Now opposition MPs face arrests for touring their constituencies without permit

Now opposition MPs face arrests for touring their constituencies without permit

Press Briefing by Hon. Patrick M. Mucheleka, MP

Wednesday, 12 June, 2013

The Current Situation in Lubansenshi Constituency

Once again, I was forced to abandon my outreach programmes in the Constituency due to the continued harassment, abuse, intimidation and vindictiveness by the Executive wing of Government with the assistance of the Zambia Police Force.

On Wednesday 4th June, 2013 I set out to inspect a Constituency Development Funded project at Njeke Basic School.  The School was a beneficiary of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to rehabilitate a classroom block. I deliberately choose to conduct the inspection after 15:00hrs as I knew that pupils will have knocked off by that time.

After the inspection I interacted with the local community.  Unfortunately the following day on Thursday 5th June, 2013 the Northern Province Police Officers based in Kasama were deployed to combine efforts with Luwingu Police Officers. Their instruction was to arrest me. Dressed in full combat kit and brandishing guns and other weapons, the Police Officers mounted an operation. According to the Zambia Police Force, I had committed an offence by not obtaining permission from the Luwingu Civil Servants, in particular the District Commissioner (DC) and the Police Officer in Charge to venture into my Constituency.

In addition, I was reported to have further committed an offence by engaging in a discussion on the topical subject of “the removal of subsidies on fuel and maize”.

Later on it came to my attention that the Police Officers rounded up some teachers of Njeke Basic School using the official motor vehicle of the DC.  The teachers that were rounded up were those believed to be my accomplices to the crime.

As I speak, I have learnt that some teachers in Constituency who are perceived to be my sympathizers are being transferred either from Lubansenshi or from Luwingu District.

I specifically call on the Ministry of Education, Teacher Unions, Civil Society and other stakeholders who value education and the work our teachers put in under very difficult conditions, to specifically investigate the going-ons at various schools in the Constituency.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to take this opportunity to appeal to our Republican President, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata to pay attention to issues of good governance and human rights in order for our democracy to grow and protect the gains we have made thus far.

I call upon the three arms of Government; i.e. the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary to facilitate in the strengthening of the institutions of good governance and clearly allow for the separation functions. I equally call upon Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media to at this critical stage to redouble our efforts of holding especially the Executive to account. CSOs somehow played the oversight role quite effectively during the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) reign. CSOs can and need to be more effective even under the Patriotic Front (PF). Otherwise we shall all be equally guilty of having failed to play our part and only contributed to the demise of democracy and rule of law and posterity will judge all of us very harshly.

This is the time to strongly stand up and claim our space in our governance architecture. I am personally prepared to play part and join hands with many progressive Zambians and institutions of goodwill in defending democracy and the rule of law.

Our President Sata has seen the struggle this country has gone through to be where we are today. The freedom we enjoy today was hard fought for; therefore we cannot afford to take ourselves backwards.

For my colleagues who are perhaps younger than me or those who are oblivious of our history, I will hasten to state that our nationalists revolted against the colonial rulers because of the suppression that they encountered in trying to disseminate their ideas to the masses. The right to freedom of speech is a cornerstone of every democratic society.

It is essential to the health of democracy that people should be free to debate issues and challenge authority within the tenets of democracy.

We have witnessed a steady degeneration in the rule of law in the short period that the PF Government has been in power; it is indeed unprecedented for a MP to be expected to obtain permission from Civil Servants (either a DC or Police Officer in Charge) to visit a constituency.

How then I am expected to play my oversight role on the Executive, which is what I was voted to do?

This role can be performed during debates in Parliament as well as outside parliament including dialogue with the constituents.  I know that there is no law and not even the so called Public Order Act states that an MP needs to inform the Police whenever he or she interacts with the constituents.

We all have to ensure that institutions including state media, the Zambia Police Force and other security institutions operate independently and without political interference. I sympathize with the officers who most often than not find themselves carrying out orders they do not agree with.

In concluding, I request and call upon the Human Rights Commission, Civil Society Organizations, the media, trade unions and any other interest groups and other stakeholders to visit Luwingu and Lubansenshi Constituency in particular to investigate the matter at hand. My rights of free movement, freedom of speech, freedom of association are being violated. For a third time in a role, I have been denied an opportunity to interact with my constituents.

The last act of harassment and intimidation was very traumatizing and certainly deserve attention.

My last appeal is to the international community. Kindly pay attention to the degenerating governance and human rights violation in Zambia. Do not wait until it is too late.

Finally, I strongly recommend that the PF cadres appointed as DCs who masquerade as civil servants should at a minimum be exposed to some form of orientation to enable them understand basic management principles.  Otherwise they will only act to alienate people and even embarrass the appointing authority, even if we all know that they were appointed to protect the PF political agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for your attention.

 Hon. Patrick Mucheleka, MP

Lubansenshi Constituency





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