Opinion

Laura Miti: PF Has ‘Destroyed’ Zambia’s Democracy

An Overview of the State of the Zambian Democracy

Since 1991, when Zambia replaced her long serving independence President, Kenneth Kaunda, the country has solidified its reputation as a growing African democracy. In particular, it has been known for its ability to change presidents via the ballot box. It has also been known for preventing presidents who wanted to overstay their constitutional mandate like did second President, Fredrick Chiluba, from doing so. The Zambian resistance against excesses by office holders has been remarkable for its robustness and yet unique, for the continent, for its non-violent nature.

All this has been brought into sharp relief by the country’s seeming regression into undemocratic practices in the 5 years that the current ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has been in office.

The PF was founded by Michael Sata in 2001 as a breakaway from the then ruling Movement for Multi Party Development (MMD). Sata had been the public face of the defeated attempt by President Chiluba to go for an unconstitutional third term. It is widely believed that Chiluba had promised Sata that, in return for his vociferous support for the third term bid, he would in time support him to take over the presidency. When Chiluba picked on a relative outsider, Levy Mwanawasa, to stand for the 2001 elections he was prevented from contesting, Sata left the MMD in a huff and set up the PF.

Sata proceeded to contest 3 consecutive presidential elections (including one bye election resulting from the death of President Mwanawasa.) He lost all three but grew his support base after each. In 2011, he finally took advantage of a veritable popular revolt against what was seen as the arrogance and corruption of the ruling MMD and was swept into office via a mini revolution similar to that of 1991.

It is worth noting that to grow his popularity and finally win power, Michael Sata and his PF took advantage of the democratic space that the MMD allowed in the country. In between elections, Sata was able to hold on-going political rallies and appear on radio and TV stations right across the country to sell his very populist message.

However, when the PF assumed office, the Sata administration proceeded to shrink that democratic space in ways that had not been foreseen, much less expected. It was a veritable act of climbing up a building using a ladder and then immediately removing it to ensure no one else can.

After President Sata died in September 2014, he was succeeded by the current President, Edgar Lungu, who won the closely contested bye-election in January 2015. He went on to win the scheduled election 18 months later – another closely run contest which was also unprecedentedly divisive and violent. In both elections, Edgar Lungu defeated his bitter rival Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for Democratic Progress (UPND). A petition of the 2016 election result was thrown out on a technicality by the newly constituted Constitutional Court in a very consequential move that has left the country unable to determine whether or not the last elections were freely and fairly won by the current President.

It is under President Lungu’s presidency that the country has found itself in the international spot light for a stunningly rapid regression of its democratic principles, especially the upholding of a free press and citizen freedoms.

Exemplifying this worrying trend, are a number of worrying incidents that have occurred since President Lungu came to office in 2015. First is the closure of the Post, the largest independent newspaper in Zambia which opposition and civil society had largely depended on for coverage. The Post had become a vicious critic of the current administration (after having for a period lost its independent ethos by providing unquestioning support to the candidature and presidency of Michael Sata). The Post was closed ostensibly for protracted tax issues which it has to be said ail just about every media outlet in Zambia, especially the government owned ones.

As significant as the closing of the Post was the recent arrest of Opposition Leader, Hakainde Hichilema. He was arrested and charged with treason after an incident in which his motorcade failed to make way for the presidential convoy at a traditional ceremony. He was only released after the intervention of the local church and the Commonwealth. Dialogue between between Lungu and Hichilema has been mooted and is greatly anticipated by a nation very worried about the direction its politics are taking.

A threatened state of emergency has also been declared on the back of acts of arson which it has to be mentioned are yet to be proved to be the work of the opposition as claimed by the President. They were cited as the reason for the invocation of Article 31 of the Constitution which provides for the threatened state of emergency before any investigatory evidence was provided to the public. The public still awaits the connection.

This threatened state of emergency allows for arrest without warrant and detention for extended periods. Using the power therein, citizens have been arrested for expressing their views on social media under the colonial “defamation of the president” laws. Eleven people are awaiting trial for the arson incidents. They have been held for longer than a month and were reported to be on hunger strike (a claim that has not been confirmed). The extra powers accorded to the police under the threatened state of emergency are particularly concerning because the Police service have, even without emergency powers, been acting very much outside the law.

Since PF came to power, the police have routinely prevented opposition gatherings claiming they do not have the manpower to protect them. They then have arrived at the venues to prevent any possibility of rallies proceeding with more officers and show of force than would have been required to ensure a smooth event.

The police have also displayed a brutality in crowd control previously unknown in the country. Critical to note is that the police under PF, again routinely, fail to prevent or address extreme incidents of violence by the cadres of the ruling party. This no-need-to-fear-consequences has translated into a PF membership that is understood to be a law unto itself and feared by ordinary citizens. Cadres have been known to march in the street openly brandishing weaponry that was previously unknown to be in the hands of anyone who was not a violent criminal. On the other side of the political spectrum it seems the main opposition UPND has also adopted a violent ethos for its cadres claiming the need for self-defence. The result of violent cadre meeting violent cadre need not be set out.

The long and short of the situation in Zambia is that a country that was well on its way to instituting itself as a shining example of democracy in Africa, is taking longs strides backward. There is an urgent need to ensure that the democratic spaces, especially the free press and freedom of expression Zambians are accustomed to, are protected. It is also critical that citizens push back against government acts to take their democracy south. Citizens must, like they did to President Chiluba, say no to President Lungu.

It is after all because Zambians have been able express themselves freely that administration after administration has known not to dare overstay in power. It is also because of the democratic freedoms they have enjoyed for decades, that citizens have been able to use innovative ways of expressing their unhappiness such as the loud blowing of car horns at 17 hours every Friday together with wearing green ribbons that let President Chiluba know he could not stay in office when his 2nd term was over.

