FROM my limited reading of the law, I don’t know where it is said that booing the President is an offence, says constitutional lawyer John Sangwa.
He also says that whereas Zambia pioneered democracy in English-speaking African countries, “today we have been reduced to a joke! We are now running things as though we are some kind of a banana republic”.
Sangwa notes that the insinuation by politicians of no-go areas is complete madness.
He spoke on The Assignment programme on Muvi TV on Sunday evening.
“I don’t condemn [the booing of President Edgar Lungu in Monze] because that’s just people expressing themselves. What law did they break? It’s not nice to be booed. But is there a law that was broken? There is no law that was broken,” Sangwa said. “You expect that (booing) when the political arena…There is a reason some of us are not in the political arena; because we don’t have a thick skin. You can’t have it both ways!”
He indicated that when one joins politics, they expect such things (like booing) to happen.
“But if you can’t stomach it, get out of the political arena. But there is rule of law…If they broke the law, arrest them. What is wrong is to threaten violence. My point is that as long as there is no law broken…We go by the law,” he said. “From my limited reading of the law, I don’t know where it is said that booing the President is an offence. It’s not nice, of course. But it’s not an offence. If it’s an offence, then let the people be arrested.”
He also explained that he had never aligned himself with any government since 1991.
Sangwa said he loved his freedom and ability to be able to express himself freely.
“You (interviewer Andrew Mwansa) wouldn’t understand this because you never lived under the one party state…I have always remained a very non-partisan person,” he said.
Sangwa further pointed out that Zambia pioneered democracy in English-speaking African countries.
“But today we have been reduced to a joke! We are now running things as though we are some kind of a banana republic and yet we have embraced a democracy for the last 30 years and we should have been consolidating on our gains that we made since 1991,” he lamented. “Yet what we are seeing is regression. We are going backwards! What we are seeing is complete lawlessness. I don’t even recognise that this is the Zambia that we fought for in 1991. Why would anybody ask his cadres to go and prevent a leader of another party from exercising his right? What is even worse is the response from the leaders in government.”
Sangwa also wondered why some political leaders in the PF government were saying that, “the leader of the opposition will not be allowed to go to Northern Province, to Copperbelt.”
“What have we become? That is complete madness! What is sad here is that you have leaders, these are your ministers, your members of parliament, threatening violence. A leader should not threaten violence [but] should be able to provide leadership,” he said. “When you hold a government position, you are not there to serve PF because PF is in power. No! You are a minister for everybody in the country. When the President is elected, he is elected for everybody and is there to serve the interests of everybody.”
Sangwa added, “you can’t have a minister saying ‘don’t go to this province…’”
“Come on! I mean, is a province your property? You can stop me from entering your promises because that is your private property. But you can’t stop me from going to a province [because] it’s not yours. Nobody owns Zambia. We own Zambia collectively,” said Sangwa. “What we are seeing is just unbelievable. The police know that it’s actually an offence to threaten violence. [But] those ministers or MPs have not been arrested or called to the police to warn them that you have no right to threaten violence against another human being. The President got booed; but we have seen worse…President [Kenneth] Kaunda was not just booed at Independence Stadium in 1990/1991. [But] people pelted Kenneth Kaunda with oranges. Nobody was killed or reprimanded for that. That’s another way of people expressing themselves. If the President gets booed, that’s people exercising their freedoms, provided no law is broken.”