2015 has been worst year for Zambia – SACCORD

SACCORD Statement on 2015 Overview and Expectations for 2016

The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) observes that the year 2015 has arguably been one of the most difficult and worst years that Zambia and its people have faced in recent times. The year has been challenging on all accounts and it is one that most people would like to forget and hope for a better 2016 with improved prospects in the political and socio-economic spheres. The country in 2015 experienced a struggling economy, job losses in the mining sector, terrible energy crisis, human rights violations on account of administration of the Public Order Act (POA), political violence, and a constitution making process that fail short of uniting the nation. On a positive note, the country saw the continued construction of some roads and police posts which are important for the maintenance of peace, law and order. In more specific terms below is the SACCORD overview of 2015 and expectations for 2016:

Political Violence: The year 2015 witnessed a disturbing increase in the levels and intensity of political violence in the nation. The usage of guns became more pronounced as people were short, injured and maimed as most stakeholders became concerned on the role of law enforcement agencies in preventing political violence. An example is the Mulobezi constituency parliamentary by-election where guns were used and yet the law enforcement agencies were seemingly not able to bring perpetrators of violence to book. Furthermore, the year 2015 experienced some of the worst brutality witnessed by journalists namely, the Post reporter and his Radio Feel Free colleague in the Eastern province of Zambia. The humiliating reported violence of the journalists being beaten, urinated in the mouth and almost burnt to death were disturbing and reminiscent of colonial style brutality. SACCORD expects that in 2016 the perception that only opposition cadres are brought to book compared to their ruling party counterparts when political violence is reported will be addressed. We also expect the Zambia Police Service to be fair in addressing political violence and ensure that perpetrators of the vice are brought to book irrespective of political affiliation. In addition, we expect the law enforcement agencies to protect journalists in the course of their duty as Zambia’s democracy is very dependent on the job that journalists undertake.

Public Order Act (POA): The year 2015 continued to see the POA being a serious source of trauma, tension and conflict in the country. The perceived selective application of the archaic piece of legislation witnessed many complaints mostly from opposition political parties and this violated their rights to assembly, expression and association. The manner with which the POA was administered in 2015 left much to be desired and did not create a level playing field for all political stakeholders for the country to hold free, fair, credible and peaceful 2016 tripartite elections. Democracy demands that political stakeholders be able to canvass for votes and share their ideas with the electorates. However, if the POA is not administered fairly especially where opposition political parties are concerned it is only the ruling party that can benefit from it. Such a scenario creates an environment similar to the one party state and does not help grow a multi-party political dispensation to which Zambia subscribes. We expect that in 2016 the POA will be amended as per the pronouncements by the Head of State so that it is in tune with modern democratic trends. We hope that the Ministries of Home Affairs and Justice will avail the nation a comprehensive roadmap on how the amendment of the POA will be undertaken so that all stakeholders are on the same page. We also expect the Zambia Police Service to observe utmost professionalism in the manner with which the POA is administered so that all political stakeholders are afforded an opportunity to practice a politics of ideas as they will be able to engage with the electorate.

Costly By-Elections: The year under review witnessed a lot of costly by-elections at the Presidential, Parliamentary, and local government levels. Although some of the by-elections were caused by natural causes such as deaths a number of them were politically induced and this became very costly for the nation. We expect that political parties will help play a very important role in preventing floor crossing in the country which has contributed to these costly by-elections. However, we believe that the long term mechanism to help prevent such a costly venture is through the enactment of a new people driven constitution which we expect to see enacted in 2016.

Constitution-making Process: The constitution making process which started on a very positive and uniting note in 2011 started concluding on a very divisive note. The constitution passed by Parliament, notwithstanding some progressive clauses passed, through the piecemeal approach tampered with a number of people’s wishes by removing them from the final draft constitution. Clauses such as mixed member proportional representation, provincial assemblies, and appointment of cabinet ministers from outside parliament, among others, were removed. This action was reminiscent of the past where the executive would pick what they wanted to have in a constitution at the expense of the wishes of the people and thereby consistently delivering an executive driven constitution as opposed to a people driven constitution. It is an insult to always inform the nation that the Government will consult you on a people driven constitution and when the people make their submissions their desires are changed. As SACCORD we hope that the Government will consider including all the wishes of the people in a final constitution by the President avoiding to assent to a document that has tampered with their wishes. We also hope that the President will respect the people by considering to subject the whole document to a referendum as per the campaign promise of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).

SACCORD hopes that the above issues, among others, will be given a priority as the country goes into the New Year in which people will be afforded another opportunity to elect their leaders. As 2015 was a challenging year, we would like to see an improvement in the political, economic, social and governance spheres of the country in 2016 which will help inspire hope in the people. The rights of all citizens must be respected and protected by the government irrespective of political affiliation. The country is in need of a new people driven constitution and we hope it will be delivered in 2016. In addition, job creation and energy provision must be prioritized so that our people remain productive. The Government must continue to improve its relations with the business community beyond some companies or individuals that have been working with some government officials. We believe that with the proper leadership as well as policies, Zambia has the potential to overcome the challenges experienced in 2015 and thereby progress fast on the track to development and poverty alleviation.

We wish the people of Zambia a happy and violent free 2016.

Boniface Cheembe

Executive Director-SACCORD

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