CARITAS Zambia says it has observed with dismay how over the years human greed among many leaders in Africa has become industrialised and commercialised.
And Caritas Zambia has questioned the power President Edgar Lungu used to grant unconditional bail to over 2,000 non-convicts.
Executive director Eugene Kabilika said although the continent had not experienced dictators coming through coups in the last 12 years, the number of dictators who use democracy to manipulate the electoral systems and constitutions in Africa were slowly growing.
Kabilika said the desire to get rich and live lavishly was pushing many young leaders into corruption and outright theft of public resources using legal frameworks and policies.
He said this was the commercialisation of greed.
“How can an individual live beyond their means if not by stealing? It is from this greed that our continent has been robbed of its resources through downright economic mismanagement, corruption, abrogation of press and individual freedoms and has made it very difficult for the African people to get out of this crashing cycle of poverty. For sure we have witnessed some of our elected leaders, together with their subordinates, amass unexplained wealth in the shortest possible time of their being in power and built mansions here at home in Africa and abroad,” he said in a message to mark Africa Freedom Day.
“To defend all this, they use the military and their supporters to crash any dissenting views questioning their policy decisions and way of governing. In Zambia, especially in the last 12 years, we have sadly been witnessing a breaking down of governance institutions and an erosion of democracy. Human rights are abrogated and even though we are in a multi-party system of governance, political opponents of the ruling party are harassed and prevented from mobilising and freely selling their ideas and programmes.”
Kabilika said such were disturbing and retrogressive developments which unfortunately were also slowly inducing a culture of silence and fear among the citizens.
He said the very issue that freedom fighters fought and lost their lives for was being taken away from the poor by the rich and powerful.
“We are talking about land and our natural resources. Caritas Zambia is extremely concerned that land in Zambia is slowly being taken away from poor Zambians and given to foreigners and those who have the money. How do you explain a situation where the poor farmers are asked to surrender their valued land to the so called developments only to be demarcated into plots which are sold to other people who have the money?” he asked.
“Isn’t that stealing from the poor? How can a poor old person who has been living in an area for 47 years be told to leave his village and go somewhere else? How do you compensate 47 years of somebody’s life?”
Kabilika called upon all headpersons and chiefs in Zambia to stop grabbing land from their people and selling it to foreigners and others.
“In this COVID-19 pandemic, your sons and daughters living in towns and abroad will soon be coming back to their ancestral land. What will they find if you have sold their land? Remember that there is no freedom without land! How do you celebrate Africa Freedom day when the very land your freedom fighters fought for to repossess you are busy selling to non-Zambians?” he asked.
Kabilika said the founding fathers of the continent such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda had a burning desire to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Africa in which her daughters and sons would live in peace and harmony despite their many divergent views they held.
He said to realise this dream, the freedom fighters set aside a day to remember when on May 23, 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU) was founded in Adds Ababa, Ethiopia.
“At that time, among the many objectives that were foreseen, the struggle against colonialism and apartheid on the African Continent was key. True to their dream, on 27th April 1994, Nelson Madiba Mandela, after casting his vote exclaimed, while speaking at the gravesite of the first President of the ANC, ‘Mr. President I have come to report that South Africa is now free!’ That was the last country on the continent of Africa to gain political independence. Caritas Zambia would like to underline the fact that without courageous young men and women, Africa would have been under colonialism up to this day,” he said.
Kabilika said the first two verses and chorus of the African Union Anthem urge people to unite and work together and defend their liberty and unity.
“And so as we celebrate this day we repeat these words and say, let us all unite and celebrate together the victories won for our liberation, let us dedicate ourselves to rise together, to defend our liberty and unity, let us all unite and sing together, to uphold the bonds that frame our destiny, let us dedicate ourselves to fight together tor lasting peace and justice on the earth: O sons and daughters of Africa, flesh of the Sun and flesh of the sky; let us make Africa the tree of life,” he said.
“How can we make Africa a tree of life when the poor, children, women and vulnerable adults are losing their dignity and freedom? We need to rise up and reclaim our true freedom. Nobody will give us freedom on a silver plate, not even our own brothers and sisters!”
Kabilika said Caritas Zambia believed in true democracy where leaders were chosen from the true will of the people who were able to speak freely without intimidation and from the leaders, they are able to demand for explanations and justifications of their leaders’ actions and decisions.
“We believe in the values of transparency and accountability as key pillars of true democracy where the media operates according to their professional standards and not according to directives of those who wield power. The product of a true democratic culture is freedom,” he said.
“Freedom of assembly, speech, movement, conscience and freedom to choose genuine leaders of the society. In the absence of true democracy, Africa Freedom Day will just remain like another one of those days of resting!”
Kabilika said Caritas Zambia just like Nelson Mandela believes that “As long as many of our people in Africa still live in utter poverty; as long as children still live in the streets; as long as many of our people are still without jobs, as long as children are still being married off, no true African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
He said while Caritas Zambia applauded President Lungu for pardoning 2,984 inmates ahead of African Freedom Day, he questioned the power he used to grant unconditional bail to over 2,000 non-convicts.
“While the aim is noble and commendable, that is to reduce congestion in correctional facilities to avoid COVID-19, we are afraid that he has taken over the powers of the Director for Public Prosecution who by law is not to be directed by anybody in prosecuting any matter. The power to grant bail is reserved by the courts, how come the President has taken over that power?” he asked.
“It is treacherous for us to bury our heads in the sand and behave as though we remain on course in terms of the achievement of our shared national values and following the rule of law. The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is truly free from exploitation, diseases, hunger, corruption, land grabbing, theft of public resources and protects all citizens’ freedom of speech, movement and assembly. Then we shall all stand and sing of Zambia, proudly and freely, because we shall truly silence the guns and create conditions for Africa’s development!”