CHAPTER One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde says there is nothing wrong with the multiple UPND parliamentary petitions before the courts of law because democracy entails that the will of the people must always prevail.
And Kasonde says despite the high expectations, people should exercise patience with the new administration because there are so many things which need fixing in the country.
Kasonde was speaking during the Election Analysis discussion on Thursday organised by News Diggers! Prime TV and Chapter One Foundation.
When asked whether the UPND still needed numbers to deliver their mandate looking at the number of petitions filed, Kasonde said democracy was about allowing the will of the people to prevail.
“Democracy as a concept is about allowing the will of the people to prevail. So, that is the price of democracy, that whatever the will of the people is, you have to abide by it. For example, in the UK when the whole Brexit [on] whether the UK should leave the EU was happening, ultimately the referendum went in favour of leaving the European Union. There were some people who wanted to hold another referendum to change the result, no, that is the will of the people and you must respect it. What you have to understand is that, and it was said by several stakeholders and election observers that the playing field in the last election was not free and fair. The incumbent used the advantage of the incumbency to try and manipulate the vote, that is believed to be the case,” Kasonde said.
“So, if in fact results were manipulated, where they would have a different result had there not been an unfair advantage then, if the courts find that is the case, then that result should be overturned because that is the will of the people. That is democracy. I would like to take this opportunity to also tell the government that whilst they have this huge mandate and may even get a bigger majority should many of their election petitions go their way, they must be very mindful of the fact that they have been entrusted with those positions by the people. Goodwill can easily be taken away as we have seen with the previous government. If you don’t deliver on what the people want, they will take that mandate away from you.”
Kasonde said it was not desirable for a government to hold a two-third majority in Parliament, but added that if it was the will of the people, then it should be respected.
“Elections are an expression of the will of the people. So, it is not like the court process will just say ‘yes this person won therefore they deserve a seat’, you have to go back to the people and say ‘is this the person you want to put in office’? So, the people themselves will decide who they want to put in office. If it so happens that the majority of those by-elections are won by the UPND, then that is the way of democracy. Democracy is not a perfect system,” she said.
“It is undesirable for the government to have a two-third majority in Parliament because in that way they can change any part of the constitution they want and give themselves power. It is not desirable, but like I said democracy is not perfect but it is the best system we have at the moment. Ultimately it is up to us as citizens, the media, civil society, the church to hold the government to account. Hopefully, they have learnt the lesson that if you don’t listen to people, they will vote you out. Unfortunately, there is an element of relying on the goodwill of the government which is very unfortunate, because it shouldn’t be up to individuals to decide whether or not they become repressive or whether they enhance democracy, that should be the decision of the people.”
Meanwhile, Kasonde said despite the high expectations, people should exercise patience with the new administration because there were so many areas of the country that needed fixing.
She further called for the enhanced bill of rights to be brought back on the table.
“The expectation was so high in this election that there is bound to be disappointment because there are so many things to fix with the country. From the economy to human rights, to access to medication and health, all the basic necessities in life, everything was breaking down. So, there is so much to fix, so I think it is incumbent on everybody to allow some patience, [and] to also continue to give that feedback and those checks and balances to the government. Because if you are not expressing what you want, then they can’t deliver it,” said Kasonde.
“As civil society, we are also calling for the enhanced bill of rights to be brought back on the table. To include economical, social and cultural rights. So currently under our constitution we are not able to go to court to claim the right to health, the right to education, the right to housing, the right to clean water and sanitation directly. So there have been judges who have been creative in giving those rights but we don’t have a direct right to claim those rights. So, we are championing that cause. Of course, it had failed in the previous referendum that took place with the 2016 general elections. So, I think it is time to bring that agenda back on to the table because we live in a society where so many people are vulnerable and disadvantaged and they need to be able to claim those rights.”