UPND chairperson for mobilization Sylvia Masebo says Zambia’s current political situation is worse than it was under the one party state as the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has made it difficult for the opposition to effectively participate.
And Masebo says UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is just as good as under house arrest because he cannot do anything without being visited by police.
Meanwhile, Masebo says mobilizing the grassroots has been a challenge for the opposition despite there being only few months to the next general election.
In an interview, Masebo said under PF rule, the country had lost even the few democratic milestones it had achieved.
“We are in a difficult month now because days are going and we don’t have much time anymore. And we are still battling with the Electoral Commission of Zambia on a number of issues. We met them today (Monday) and we just agreed that we need to continuously consult and iron out some of these concerns and see what happens going forward. We are looking at the days not being enough, we are looking at the education part not being sufficient enough as most people don’t know [that there is voter registration going on]. It’s a battle because you know that the system now is more corrupt than it was before. As a country, we have not improved in our democracy. We have lost even a few areas where we won in our fight for democracy. The environment is no longer democratic. It’s just a struggle. To travel around the country is not possible without being attacked. And then the poverty levels are high. People are expecting food, when you visit them, everybody is begging for food. The issue that people have no food is not questionable any more. But the question would be that ‘how do we support?” Masebo said.
And Masebo said Hichilema was essentially under house arrest because he could not sell himself without attracting police attention.
“The situation that we are in right now in Zambia in relation to political participation and a level playing field towards the elections is not favorable. Under the PF, there is some level of intolerance for some opposition and critics. But in PF under Sata there was also some level of tolerance but now under Mr Lungu, it’s a hustle. Even now with the registration of voters, it’s not easy. The situation is very difficult now. If you look at HH, you can actually safely say that he is basically under house arrest because it’s not like those days where you could see Sata walking down around visiting hospitals to see the sick, he wants to attend a funeral, he wants to go and attend a court case for a friend but for HH they can’t allow him to do that. Even on a normal day when HH tries to visit a friend or when he wanted to visit Kambwili in prison, he couldn’t. He will be visited by police with big guns,” she said.
She argued that the political situation now was worse than what it was under the one party state.
“It’s like Zambia is at war. Even under the one party state it was not like that. It’s not easy. As for women, we have even seen the numbers reducing. It’s difficult to get women to come on board. It’s not easy for the opposition to effectively participate. Even just to go round and mobilize people to register as voters, and to get NRCs, it’s not easy. You have to be strong. For some of us, we started participating in politics at the age of 23 and I am now over 55 years. It’s only easy if you are from the ruling party. But PF can do anything, they can have rallies and do this and that but for us,” Masebo said.
Meanwhile, Masebo lamented that mobilization had become difficult for the opposition.
“Mobilization is the most difficult thing now because they don’t want us to mobilize and they don’t want us to have an easy way of mobilizing. And even when you make applications for a function, they have they have many excuses like lack of police presence and lack of this and that. But when you dare them and say ‘we shall protect ourselves, you will see a lot of police men and yet they told you that they don’t have policemen who can do whatever they want to do. And when you talk about rigging, it is an entire process. Like what it is now, they are not allowing us to move from one place to another to meet without people. But for every meeting we must hold we are being asked to get clearance from the police. Lungu is a disappointment. He is the worst leader that Zambia has ever had. This administration is the worse. When it comes to democratic and violence,” Masebo said.
“And they have encouraged thuggery in the whole electoral process so that women are even scared to participate. I think they have information on the ground that the ground is not favoring them. So, now they want to make it difficult for other parties to be visible on the ground. But the good part is that as long as the people know that HH is going to be on the ballot, they are going to support him. But now we just need to worry about his security because everywhere he is, they will create confusion and violence for him. But for them they can go anywhere. Even a simple cadre from PF can do anything. They can have rallies and at the end of the rally, stone people and break things. Nobody will even arrest them.”
Masebo, who is a former Tourism and Arts Minister, said no matter how hard PF made life hard for the opposition, Zambians would not be fooled.
“Have you ever heard of people getting elected even when they are in exile without having to campaign and they still win. So, they can do all what they are doing but if the people of Zambia decide that there is going to be change, there will be change. Even with all these difficulties that they have executed on UPND whereby the environment is not balanced, the people will decide. They don’t take HH like part of governance. They just take him like he is an enemy of the state or an unwanted citizen. He is like a citizen who is on black list. And it’s sad because they are setting a very bad precedent. I just hope that going forward, they can reflect. Let’s wait and see what the people of Zambia will decide because 2021 will be the deciding time. And they may not have that time again. Even during Kaunda it was not like that. This is the worse political atmosphere that Zambia has ever had under this administration. And with this, they have just hardened our resolve. Look at Kambwili’s bail amount. You can see that there are new rules for those that are in the opposition. They are disrespecting regulations for those that are in the opposition,” said Masebo.
“We will do our best under the circumstances. When the time comes, the people of Zambia will decide, and they will decide even with all their money. And we are very hopeful that their time will come. We are working very hard and we are hopeful that they will get a shock of their life.”