DEMOCRATIC Party president Harry Kalaba has asked what manner of cowardice President Edgar Lungu is gripped with that restrains him from facing Zambians when the country’s security is under brutal attack.
He says Zambia is today a fragile country, with grave and rising insecurities across many fronts.
Kalaba notes that a huge encumbrance overwhelming Zambians, like the gassing issue, cannot be minimised to a “Lungu versus HH” matter.
The opposition leader is alarmed that amidst utter insecurity in the country at the moment, the President has found comfort in stillness.
Kalaba was speaking during his state of the nation address at the DP secretariat in Woodlands in Lusaka on Friday.
“[President Lungu], talk to your people directly and not through the signature of your press assistant’s paper. Surely, even on a matter as grave as the one that we are going through, the President doesn’t see the need to address the nation directly?” Kalaba wondered.
“Here am I, addressing the nation… He has chosen to deal with us through Mr Chipampe who was not elected by the people of Zambia.”
He asked President Lungu: “what is wrong with facing the people of Zambia and talk to them and face them in the eyes?”
“What manner of cowardice is this that [when] things go wrong, you are afraid to face your people in the eye? Let him come out and face the people. If you don’t want the heat, don’t get in the kitchen!” he charged.
He said Zambia was currently besieged with many challenges, almost endangering its peace, security and democratic governance.
The former foreign affairs minister pointed out that the last 18 months, the country had been faced with serious headwinds that had been orchestrated by various factors.
Some of those factors, according to Kalaba, include the inability of government leaders to rise to the occasion to provide leadership and strategic direction to overcome the increasing number of challenges.
“For government leadership, and President Edgar Chagwa Lungu in particular, it has been business as usual; behaving the same way he behaved when he took over the mantle of responsibility at the time when [a] Zambian common man had plenty to eat, when Zambia’s external debt stood at $3 billion with foreign reserves of plus three months, as per prescribed minimum,” he said.
“Today Zambia is a fragile country with grave and rising insecurities across many fronts.”
He added that Zambia had enjoyed unblemished peace and stability since independence in 1964.
“We have had 55 years of peace and a free democratic space for all citizens. [But] today, peace, stability and democratic freedom are facing such a threat ready to explode if the leadership continues with the laissez-faire attitude and indifference,” Kalaba said.
He also regretted that President Lungu had continued to violate the democratic right of Zambians and opposition parties to engage in national politics by instructing the police to curtail movement of opposition party members.
“Furthermore, leaders of the opposition are stopped from campaigning on the pretext that the opposition leaders cannot be in the same district as the President!” he lamented.
“Citizens can no longer add their voices to issues of national interest such as bill 10 as President Lungu unleashes his violent cadres to disrupt the meetings and beat up innocent Zambians who are trying to contribute to the strengthening of democracy.”
Kalaba also said diversity of political opinion should not amount to enmity.
“Diversity of opinion is not a weakness; diversity of opinion is a strength,” he noted.
Kalaba underscored that Zambians’ personal safety and security were no longer guaranteed by those tasked with the responsibility to govern.
He decried the ongoing ‘aggravated thefts’ and gassing of people around the country.
“The security of our precious country is under brutal attack. The gassing and killing of people started in Chingola and spread to the whole of the Copperbelt. It is now countrywide and the police have failed to contain the situation,” Kalaba said.
He added that it was acutely worrying that while there was such a challenge of gassing that has resulted in many suspects being ruthlessly killed, “government leadership and some named political party’s leaders are playing to the gallery and finger-pointing for political expedience.”
“Let us not minimise such a huge encumbrance of our people to Lungu versus HH [UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema]. People are dying and none of those who are dying are relatives of President Lungu and Hakainde, while we are making careless statements as to who has done what and who knows and if what happens to me,” he said, stressing that the gassing issue needed everyone’s effort to curtail it.
“This is the time to put service above politics and unite in the common endeavour to save our country and our people from senseless deaths and suffering. The DP is ready to work with the police, the Church and the people of Zambia to bring order to our country.”
Kalaba also called on the PF and the UPND to ‘disarm’ their cadres and completely de-cadrelise the political platform.
“The two parties’ cadres are an obvious threat to national security and to our impeccable record of peaceful co-existence,” he said.
“The DP is ready and available for consultancy if the Head of State has run short of ideas, like clearly he has, on how to ensure safety and complete protection of the people of Zambia from the common enemy, without violating our freedom of movement and freedom to assembly.”
Meanwhile, Kalaba reminded citizens to respect the sanctity of life and avoid “taking the law into their own hands” by killing gassing suspects.
“Let’s remain restrained and ensure that we report all suspects and suspicious activities to the law enforcement agencies and allow them to do their job professionally,” advised Kalaba.