also said CSOs were a vital force in the articulation of programmes of the APRM, hence the need to involve them.

By definition, the APRM is a mutually-agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by African Union (AU) member-states as a self-monitoring mechanism.

Then, Kanchibiya PF member of parliament Martin Malama said the APRM was important as it recognized the rights of women just like the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019.

“Zambia needs to be on a projector, and the Peer Review Mechanism is very important on that line, that is why I am excited that under the Bill that is before this House, we are looking at issues to do with Gender Commission and also just to assure the women of Zambia that we heard their cries. It’s important that we get more women in the House so that good governance is upheld,” Malama said.

Nkombo said that the APRM was an important toolkit for good governance and democracy.

“I see that most of the staff talked about in the report is surrounding funding for this particular department. This department, if it were to be assessed from 2008 when Levy Patrick Mwanawasa was president, I am sure by now, it would have recorded enormous benefits in its own assessment as to how much improvement has been made on the APRM. And when the UPND comes into power, we will give it its own secretariat, such as COMESA, where it will be easy and visibly seen by the public. It is alarming to learn that even a member of parliament does not know what the APRM is all about. This is a good governance toolkit that surrounds democracy, prudent management of country affairs,” Nkombo said.

He charged that the PF government had reduced the space for CSOs to provide proper checks and balances.

“The CSOs are supposed to be part and parcel of this review mechanism. Today, ever since the Patriotic Front came into power, it is not a secret that the CSOs started to die. From the time of president Frederick Chiluba to the time of president Michael Chilufya Sata, we may have recorded a little bit of progress on this Africa Peer Review Mechanism in terms of how we manage ourselves. But alas! To say that under PF, the human rights of citizens have been downtrodden and mutilated to a point where CSOs do not exist anymore. Mr Speaker, the APRM in terms of its funding should get a little more money that organizations that have been resilient and have stood the test of time, like the NGOCC. NGOCC is a CSO and has tested the storm of PF brutality and dictatorship. The rest of the NGOs or the CSOs are under the mat now, they don’t exist anymore, they don’t have a voice. They provide part of the check and balance of the Executive,” Nkombo observed.

And Mwiimbu, who is also Monze Central UPND member of parliament, said the PF had dented the image of the country through the atrocities it had committed.

“Of late, we have witnessed a number of unwarranted attacks by the PF cadres on those who are appearing on radio stations and attacks on radio stations. What has happened, Mr Speaker, is unprecedented. It has only occurred during the reign of the PF. It never happened before. The PF are intolerant to any opposing views. Almost every radio station in this country, Mr Speaker, has been attacked by PF cadres. What good governance are you talking about if the track record can speak for yourself? What has happened is denting your image. Can you recall the atrocities that were committed against you during the days of MMD? Why are you doing the things, which you used to condemn during those days? You are worse than the way MMD was,” Mwiimbu argued.

He also condemned the continued holding of public gatherings by the PF when other political parties were not allowed to do so.

“The Minister of Health (Dr Chitalu Chilufya) came to this House telling us that there is COVID-19 in this country, that we should observe social distancing and that people should not gather in groups of more than 50. We, as opposition, have obliged. But the PF have not obliged to that Statutory Instrument. They have continued holding rallies in Zambia contrary to the COVID-19 regulations. The members of the opposition have been denied the right to assemble under this COVID-19 arrangement. Our colleagues on your right, Mr Speaker, with impunity, they have continued doing what is prohibited under the Act,” said Mwiimbu.

“Whenever the President travels around the country, multitudes of people travel with him, contrary to the regulations. What rule of law are we talking about? During by-elections, a lot of illegal activities have taken place. One of these is associated to the DMMU; instead of providing relief to people, who are suffering as a result of hunger, they are distributing mealie meal and other essentials to voters. The PF are acting contrary to the laws of the country. What the PF is doing is making us fail to get help from bilateral and multilateral institutions, especially the IMF and the World Bank.”

In winding up the debate, Justice Minister Given Lubinda challenged those who felt strongly about Africa’s governance to form a caucus of parliamentarians.

“The African Peer Review Mechanism Governing Council has representation from academia, from CSOs and, indeed, a few from government. The issue of parliamentarians being left out, I have lamented this myself that those parliamentarians who feel strongly about Africa’s governance, please come up and form a Caucus of Africa Peer Review Mechanism. Form it and run it. I will support you. I hope that when we do that, we can find a person who can run it as I run the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption, and not one who will bring it down. When we have matters such as this before us, let’s use them for the purpose of building. Let’s not use them as an opportunity to throw bitterness around and bring matters that are not related to the subject. We now are talking about Bill 10. And when we said, ‘please, colleagues, here is the raw document, let’s discuss it,’ what did they do? No, they walked out!” said Lubinda, while mocking the UPND.