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LET PEOPLE SPEAK FREELY

IT will not do the state any good to continue attempts to gag free expression of citizens, especially those who are outspoken, or want to express opinion on matters deemed to be of public interest.

It is not a secret that the cost of living has risen and many families are struggling to provide three meals per day. Or that load shedding has negatively affected small scale and medium enterprises. Or indeed that patients continue finding no medicines in hospitals despite government assurances.

In this particular case, the Emeritus Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu says attempts by the State House and Cabinet Office to have him disown and discredit the Our Civic Duty Association (OCIDA) statement released to the media last week will not succeed because “what I have written, I have written.”

This is hardly surprising, because the Archbishop has always been outspoken on issues of public interest. As a clergy, it is his calling to serve humanity, it is therefore befitting that he has chosen to champion human rights challenges and other related issues.

The Archbishop has defended his statement following attempts by the State to force him to disown the statement issued after the highly publicized press briefing was unceremoniously cancelled amid allegations of the state having a hand.

As expected, the Archbishop is having none of this and has vehemently refused to disown something that he authored by OCIDA, the organisation to which he is the chaieman. 

He has instead accused the State of dictatorship. Archbishop Mpundu has described as dictatorship efforts by the State to gag him and OCIDA from holding a press conference at which he was to address a range of governance issues including regionalism, corruption, emerging dictatorship, high cost of living among others.

The Archbishop   has further rubbished claims by government that the OCIDA statement was authored by University of Zambia lecturer Sishuwa Sishuwa and Zambia former Ambassador to Ethiopia Emmanuel Mwamba, stating he did not need the two to express his views on national matters.

In an interview, Sunday, Archbishop Mpundu said he owned the OCIDA statement which was circulated to the media last week and that he had sanctioned its distribution after State House and Cabinet Office allegedly sent an emissary in the name of Mwamba Peni to persuade him not to read the statement.

The State has also been accused of adopting the divide and rule tactic and has apparently  succeeded in converting some of the trustees against OCIDA who have now launched a crusade to discredit a statement whose draft they had seen and studied.

OCIDA by its name is supposed to uphold its civic duty and hold government accountable when it falls short.

It is not a crime and neither is it wrong to criticize government. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the constitution. For as long as the criticism is constructive, government should allow for this. It is in any case, part of the democratic dispensation of any democracy to allow for divergent views.

In a country of 19 million and counting, we cannot all be of the same opinion. Only robots should be expected to behave like that.

People voted for change and although this sounds like a cliché, it is nonetheless important that those in leadership of the country realize what this means for people like Archbishop Mpundu.

How will the President know that there is hunger stalking his people in certain areas, if there is no one to tell him?

Allow people to speak out so that you as leaders, get the chance to improve. You should not wait to be surprised as PF was, to realize that people are not just hungry but angry.

The advisors in the presidency, who want to hide the truth from the President, have no business occupying those offices. The President means well for his people. Don’t let him fail because you want to keep your jobs by feeding the President with half-baked information.

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