The Oasis Forum has questioned in its Africa Freedom day commemoration message whether Zambians of all walks of life are truly enjoying the inalienable and non-negotiable rights to freedom of speech, association, movement and economic freedom.
The Forum has pointed out in a statement signed by Forum Chairperson Eddie Mwitwa that the greater ideal and dream of the founders of this country was to have a Zambia and the entire continent of Africa that truly enjoys political, social, economic, and religious freedom anchored on good governance and constitutional order.
It has also reminded the government and all stakeholders in governance that the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association are inalienable and sacrosanct and that the same are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
‘As such we believe that no person or government authority has the right to violate these constitutional rights of citizens, unless under compelling and clearly deserving circumstances,’ reads part of the statement.
The Forum has further expressed shock at the reported reasons often advanced by the police that there would be no sufficient personnel to police a rally or public gatherings especially for opposition political parties yet the same police who cite lack of personnel as reason for cancellation would often manage to deploy hundreds of police to prevent the holding of the same rally or gathering.
It has reminded the public that there was a high court judgement by the late Mr Justice Peter Chitengi which was well reasoned and placed the law on police permits (notice) in its clear perspective.
The Oasis Forum has also bemoaned the unprofessional conduct of the Zambia Police Service whose officers seem to be paralysed in the face of political cadres especially those of the Patriotic Front and has further called for the repealing of the abused Public Order Act (POA).
‘The Oasis Forum calls for a prompt wholesome review of the colonial and archaic Public Order Act, we also call on the Zambia police service to rise to the occasion and administer the POA in a professional, objective and fair manner,’ reads part of the statement.
On freedom of expression, it has expressed concern on the rising levels of political intolerance and intimidation as recently seen in incidents of electoral violence in Chilanga Constituency and has further expressed shock that personal threats and attacks against citizens such as musician Pilato and members of the private media are becoming the order of the day.
It has stressed that these attacks appear to be well calculated attempts by the powers that be to diminish dissenting voices of citizens and pointed out that for democracy to thrive, basic human rights such as freedom of expression must be allowed to exist.
‘We therefore call for a speedy enactment of the Access to Information Bill,’ the Forum has demanded.
On debt, it has noted that not so long ago the country was in a debt trap and could not channel its meagre resources towards needy sectors and has stated that it does not take lightly the growing concern and on-going debate on the real magnitude of Zambia’s debt, the unclear plan of repayment of this obscure debt burden and the impact it will have on the livelihood of ordinary Zambians in years to come.
On the proposed refining of the constitution, it has emphasized that any refinement of the constitution must be done in order to make the reading, interpretation and implementation of the constitution clearer and in line with the will of the Zambian people.
On the much talked about national dialogue, the Oasis Forum has observed that the biased application of the deficient Public Order Act, lack of an independent and impartial police service and the shrinking space for citizens to freely express themselves and belong to political parties of their choice is what has led to the current of polarisation.
It has also urged the government to refrain from taking action or making utterances that may undermine the image and reputation of the country as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law.