A CONSORTIUM of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on senior political leaders to abstain from endorsing messages that promote anarchy and intimidation.
And the CSOs have urged the ruling party to return to the democratic practices the country was founded on by promoting peace and freedom in all aspects of the Zambian society.
This is according to a joint statement issued on October 8, 2020 by Chapter One Foundation, ActionAid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Caritas Zambia, CiSCA, the Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Transparency International Zambia and Zambia Council for Social Development.
Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde, on behalf of the other CSOS, stated that the statements by PF secretary general Davies Mwila in which he condemned remarks by former Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, was a reflection of the on-going detrimental contraction of the civic space in Zambia.
“On October 7, 2020, News Diggers media house published a statement, reportedly made by the Secretary-General of the Patriotic Front, Davies Mwila, in which he condemns remarks made by former Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu concerning the Archbishop’s views on the shortcomings of Zambia’s leadership and the integrity of Zambia as a democratic nation. In his statement, Mr Mwila accuses the Archbishop of using his platform to promote a political agenda and thus giving the ruling Patriotic Front party a reason to treat him as a political opponent,” Kasonde stated.
“The undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs) believe the statements made by the Secretary-General of the Patriotic Front is a reflection of the on-going detrimental contraction of the civic space in Zambia, as representatives of the State continue to condemn and threaten those brave enough to exercise their freedoms of expression and opinion on issues of governance and the rule of law in Zambia.”
She stated that as a Christian nation, religious leaders in Zambia played an essential role in ensuring that citizens and leaders remained morally and spiritually grounded.
The consortium, therefore, called on the senior political leaders to abstain from endorsing messages that promoted anarchy and intimidation.
“Not only is freedom of expression and opinion essential to the integrity of all democratic agendas, as a Christian nation, religious leaders in Zambia play an essential role in ensuring that Zambian citizens and leaders remain morally and spiritually grounded, providing non-biased advice to the country when integrity and morality become a cause for concern. The undersigned CSOs echo the Archbishop’s concerns over the Electoral Commission’s ability to guarantee all 9 million eligible voters’ right to vote in the ongoing voter registration exercise,” Kasonde stated.
“As Civil Society Organisations, we call on the senior political leaders to abstain from endorsing messaging that promote anarchy and intimidation. Not only does it damage the democratic agenda of the country, it also increases political intolerance and violence undermining national unity. The insecure political climate makes it difficult for the country to effectively sustain economic and social development that is essential not only to the country’s growth but also to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Meanwhile, the CSOs have urged the ruling party to review its internal principles to ensure the continued adherence to democratic values and principles by all State representatives and institutions.
“It is essential that the Government promotes the right to vote, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of opinion for democracy to thrive. The continued deviation from constitutional rights and freedoms enacted by the people of Zambia undermines the rule of law in Zambia and our national values and principles. The future of our democracy ultimately rests on the State’s acceptance and promotion of the civic participation of the Zambian people, through their freedom to assemble and to expression their opinions. We urge the ruling party to return to the democratic practices this great nation was founded on by promoting peace and freedom in all aspects of Zambian society,” the consortium stated.
Commenting on Archbishop Mpundu’s statement that President Edgar Lungu’s leadership was worse than that of former British colonial masters because he had exhibited intolerance for opposing voices, Mwila said the Catholic priest had jumped on the wrong side of politics by supporting UPND.
“How have we failed? If we have failed, people were going to vote us out even during the by-elections but look at the performance of the party! Bishop Mpundu has jumped on the wrong side of the game because he is supporting a wrong party. How do you support the UPND which is a failed party? He is no longer a clergyman, he is a politician and I can tell you that no one will respect him, because he is now a politician. That is how we will treat him as a political opponent, not as a Bishop and he is a retired Bishop by the way,” said Mwila.