There’s a lot of fear in Edgar Lungu and his minions. They are having sleepless nights over the thought of leaving or losing power. Why?
They have done too many wrong things for them to live in peace after leaving office. They are scared of facing corruption charges. Very few of them, if not none, can account for their sudden wealth. Edgar himself will not be able to explain how his wealth has doubled, tripled, quadrupled in such a very short time. They have also committed too many injustices against some fellow citizens to face them without power. They are not ready to face the temerity of their corruption, injustices and other abuses. And because of this, they would rather stay in power forever or for as long as possible.
One way of keeping themselves in power ‘forever’ is by destroying any and every credible opposition. They want to make sure that every election they hold, there’s no meaningful challenge – it’s a no contest.
In pursuit of this, Edgar is making sure that no opposition is allowed space to mobilise political support among the masses of our people. Patriotic Front cadres and the police are at hand to harass and stop any opposition attempts to politically mobilise, organise, agitate or educate the Zambian people. Any small opposition meeting gives them sleepless nights. They are really frightened little men and women, scared even of their own shadows.
But we know that such fear leads to very desperate and destructive actions. It leads to more and more repression, abuses and indeed corruption. Once a regime tries to survive by repression, that inevitably leads to more repression. The police is a tool of repression. Once you deploy the police in the political arena to police freedom of expression, assembly and association, expect nothing but suppression, repression and curtailment of political and civil liberties. One doesn’t need a microscope to see that the way the police is administering the public order Act is not fair or impartial. You have not seen or heard the police summon a Patriotic Front leader or cadre to warn and caution them for allegedly breaching the public order Act. No Patriotic Front member has been arrested and prosecuted for holding an illegal meeting or protest. It’s only opposition politicians who are arrested and prosecuted for that. Yet Patriotic Front leaders and cadres are holding meetings everyday without police permits. We have on many occasions seen Patriotic Front cadres demonstrate without police permits, but no arrests and prosecutions.
Clearly, Edgar and his minions are using the police and other state institutions to trample citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly and undermining the constitution. They are limiting the political space. They are not allowing opposition groups to freely operate in the country’s multiparty democracy. They are preventing opponents from engaging in meaningful political mobilisation work. How disruptive can the small meetings Harry Kalaba has been holding be? They are not a rallies, they are not calls for demonstrations. Just conversations with the people inside four corners of a building. So, really, they can’t justify this in any multiparty democracy. In any democracy, this is far below the mark.
We are experiencing a growing crackdown on political opposition and civil society groups. Despite the rhetoric about democracy, the democratic space is narrowing and not broadening.
In fact, we are drifting toward full authoritarianism. And backsliding toward authoritarianism entails threats to the rights and physical security of members of the political opposition and some civil society groups. The opposition has become a target of repression. Thus, they are threatened in several ways: being seen as too directly hostile to a regime, as too close to a regime, or as compromised by international support or agendas.