SEPTEMBER 15 was International Day of Democracy, we did not see or hear of any statement from State House regarding this special day. Why? Apart from announcing his intentions to arrest Hakainde Hichilema, how did our President celebrate this year’s International Day of Democracy?
On 8th March, we celebrate International Women’s Day, the President holds a special event for that occasion. On 12th March, we celebrate Youth Day, and the President holds a special commemoration event. On May 1, we also hear from State House as we celebrate Labour Day. The President has even created another holiday on our calendar called National Day of Prayer, which falls on October 18 and he congregates with believers in the name of prayer. There is also Remembrance Day on November 11, which is not even a holiday in Zambia, but our President spends time officiating at this event with surviving war veterans.
We are told that Zambia is a beacon of democracy in African. The party in power claims to be the most democratic organisation since the dawn of multipartyism. But the International Day of Democracy means nothing to our President and his political party. Why is this the case? We don’t remember reading any statement from the government or State House commemorating this very important day on the United Nations calendar. What does this mean?
We recall on several occasions when our President has officiated at the World Toilet Day, among other United Nations observance days, but somehow, there is no interest towards the International Day of Democracy, which was declared for the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy. This is of concern to us.
As if the silence is not loud enough, on this year’s International Day of democracy, our President was issuing threats to his political arch rival, and giving indirect orders for the arrest of Mr Hichilema. We can guess that the President doesn’t even know or care about this day on his calendar. Again, this is of concern to us because we use the word democracy for political expediency.
A leadership that truly believes and is dedicated to promoting and upholding the principles of democracy must take serious interest in this day. We want our President to use this day to tell us what he has done, in the previous year, to preserve democracy in this country. The President must explain how much civic space he has given to political opponents for their activities. This doesn’t seem to be tenable for our leadership for one reason – there is no democracy to talk about.
In a real democracy, citizens are allowed to share the governing power and civic responsibility and to make decisions on how they should be governed. Yes, in a democracy, the majority rules, but this does not happen to the exclusion of the minorities’ rights. In enacting laws, a democratic government is expected to strike a balance between majority and minority interests. Even if a legitimate decision is made by a majority of the people, if that decision negatively affects the fundamental rights of the minority, then the decision must be adjusted to reflect what is fair and equitable to all citizens. Can this be said about the laws that the Patriotic Front is enacting? Is this principle of democracy reflected in Bill 10?
A true democracy upholds the basic human rights of its citizens as outlined in its laws, agreements or Constitution. These rights include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equal protection under the law, the right to a fair trial and a right to privacy without unwarranted intrusion by the government. Can anyone in our government or the ruling party claim that the above principles are respected in this country? Is there freedom of speech? Are people free to associate? Do citizens have the right to a fair trial and the right to privacy?
What makes us a democracy? Is it because the Constitution says or is it because we hold general elections every five years? Is democracy in Zambia a national motto or it is just a name we prefer to use to define our political system?
We are eager to hear President Lungu’s definition of democracy. If he was asked to say something about the International Day of Democracy, what would he say, apart from declaring himself the sole candidate of the ruling party in the next election?