WHAT OCiDA, the Our Civic Duty Association says about the country’s democracy should be food for thought not only for the government but for all citizens.
Zambians do not need a political scientist for them to discern the government machinations to undermine the opposition political parties.
But sadly, Government says OCiDA’s continued state- ments about the country’s democracy do not hold water but based on mischief as it has already noted their con- cerns.
Government spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa. Speaking at a media briefing in Choma yesterday said claims by OCiDA that there is shrinking democratic space are mischievous and malicious, originating from people who are enemies of progress.
He said when civil societies initially brought up the issue of the shrinking democratic space, Government promised to engage them and see the way forward but that it was saddening that some civil societies had continued dispar- aging President Hichilema and his government.
Mr Mweetwa said unfortunately, OCiDA has continued to blow the trumpet of shrinking democratic space all in an effort to hoodwink unsuspecting Zambians and the in- ternational community into thinking that the democracy in Zambia is dead.
We do not agree with Mr Mweetwa for we believe that OCiDA’s concerns are an earnest appeal to the government to ensure that genuine democracy exists to ensure that there is peace in the nation.
Although those in government say the democratic space is not shrinking, the opposition and civil society or- ganisations say otherwise. And they have valid examples.
OCiDA Chairman, Emeritus Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu on Tuesday reiterated his call for President Hichilema to do more to ensure that democratic tenets are upheld.
Archbishop Mpundu particularly cited the failure by the opposition parties to hold public rallies because the gov- ernment, through the Zambia Police does not let them do so.
These are the issues that Mr Mweetwa failed to address during his purported press conference which was actually an address to the nation as no questions were allowed.
In fact, we advise Mr Mweetwa to hold press confer- ences in places like Lusaka at which credible journalists and media organisations would be able to ask him probing questions
When political parties are not allowed to mobilise and hold public rallies, is that not a sign of the shrinking dem- ocratic space?
Even when they try to hold a press briefing indoors, they are followed and stopped from doing so.
The much-talked about rule of law is mere rhetoric for some people have been arrested and kept in police cells for prolonged periods even on bailable offences.
In a democracy, political parties should be free to or- ganise and hold public meetings.
We are surprised that Mr Mweetwa did not say anything about UPND deputy secretary general Gertrude Imenda’s statement that political parties should not be allowed to hold public rallies because the situation in the nation was volatile.
Who should people believe when the Head of State himself says the nation is now free of political violence, a statement Mr Mweetwa supported yesterday and Ms Imenda?
Archbishop Mpundu warned that any government that prevented the peaceful expression of political; activities such as holding of public rallies was inevitably inviting vi- olent ways of seizing power, which he said Zambia should never descend into.
And until the ruling UPND starts to respect the rights of the opposition parties to operate freely, the chances are that OCiDA and other credible civil society organisations will continue to irritate the powers-that be denouncing the shrinking democratic space.
Zambians want to enjoy their democracy and not be forced to watch political “mingalato.”