Michael Sata’s One-Party State and the Rights of Zambian Citizens

Attempts to turn Zambia into a one-party state by PF leader Michael Sata through intimidation and abuse of the legal process aimed at muzzling the media are being met with opposition in the country.

President Sata has recently gone on a rampage threatening legal suits to media houses – the Daily Nation and Hot FM radio – and political figures so as to stop them from debating his emerging tyrannical rule not different from his peer Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Like Mugabe, Sata – barely eight months in office – is overseeing a regime that is even punishing private citizens that are allegedly venting their frustrations publicly, actions evidently aimed at sending fear in the majority of distraught Zambians.

In February, a local magistrate sentenced a 29-year-old man Rashid Ibrahim to three-years imprisonment with hard labour for allegedly issuing threatening remarks to President Sata’s mother-in-law, Loyce.

A fortnight ago, a 38-year-old man in the Northern part of Zambia working for President Sata’s government was jailed for three months for allegedly insulting him, an offence that is criminal under the laws of the country.

This week, police in the Eastern Province have arrested a 21-year-old man Axious Kanini for allegedly insulting President Sata, an action they claim brings the name of the head of state into ridicule with the potential of causing hatred.

The spate of arrests on private citizens criticising the President and his immediate family is nothing but an affront on their right to free speech enshrined in the constitution of Zambia.

However, poor citizens as the three are victims of Sata’s dictatorial approach to silencing critics as they are unable to access effective legal representation.

Majority of civil society are widely viewed as pro-government with their leaders promised either appointment or favours thereby denying ordinary citizens fair representation from them.

Not only has Sata extended his wrath to ordinary citizens and the media, opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and University of Zambia lecturer Dr Choolwe Beyani are also lined up for a legal battle against the head of state for issuing remarks alleging he is protecting “crooks in the controversial K14 billion DBZ loan” that is now threatening to cost three judges their positions on the bench.

Hichilema, at a press briefing in Lusaka on Tuesday, noted the decision by the President to sue him was “highly abusive of the legal process and a blatant attempt to intimidate the opposition with a view to bring back the one party political behaviour in the country.”

President Sata, a man who has used any platform to issue scathing defamatory statements against his opponents both when he was in opposition and while in power where he enjoys judicial immunity, is surprisingly taking the lead role to insulate himself from scrutiny following a failed first few months of his rule.

Sata has seized every opportunity to verbally abuse citizens including his own ministers like Sebastian Zulu whose commission of inquiry report was thrown out and described it as “useless” since it did not bring out his pre-determined agenda to implicate former minister in the MMD government Dora Siliya in corrupt activities.

Traditional leaders such as Chief Madzimawe and Senior Chief Nzamane of Eastern Province are victims of Sata’s untamed tongue which has for a long time earned him the tag of “King Cobra.”

The Ngambela of Western Province, a leader of the contentious jurisdiction of Barotseland, was called a fake by President Sata while the uniform of the respected royal leader – the Litigunga – of the same area was ridiculed.

President Sata’s tongue-lash has not spared evangelical leader Pukuta Mwanza whom, though well educated compared to the head of state whose humble educational background has no record of a minimum Grade 12 qualification, asking the religious leader to attend some “night school” to qualify for a position on the technical committee drafting the constitution.

If there is a one fan of defamatory remarks, lies and deceptive outbursts, President Sata stands out but he is failing to stomach the heat his challengers are offering as a result of his careless and dictatorial rule.

Thus Hichilema said on Tuesday; “it must be stated at this stage of Mr. Sata’s Presidency that he is allergic to criticism, which is inevitable in a democracy.

“Further, it is worrying to have a Head of State who is hell bent on abusing Presidential powers to protect his friends such as the single sourcing in the State House renovations case and the protection of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mutembo Nchito and Fred M’membe from paying public money (K14 billion) they owe Development Bank of Zambia, when many retirees have not been paid their retirement benefits.”

Hichilema has since accused President Sata of attempting to divert attention of the people of Zambia from holding him accountable to the many electoral promises he gave but has lamentably failed to deliver using baseless legal suits.

At the rate President Sata is moving with his bid to muzzle and gag the media, silence citizens making public statements criticising his government, Zambia will be worse than Zimbabwe where negatively discussing Mugabe in public has become a taboo.

It is evident that there is more to the monstrous rule of President Sata that is infringing on the citizen’s rights to freedom of expression with two already convicted and another facing a possible jail sentence with only eight months in power.

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