BY Charles Kakoma, UPND Spokesperson.
Yesterday was an important day in the history of Africa. We were commemorating the Africa Freedom Day. In Zambia, the day was quiet. It did not mean a lot to many people. It was like any other ordinary day. Many people were grieving over the loss of fundamental freedoms and violation of Human Rights by the Zambian government 55 years after independence. Many people are not enjoying the fundamental rights and freedoms that our forefathers fought for as enshrined in the Republican Constitution. These are Freedom of Assembly , the Freedom of Association, the Freedom of Expression , the Freedom of Movement and the right to Personal Liberties, protection for the privacy of individuals and property, the right to protection under the law, protection of the right to life and protection from inhuman treatment .
Under freedom of expression and the Media, we have seen violation of Media freedoms in Zambia in the past two weeks especially in the northern part of this country where Patriotic Front cadres were attacking radio stations , harassing journalists and destroying properties. In one instance involving Mpika community Radio station, a District Commissioner, who is supposed to be a civil servant involved himself in partisan politics by cancelling a paid for program by the United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema. It was not the first time media freedoms have been violated by the PF government. In the recent past, the PF government closed The Post Newspaper which they views as opposing the government. They also closed the Muvi Television, Komboni Radio and Itezhi Tezhi Radio for sometime. The PF government has now closed Prime Television for political reasons. Over the past 10 years under the PF regime, the country was witnessing the gradual erosion of people’s freedom of assembly . Many people no longer enjoy the freedom of assembly. We are back to a situation where people have to start fighting for the right to assemble , something that our forefathers fought for 55 years ago resulting in Zambia’s independence in 1964. We are back to a situation where the government is using a colonial piece of legislation called the Public Order Act in order to infringe on the people’s rights to assemble . Just last week, police on the Copperbelt stopped UPND members from meeting to elect ward officials even after fulfilling all the requirements under the Public Order Act and the Public Health Act in view of the Corona Virus. In the Northern Province, police arrested UPND officials for merely meeting to receive defectors from the ruling Patriotic Front. Even when the law is very clear that you only need to notify the police in order to assemble, the police are still violating this law by telling people they cannot assemble unless they get permission from the police. The Supreme Court ruled in the past that people cannot be subjected to permissions by the police as it infringes on the people’s constitutional right to assemble. The people just need to notify the police. The police have continued violating this provision . As a result, people have still got to fight for their freedom of assembly.
In our country, people are still being discriminated based on their political affiliations 55 years after attaining political independence. People no longer enjoy the freedom of association as provided for in the Constitution. These days, there are two types of freedom of association. There is freedom for those who belong to the ruling party. There is no freedom for other citizens who want to associate with other political parties. Some people are scared of openly associating with the opposition because the ruling party cadres can beat them up in public places such as bus stops ,markets , the streets and their compounds . We have had so many cases where people have been bitten at the bus stops and markets and in the compounds because of belonging to the opposition .
Some people are loosing their jobs in the public sector for merely being suspected to be a. supporter of the opposition. Other people are loosing contracts or having their businesses closed because of being suspected of being an opposition member. Can this be said to be what our father’s fought for ?People no longer enjoy the freedom of expression. If you talk against the ruling that, you risk being arrested and jailed. We have got cases where people have been arrested for speaking out their minds against injustices in our country. We are back to a situation where people have to start fighting for the same rights that the forefathers already thought for . Fifty five years after independence, we do not expect people to lose life . People must have the right to life as enshrined in the constitution . We have had cases where people have lost their lives at the hands of the police or PF cadres. I remember people like Grazier Matapa who was killed in Mtendere East, Chibulo who was killed by police on her way to attend a UPND rally in Chawama compound and
Banda who was killed by PF cadres in Kaoma. Fifty five years after independence, people must not be humiliated and treated inhumanely by the police, but we saw for example when UPND President Hakainde Hichilema was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason ,he was subjected to inhuman treatment by placing him in a vehicle which had dog faeces . That is inhuman treatment which is not expect in a civilised society .
What we should be fighting for now are economic freedoms because the political freedoms were already fought for by our forefathers .
What should be lacking now are economic freedoms; the right to employment , education, health , food and housing .
We have seen many cases of young people who have finished school with certificates, diplomas and degrees who are roaming the streets without any jobs . We have cases of people that are in extreme poverty, people that are living on less than $1 or 20 Kwacha per day . That is an extreme form of poverty . For some people, they have forgotten about three square meals per day. They can’t afford breakfast , lunch and supper . All they can do is have one meal in one day, that is extreme form of poverty . We have people that cannot afford other basic necessities of life such as clothes and shelter. How many people are now walking in the streets with torn clothes, people that are walking without shoes, children that are going to school without shoes . How many people cannot sleep in a decent house, people that are living in shanty compounds that can be described as below human habitation.
People cannot be said to be free when
they are sick and can’t be treated and have no money to buy medicines. There is no freedom when people have nowhere to sleep because can’t afford housing . People can never be said to be free on an empty stomach. These are the things that our leaders must be focusing on to enable people to enjoy these freedoms.
When UPND comes to power , it will restore people’s rights and freedoms that have been taken away by the PF government. People should feel free to assemble , associate with any grouping of their choice and express themselves. The media will be given back their freedoms to perform their duties without hindrance.
The UPND government will focus on delivering economic freedoms to the people. The focus will be on growing the economy to provide jobs for the young people, education for all and health for all.