There has been a very a very serious clampdown on freedoms of speech, expression and of assembly.
This is worse than even under the one party state and its permanent state of emergency. Under the one party state people were able to protest and hold meetings; trade unions were able to strike. And under the one party state Zambians were able to form the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and hold rallies and all sorts of meetings without hindrance.
Today under a multiparty political dispensation and without a state of emergency Zambians are not allowed to hold rallies, meetings and protests. Why?
It is understandable why Kelvin Mukuka, who staged a lone protest at State House last week, wondered why it was only Patriotic Front cadres who are allowed to protest.
“There is no freedom of expression. You’ve seen that a lot of people have been denied permits by [home affairs minister Stephen] Kampyongo,” says Mukuka. “If you have seen in Zambia, a lot of people are being intimidated. There are so many people who want to speak out but they can’t because of this regime. Anyone who wants to speak Kampyongo will say ‘we’ll break your bones’. Kampyongo always says ‘we don’t want you to protest because the government is doing fine’. But the government is doing fine for them, not for the majority Zambians. At the end of the day, I want the President to have an ear to listen. Most of us Zambians are suffering. If it’s to go to jail, I’ll go. If it’s to sleep in the cells, I’ll sleep. I don’t mind! What I want is good governance. Transparency! We need a government that can listen to everyone, even someone from chief Chisunka, chief Mabumba and everywhere else.”
This regime’s intolerance and undemocratic conduct will only succeed in breeding contempt for its restrictions and laws. They have gone too far to be tolerated. People will soon stop fearing arrests and detentions. Mukuka is not alone with this type of frustration.
Under international law, everyone must respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, speech and assembly, provided there is no incitement to violence.
Edgar Lungu must immediately stop his ongoing harassment of the opposition and civil society activists and must respect their right to freedom of expression and assembly. Edgar has the duty to protect the fundamental freedoms of all citizens.
We call upon all Zambians of good will to pressure Edgar and his minions to act and end the crackdown on free speech, expression and assembly. Without that next year’s elections will be a sham.