THE Non-Governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) says it is saddening that no political party leader has come out publicly to condemn political violence but they continue to play the blame game.

In the end of year reflections, NGOCC board chairperson Mary Mulenga said it was sad that political violence has degenerated to levels where people were now losing lives.

“NGOCC has time and again condemned the continued political violence perpetrated by political parties especially the major opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. Both political parties continue to point fingers at each other and playing the blame game, at the expense of human life. In many respects, it is undeniably true that political violence has been one of the causes of the low number of women participating in politics – a reality that keeps impacting on Zambia quest for 50:50 gender parity at all levels of development. During the year under review, the country continued to witness increased incidences of political violence during by-elections. The levels of this political violence are degenerating to levels where lives are now being lost. In 2020, the country recorded the death of a member of the opposition political party and many injuries from various political parties during the by-elections,” she said.

“It is very unfortunate and saddening that to this date there has been no convincing public statements from the political party leadership to condemn this evil that is being perpetuated by unruly political cadres. NGOCC wishes to reiterate that life remains sacred and it is a serious violation of human rights for anyone to end a person’s life. We are particularly saddened by the events of the 23rd of December 2020, where lives were needlessly lost. We therefore appeal to the Zambia Police Service to resolve to act professionally and decisively in dealing with political violence regardless of who is perpetrating the vice. Most importantly we would like to appeal to the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide much needed leadership to the Zambia Police. We also appeal to the Zambia Police to mop up the guns that are everywhere and sometimes seemingly in wrong hands.”

She appealed to all Zambians to put the country first and remain united especially as the country heads to the polls next year.

“As we close the year, we appeal to all Zambians to put the country first and remain united especially as we go towards the General elections in 2021. We appeal to our leaders, both in the ruling party and the opposition, to put an end to political violence and ensure that there shall be peace everywhere. It is in the interest of all of us to work at a Zambia that will be good for all,” she said.

Mulenga emphasised the need for Zambians to own the constitution making process as opposed to only being seen to do so.

“In 2020, Zambia yet again missed an opportunity to enact a Constitution that would embody the fundamental principles of good constitutionalism. It is our hope that both our Government and as a people we learnt some lessons that consensus building remains critical in any constitution making process. There is need for all key stakeholders such as the church, civil society, Government among others, to agree on the process. Zambians must not only be seen to own the process but they should actually own it because the Constitution belongs to them. It is therefore NGOCC’s expectation that, going forward into 2021, Government will provide a clear road map for the Constitution making process, complete with the expanded Bill of Rights, as we still have a number of lacunas in the current supreme law of the land,” Mulenga said.

And Mulenga said a number of eligible Zambians, especially women may have been disadvantaged in the voter registration process due to the long queues that were an everyday occurrence during the exercise.

“NGOCC noted the number of mixed reactions with regard to the inadequate period allocated for the voter registration exercise by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). In this regard we held consultative meetings with the Commission where we submitted some of our observation and issues of concern from our network members. By and large, it can be said that going by the challenges experienced with the voter registration process, a number of eligible Zambians, especially women, may have been disadvantaged given the long queues that were an everyday occurrence during the whole period of the voter registration exercise. The Commission definitely missed an opportunity to ensure that they register as many people as possible to vote in the 2021 General Elections. Going forward it is our appeal to the ECZ to actualize the inherent right of every eligible citizen to participate in voting by ensuring that they implement the continuous voter registration process. Our hope is that the Commission will conclude the registration process in a more transparent manner and instill confidence in the public on the voting process,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mulenga called on government to ensure that interventions contained in the Zambia Economic Recovery Programme are implemented in a more decisive and transparent manner.

“NGOCC, however, notes some of the steps being taken by the Government to address the debt situation through debt restructuring and dismantling mechanisms. We are also aware of the passing of the Planning and Budgeting Act as well as the recently launched Zambia Economic Recovery Programme 2020-2023, among other measures. It is our hope and prayer that such interventions as articulated in the said documents be implemented in a more DECISIVE AND TRANSPARENT MANNER. Zambians are looking for practical measures that will address the current socio-economic challenges. It is also NGOCC aspiration that the impact on the poor, especially the majority women and children will be ameliorated in the process. The poor, especially women and children depend on Government’s service delivery in both the health and education sectors,” said Mulenga.