THE Zambia Civic Education Association says the ruling Patriotic Front and its government should stop “forthwith” the reckless and senseless exploitation of children.
On Friday, the Zambia Daily Mail led with a picture where President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa was being welcomed by a three-year old Vincent Mbewe at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka on Thursday evening.
In reaction, Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA) executive director Judith Mulenga recalled that “first it was the PF campaign team in the Chilanga parliamentary by-elections [that was] bathing children unrelated or known to them without due regard to their human dignity and privacy.”
“Now the PF has outdone itself in its ignorance of the children’s rights by embarrassingly exploiting a three-year-old toddler to ‘welcome’ the South African President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa at the KKIA at 19:00 hours! What would interest a three-year-old child in the person of the South African Republican President? What was the purpose of that child being at the airport that late in the evening to welcome the South African President other than him being treated as a decoration in the same manner as the bouquet of flowers usually presented to such dignitaries?” Mulenga asked in a press release.
She stated that the Zambian government had an obligation not to exploit children on account of their age.
“The exploitation of three-year-old Vincent Mbewe epitomises the maxim of the government being the biggest violator of human rights. Yes, one of the principles of the child rights framework is respect for the views of the child, popularly referred to as child participation. However, the participation provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of shared decision-making on matters that affect the child or group of children according to their age and maturity and evolving capacities,” Mulenga stated. “Now it doesn’t need any stretch of imagination that Vincent Mbewe was not in the thoughts of the South African President when he flew into Zambia. Equally, Vincent does not have the personal or social competence for the task of welcoming anyone anywhere, let alone the President of the Republic of South Africa! At three years old, Vincent’s sense of curiosity is only beginning to actualise and therefore like any child of that age, he probably asks a lot questions about things found in his immediate environment and I can safely say hardly about the President of South Africa or any other President for that matter.”
Mulenga stated further that while adults were obligated to facilitate children’s participation, “bathing children not related or known to one in order to win an election or taking three-year olds to ‘welcome’ foreign leaders is a clear case of ‘facipulation.’”
“[It] is manipulation in the guise of facilitation. The international children’s rights framework has been around since 1989 and the government has many civil servants well versed in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child who can ably build the capacity of the PF politicians not only in the normative content of the framework but also in appreciating the inherent dignity in every human being, including children,” stated Mulenga.