Observations: Sata a big threat to Zambia’s democracy

By Barbrah Musamba Chama Mumba

The  recent comments attributed to President Michael Sata on the issuance of nationwide broadcasting licences to Radio Phoenix and Q FM and other acts clearly show that the president does not mean well to promoting democratic principles in the country where promotion of the country’s democratic principles is concerned.

Television and radio stations are mainly there to educate, entertain and inform the public on various aspects of our lives including civil rights.

Therefore, withholding information from the public deters the promotion of democracy. Access to information is a basic way to citizen’s democratic life.

The president and his government has shown that he wants to curtail people’s freedoms by denying their fundamental human rights these being the rights and freedom of association, movement, expression and access to information.

When opposition leader and president for the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy, Dr Nevers Mumba, and his entourage that included an MP and senior party officials namely Howard Kunda, Chembe Nyangu and Anne Chungu visited Chief Nkana on the Copperbelt in December 2012 they were arrested as if they have no freedom of movement and association.

This was at the same time when MMD Vice-President (politics) Michael Kaingu, Treasurer Mwansa Mbulakulima and other senior party officials were arrested in Mandevu compound after they toured markets in N’gombe, Kaunda Square and Chipata Compounds.

In February this year another opposition leader this time for the United Party for National Development (UPND), Hakaindi Hichilema, was arrested in Livingstone on trumped up charges of murder of a PF cadre Harrison Chanda. During the same month, Sata gave a detailed account of Hichilema’s wealth by unconstitutionally fishing out documents from banks as though he had no right to privacy.

This was the second time Sata that was doing so, the first being in September 2012 when castigated the opposition leader for being rich in a short space of time beating those that had worked for many years.

When he chided at former permanent secretary for information and broadcasting, Emmanuel Mwamba, the president clearly stated that he did not want opposition political parties to have a national coverage through private broadcasters as they would bring chaos. Mr President, such an excuse is lame and does not befit a head of state.

Broadcasting house operate on guidelines that are adhered to, if any broadcasting institution breaks the law there are institutions like the police that are there to see to it that individuals and institutions that flout the law are brought to book.

This action by the president is inhibiting the expanse of democracy and is a clear indication that the man is not suited for this era.

The president has attempted to weaken other areas of our country’s democratic foundation by compromising the Legislature and Judiciary.

The deliberate appointment of opposition members of parliament as deputy ministers has always been a strategy to weaken the opposition and parliament and not for uniting the country or for development purposes.

Ironically, if it were for the purpose of developing and uniting the country, then it is a strange way of doing things. It would have made sense if the president engaged the leadership of either of the two major political parties, MMD or UPND.

Instead, he goes behind the back of the party leadership and appoints weaker MPs knowing very well that they have no approval from the party. I guess a well-meaning move would always consult the party rather than create unnecessary grudges in opposition parties.

The insistence of having Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, who is a relation to the president, as chief justice has created discomfort in the political arena in that it is felt that the insistence by the president to have her as chief justice has been for the reason that the executive can have judiciary on their side.

This is against the fundamental principle of having separation of powers of the executive, judiciary and legislature as a way of democratic consolidation, governance and for real checks and balances.

Fellow citizens of Zambia this is not the first time our liberties have been curtailed and threatened, during the UNIP era it was the height of this and it is no surprise that the first republican President, Kenneth David Kaunda, has found an ally in Sata.

In 1991,we gave a resounding no for this kind of political dispensation, let us all see to it that our liberation was not in vein by safeguarding our democracy through people and political parties that appreciate the importance of democratic principles, people’s basic freedoms and rights.