I’M worried that these elections might end up being bloody, says Harry Kalaba.
And Mongu Catholic Diocese Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba says “we can do much better” to have an inspiring political dispensation in Zambia.
The Democratic Party president, Kalaba, insists that the PF wants to rely on the might of fake police officers it is adding to the regular Zambia Police Service.
Speaking when he paid a courtesy call on Bishop Chinyemba at his office in Mongu on Thursday, Kalaba said the opposition had no space adding that, “we don’t know how this election will end up”.
Kalaba, accompanied by Western Province DP chairperson Joseph Nyambe, reiterated that the government had continued to tactfully shrink the political space.
“We don’t have space to breathe! Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic which has come, the ruling party is using that to stifle our rights,” Kalaba told Bishop Chinyemba. “If you can’t appear on radio…It’s becoming very difficult to compete evenly with the PF, because they have closed all the avenues for us to interact with the people.”
Kalaba added that the August 12 elections would be very difficult, “partly because we don’t have a leadership as we go into these elections.”
He doubted if the polls would be closer to being free and fair.
“Even the police are now scared to do their job. We have heard now that 1,200 police officers are being recruited. It’s a lie that they have a deficiency. They recently recruited 5,000,” Kalaba noted. “[But] what has prompted them to add another 1,200 to the already 5,000 that they employed just six months ago? The answer is that there were some political cadres in some regions, especially in Northern Province, parts of Luapula Province and Muchinga…This is intelligence that I have gotten.”
He further indicated that the PF had a feeling that it was strong in Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces and that the ruling party was: “getting their own cadres in those regions to strengthen them during elections.”
“Now, these are cadres who will be wearing uniforms and having guns and they will have that privilege of pretending to be law-enforcers. They will be up against us as defenceless citizens! It is things like these, my Lord, which bring a lot of worry to me and my colleagues in the DP,” he said. “We don’t know how this election will end up. It’s the defenceless people, who might not even know about what is happening, who might end up getting so affected by what President Lungu and his team are doing. I’m worried that these elections might end up being bloody.”
Kalaba, however, pointed out that those in the DP were doing everything possible to campaign without violence, hate speech and without engaging into tribal talk.
Bishop Chinyemba, on his part, said opposition political parties were attesting that Zambians were suffering and that the country was at a crossroads.
“The churches agree. Even the public order Act, we agree that it’s an oppressive kind of legislature,” Bishop Chinyemba said, further recalling that the PF, while in the opposition, used to speak: “the language of the Church.”
He explained that PF founder Michael Sata and his people, back then, used to acknowledge the suppressive nature of the public order Act and how the public media was noticeably biased towards the MMD.
“On the 31st of May 2011, president Sata was here in Mongu on a campaign meeting and he was featured on Radio Liseli; he was with Honourable [Given] Lubinda, madam Inonge Wina and Wynter Kabimba. Get the recording and listen to what they said. ‘When we come into office, ZNBC will be a station for the people.’ PF came into office and nothing changed. It (ZNBC) became even worse!” Bishop Chinyemba explained.
He said when in the opposition, politicians made glittering pledges, which they fail to live up to.
“We are concerned, where our nation is going in terms of political dispensation. We can do much better! Political parties will come and they disappear. But the Church will remain and speak the same language for the suffering people,” Bishop Chinyemba said. “The struggle that you see as politicians is also our struggle. The development of Western Province is something that we have spoken about many times. If you go to Namibia, there are certain things that are happening there and you start admiring. We were hosting Namibians here; when you go to Mangango at Nyango, you’ll find even the camp is there. Some Namibians are buried there….”
He said Zambia was supposed to be an example of democracy but regretted that there were no democratic practices to currently point at.
“It has become something else! Democracy [is] only for a privileged few; the ruling elite,” Bishop Chinyemba said. “What you do now, when you have power, has an indication on the people who would be born 50 years from now.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Chinyemba said the generation of politicians during the one party State could bravely stand up in Parliament and speak for their people, unlike the situation now – under a democratic arrangement.
He explained that back then, they were UNIP all of them (ministers and backbenchers) but that they frankly spoke about the plight of their constituents.
“But today, in a multiparty democracy, when a minister presents a report, can an MP from the same party with that minister stand and tell a minister the problems in their constituency?” noted Bishop Chinyemba. “There is something that has gone wrong [because] in the one party State, backbenchers were able to stand and ask ministers when they see that they (ministers) are cheating. There is something wrong which has been done to our democracy.”