[By Emelia Phiri]
ZITUKULE Consortium executive director Nicholas Phiri says 2020 is going to be a very difficult year for civil society organisations that are involved in governance.
He says the year 2019 was extremely challenging for Zambians, which saw some dangerous failed projects, ugly scenes of political violence, provocation of bill 10, people losing lives because of police brutality, the economy coming at 2 per cent [growth] and other uncalled for issues.
“Lately, citizens have seen some level of intolerance to divergent views not only coming from the opposition political parties but also from civil society organisations in some cases even from diplomats,” Phiri said.
“But the party in power seems not to be taking kindly dissenting views.”
Phiri observed that the Public Order Act that was used to suppress the fight for independence cannot override what is provided in the constitution and that explains why the police have lost almost all cases it has taken to court for implementation of the Public Order Act.
“…the case of Sean Tembo, Grace Mwape, Pilato and the others; the police had lost the cases and the court pronounced very clearly that the police were being a nuisance for threatening public peace,” Phiri said.
On Bill 10, Phiri said it has not been withdrawn from Parliament but merely deferred to next year.
“It has been said and consistently that bill 10 is an evil bill, it is a demon, it is a bad law. What is the rationale and thinking behind it is what matters. The whole spirit behind bill 10 is evil because [the] bill 10 journey started at refining the constitution. Refining simply means making something better than before. In refining, they ended up with things like the president can dissolve a ministry as and when without asking Parliament. They ended up with things like striping some of the functions of the Bank of Zambia even when those functions were key to the regulation of currency in the economy,” Phiri said.
“So what refinement is that? Forget about the good provisions in the law and look at the spirit behind the law. What they did was to lie to the citizens. There are no good things in there but only dirty water in bill 10.”
Phiri noted that if bill 10 becomes law in 2020 then “2020 will be a very difficult and acrimonious year again”.
“Let us look at Bill 10 from all aspects; how about the economic aspects? The economy is growing at 2 per cent. One of the key reasons why the country has slowed down is because of the power deficit. Are we investing for 2020? Look where the nation is now! There are some parts of the country which are not receiving enough rainfall. How sure should the citizens be that next year they are going to have no load-shedding?” Phiri asked.
“Government is not thinking of putting up solar farms so that it can begin to address this issue from a long term perspective. Zambia has the capacity and resources to work things out. All is needed was to work together as a nation. The Financial Intelligence Centre noted that the nation was losing huge sums of money. K4 billion is the entire budget on education in the next budget but, you are losing huge sums on money on abuse of resources. In whose interest is that?”
Phiri said recently the country had a mukula curtail report, which was not the first.
“The first report around the mukula saga was published in 2016…the study revealed that the records of the mukula exports were under-declared and that shows the nation a typical sign of corruption…” said Phiri.
“…Let Zambians, particularly government, should focus on issues that will rescue the nation from all the challenges we are passing through now; issues of load-shedding, poverty, that the election in 2021 does not replicate what happened in 2016, which ended up with the threatened state of emergency because of the tension and acrimony in the country….”