By Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda
As the deadline for the abrogation of some citizens’ liberties arrives, I urge the PF Government NOT to disable any of the cell-phone facilities as advertised by ZICTA. I also call upon all citizens who value their inalienable rights to brace themselves in 2014 to participate in a crusade to restore those rights.
Some time ago I canvassed for a possible class action against the registration of sim-cards. Regrettably there may have been a lack of understanding of what a class action is as some assumed that I was personally to sue the State. A class action is one that is initiated or supported by a cross section of aggrieved citizens of on a matter of common interest. Since there was no positive response I concluded that citizens were not concerned about the serious threat to their rights that had arisen through the new sim-card legislation. Litigation is costly and time-consuming.
However recently I became aware of one concerned citizen who has expressed similar concerns to mine. It is his statements that have encouraged me to revive the “sim-card crusade”, even though it appears that there are only the two of us. I believe that there are always the usual ‘silent majority’ who, if made to understand what is at stake, may come out of their comfort zones to hunt a rogue elephant!
Our complaints have fallen on Government’s deaf ears. The Government is using the public media to take advantage of the ‘ignorant majority’, by highlighting the “security and recovery of lost phones” aspect, which several Zambians have latched on and have thus become the Government’s mouth-pieces to further spread the misinformation. Remember that when politicians are looking for votes they come before you, humbly, with cap in hand, even kneeling before you. But after you elect them they reveal their true selfish colours, vultures with an appetite for devouring anything in sight. Before it is too late I urge you to open your eyes and recognise once again their calculated lies and deception and insist that these rulers face you and answer your concerns. The President must be directly challenged to answer truthfully all concerns live on television and radio.
Remember also that there was a rider to the announcements, that those who do not register will have their cell-phones, i-phones, i-pads, modems/dongos and other such essential communication equipment disabled! And last Friday ZICTA revealed that one of the services to be disabled is the use of the SMS as a means to communicate. Clearly this means that they will stop citizens from COMMUNICATING with one another by using the phone and similar gadgets. This is a direct assault on several protected rights, including those in Articles 11 and 20. We shall be contending that there should be no abridgement of or arbitrary derogation from the protected rights in Part Three of the Constitution.
Fellow Zambians, the circumstances under which the Government has introduced this latest law are worrying, particularly due to the conduct of the Head of State. This record should convince all Zambians, including PF members and sympathisers that the PF regime CANNOT fairly superintend this piece of legislation which bears directly on certain civil liberties.
I wish to remind citizens of a warning I gave in my first analysis of the PF government’s first anniversary in a paper entitled ‘The Performance of the PF Thus far’ dated 15th October 2012 (published by The Post on 18th October 2012 and the Daily Nation on October 2012). Inter alia I wrote: “….Before implementation the proposal must be subjected to public debate in order for the real promoters of this policy to justify their intentions. …………. It is disconcerting that at this same time the President has declared that there is nothing wrong with the Public Order Act – when combined with the sim-card scheme this is an ominous declaration! ……If the PF does not rescind or suspend the sim-card exercise I would personally advocate for a class action in court so that many citizens join as litigants to stop this unjustified erosion of our constitutional rights. This scheme must not be implemented; but if it has to be, then certainly not under the presidency of President Sata!” End of quote.
That was over one year ago. As I write this paper there is direct evidence of continued abuse of our Constitution and other laws. Latest examples include the reported deployment of 400 police officers around the Chitimukulu Palace, 50 police officers to prevent Mr Geoffrey Mwamba to be interviewed on Radio Mano. Just today (30th December) the Technical Committee on the Constitution has succumbed to PF pressure NOT to release copies of their report to the public but to Government only, in breach of President Sata’s own Terms of Reference.
Additionally, the President is on record having rejected the Attorney General’ advice, his Chief Legal Advisor, NOT to transport non-gazetted persons as chiefs from Muchinga to Lusaka, and declaring “I will show you that I am more powerful than the Attorney General”!
I thus urge all concerned citizens in 2014 to speak out against this arbitrary law which has relegated some of our liberties to the dust bin. This is a non-partisan appeal. Let us persuade the Government to suspend the implementation of this programme until concerns raised are addressed and certain safeguards have been put in place.
A CONCERNED CITIZEN
[30TH DECEMBER 2013]
Civil Society (including faith-based organisations )
The General Public