CHAPTER One Foundation (COF) says Zambia has experienced a rapid weakening of the democratic system, which includes increased limitations of freedoms of expression and assembly in the past 10 years.

In a statement, Thursday, Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde observed that this year’s Independence Day celebration came at a time when most citizens were losing hope in the State’s ability to protect Zambians.

“For most of our independence, Zambia has been a beacon of peace and democracy. We have exemplified peaceful transitions of power on the African continent, whilst setting a strong foundation to build accountable and responsive systems of governance. Over the last 10 years, Zambia has experienced a rapid weakening of its democratic system. This includes increased limitations on freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. We have also seen increases in the weaponisation of the law against individuals and groups dissenting against State actions and systems,” Kasonde stated.

“This year’s Independence celebration comes at a time where Zambians are losing hope in the State’s ability to protect the Zambian people, physically, economically and socially. We, as a nation, are experiencing heightened corruption, lawfare and extreme levels of police brutality against civilians, which continue to go unsanctioned by the State. The nationally-witnessed inhumane arrest of National Democratic Congress leader Chishimba Kambwili’s wife and daughter, Carol and Chanda Kambwili, by members of the Zambian Police Service; the cancellation of Prime TV’s broadcasting license ‘in the interest of public safety, security, peace, welfare or good order’; and the continued extortion and intimidation of private civilians by ruling party cadres are recent examples.”

Kasonde added that the selective application of the law and rampant corruption was plaguing Zambia.

“The selective application of the law and rampant corruption is plaguing the nation. Similarly, the COVID pandemic has exposed the fragility of our social systems and healthcare institutions, which threaten the social development of the Zambian people, a majority of whom live below the poverty line and are in desperate need of State support. Additionally, the economic contraction observed by the rapid depreciation of the kwacha, rising inflation, the worsening public debt and increasing prices of essential goods, have greatly impacted the purchasing power of all Zambians. This has further impacted the unemployment rates, particularly among the youth, who are emerging as the most distressed group of Zambian citizens,” Kasonde observed.

“As we celebrate our 56th year of Independence, it is imperative that the Zambian people and the Zambian government promote and protect progressive, democratic, civil, political, social, economic and human rights to improve the country’s ailing economy and democracy. Chapter One Foundation urges the Zambian government to reflect on the last 10 years of Zambia’s decline in democratic values and good governance. The State must review their injurious policies and systems that have allowed for the country’s social and economic failures, and additionally, condemn actions by State machinery that directly and indirectly affect the human rights and freedoms of the Zambian people.”

Kasonde stated that the integrity of the country rested on the ability of the State to accept their role in the ongoing decline of the country’s governance system.

“After 56 years of Independence, our forebearers would be disappointed by the condition of the Republic of Zambia for which they fought so hard to create. Police brutality, corruption, political insecurity, the deteriorating civic space and anarchy run rampant in the country with few ramifications. We urge the Zambian government, political parties and private Zambian citizens to loudly promote the directives in the preamble of our Constitution, which include: ‘UPHOLD[ing] the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person; COMMIT[ing] ourselves to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance; RESOLVE[ing] to ensure that our values relating to family, morality, patriotism and justice are maintained and all functions of the State are performed in our common interest; and DIRECT[ing] that all State organs and State institutions abide by and respect our sovereign will’,” stated Kasonde.

“The integrity of the Republic of Zambia rests on the ability of the State to accept their role in the ongoing decline of the country’s social, economic and democratic systems. The State should provide effective solutions that will prioritise the wishes of the Zambian people, who are in search of hope for a better and stronger Zambia.”