MINISTRY of Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga has advised diplomats to measure their statements when they choose to comment on Zambia’s domestic affairs.
Commenting on the British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley’s remarks that anger was likely to flare if people saw that the law was not being applied fairly, Malupenga said Woolley’s remarks may be misunderstood to be inciting violence.
“As government, we would want to advise our diplomats to measure their comments when they choose to comment on our domestic affairs contrary to the provisions of the Vienna Convention. When they decide to do that, they should measure their statements to avoid being misunderstood as inciting the public because that statement the way it is sitting, it can easily be understood or it can be understood that the High Commissioner is inciting the Zambian public to take that course of action. And that is not expected from Zambian diplomats generally. Particularly at this time, our colleagues are expected to perform much more of an observer role than participants because clearly now, that statement implies [that] they are participating in the internal affairs of the country,” Malupenga said.
“They will draw themselves in unnecessary territories which are bordering on participating in the local politics of the country which is not a very desirable position for themselves as diplomats to find themselves in. Because you will find that they will start going into arguments and quarrels with politicians. Those who may deem their statements to border on politics rather than diplomacy. Our advice to our diplomats is to urge them to observe what is going on and I am sure they have opportunities to submit their own reports, then they can make their observations in those reports.”
Malupenga urged the diplomats to use diplomatic channels to communicate.
“The moment they start commenting on domestic issues in that manner, they will be drawing themselves into the political arena and the exchange they may encounter with the politicians may not be desirable. To protect themselves and all of us, it is better that they play much more of an observer role and seize the diplomatic channels to communicate their concerns or their observations as opposed to the route that some of them may choose. Because the chances of being misunderstood even when they mean well are quite high. Particularly like now when the political temperature is rising, it will be commended that our diplomats keep away from commenting on politics,” said Malupenga.
“As government, we generally understand the spirit in which the High Commissioner is speaking which is appreciated but some of the tone in part of the statement may be understood to be inciting violence. Inciting Zambians to take to violent ways of reacting to situations that may annoy them as he put it. We don’t expect such kind of intervention to come from diplomats of his stature. We expect diplomats and indeed all peace-loving Zambians and citizens of the world to call for peace during this time.”
Last week, Woolley said the Public Order Act should be applied evenly to all political parties and candidates during this campaign period.
“The police have a special responsibility to discourage political violence. Anger is likely to flare when people see that the law is not being applied equally to all. No one is challenging the need for government business to continue, nor the need to respond to mitigate the deadly effects of Covid. But we are in an official election campaign period where restrictions are being applied on campaigning. And whether designated a government event or a campaign event, the health risks of Covid are the same for all and therefore the same restrictions should be enforced. The virus doesn’t distinguish nor should we. Fair elections need rules applied evenly without any political discrimination. Rules that bind one candidate or one party, must bind them all. Based on what we have seen to date, I can understand why many Zambians are concerned about rules being applied fairly,” said Woolley said.
“Fair means allowing all parties and candidates the same opportunity to travel where they want, it means applying laws and regulations such as the Public Order Act evenly on all parties and candidates, and it means giving all parties and candidates equal access to taxpayer-funded state media.”