Zambia’s famed peace is because Zambians have been free to draw a line in the sand for those in power. If the Lungu administration is allowed to continue encroaching on citizen freedoms, that peace is at risk.

Source: LAURA MITI FACEBOOK PAGE

27 Comments

  1. wizkid

    Ba Laura miti it’s true the ladder has been removed when lungu went to state house.He has failed to discipline his corrupt Ministers,failed to solve the unemployment levels,failed to address the high electricity tariffs,failed to address the plight for farmers,police brutality,rights,underperformance from his ministers and cadrism.

  2. Obert

    Chiluba once said and I quote ” The post news paper is part of the Zambian household. Let them write. FTJ.

  3. Patriot citizen

    Is it the Sata administration or Edgar administration which has undermined our democracy in Zambia? Laura be specific.

  4. Ndindindi

    True Miti,,,,there is no democracy at the moment, only the blind and dunderhead cannot see,the freedom of expression in the Democratic spectrum has been ruined by the (PF)(periodical foolz)I still don’t know who really is behind this nonsense, the IG is at liberty to impose his unprofessional powers, mind you, ECL iz watching at you the (IG)don’t think he can sink so low to chuck you out,any press conference that will come,just know that you are gone, ulemweneshamo BA kateka…

  5. Ti

    It is true in zambai they is democracy now days

  6. Jahman

    Eya mwandini

  7. Black water

    PF Will be history come 2021.Reasons are :-1swindling money from innocent citizens during last election by selling Zombe land lusaka west which doesn’t belong to them .2 secret training their relatives into police and Army without advertising. 3 Appointing mmd officials in pf government.4 abandoning road projects in chongwe area.5 lack of fighting corruption.6 cost of living is so high it only favour carders .

  8. Kalunga Fred

    If this woman has nothing worth news to write, let her keep quet. Democracy has actually increased under the PF. For years people wanted a new constitution with clauses such as; 50 + 1, running mate etc. All these were achieved under the PF reign.

    The Post closure was not political, he was evading taxes and failing to submit what he was collecting such as VAT and PAYE.
    HH dared the law and in the end was arrested. Yes his arrest was brutal but don’t forget the cause of all that. At the rate he us going after his release I would not be surprised if he lands himself more trouble again.
    Defeming the President laws was not created by PF. It has always been there. The police just implement, they do not make the laws.
    You possibly have a point on PAO, but TSOE was necessary after what was happening.

  9. Chris B

    Laura Mitti you must stop inciting violence, let me remind you that Sata was on several occasions attacked by mmd cadres among them was late Willie Nsanda at Radio Ichengelo when father Bwalya was Radio Station Manager, as though that was not enough even father Bwalya was arrested for speaking the truth on behalf of the majority poor Zambians. he was denied media right by way of sending him off the radio station. We saw how a lot of things happened during that time. But never did we see Micheal Sata the late insight violence among us who supported him day and night neither did we see any public and private infrastucture being destroyed under very suspicious circumstances.
    after the 2008 preisident by elections even with clear cut evidence of rigging still one Micheal Sata, accepted defeat and pleaded with all of us to go back to the drawing table and re organise ourselves for 2011 general elections. I personally captured a an area counsillor who was also a mayor of Kitwe for a resonable period, during that by election he was busy bribing the unsuspecting electorate with bags of mealie meal, cooking oil, Sugar and he transported people to a named polling district, I captured all the happenings and we reported this matter to police the man was picked up for questioning but he was rescued by his area MP who was also a minister.
    I quickly informed Radio Icengelo and the post newspaper and the news was read countrywide, my camera was held at Kitwe central Police while the memory card was destroyed just to rid evidence. Yet myself and my collegues we put our lives on the edge of the sword but still we held our peace and accepted to move on with the advise of keeping our peace.
    if you so wish go in the achives of radio Icengelo news you will find such since the post is no more for you look into their achives.
    But my point is do not mislead the masses with your foolish talk Zambia is a peaceful nation.
    if in your mind Zambia is not democratic then you may as well take a leave for another country.
    otherwise we know as citizens when to change a government you have never told or helped us to do so, the people of Zambia knows when it is right time to do so and not you nor you upnd can force Zambians to change government.
    It seems you know nothing and am sure you have been promised a job now the way you are talking is like someone who was too expectant for honey and milk can not work hard to earn it.
    Shut up your mouth Laura Miti you know nothing.

    • josh

      Indeed Laura’s article and lies can only make sense may be if she luck to the under 12 Zambians who were babies during the late patriot Michael was in opposition. Ba laura which public media allowed late Michael space?,even when it clear that he was robbed of his victory,this great son of the soil (may his humble soul rest in peace) publicly used to call for peace. He is on record to gone to ZRA to plead with the workers to go back for work when there strike whilst in opposition. He never went to UTH to incite the nurses to continue with the strike as we have seen with the current crop of mediocre opposition. He at no point traveled to the neighboring nations to speak I’ll of his country.Above all he learnt to accept defeat and move on.Ba laura twebeniko fya mano not this empty ranting and baseless history.

  10. Narrant

    Comment
    The one that prophesied that:
    1. Obama would never be elected USA president because he was black.
    2. Michael C Sata would never win presidential elections in Zambia.

  11. Kalaluka

    Laura, my surprise is that you support individuals who are more undemocratic than Edgar Lungu. Open your eyes and ears, you are more smart than that.

  12. Mfumukadzi

    Ms Miti it will be worse under HH rule and we Zambians know it. We will not allow HH to rule Zambia. He is an Ammagerdonist, tribalist, hater, liar, dictator who has refused to go for a convention in his party even after so many losses. So between Lungu and HH who is more of a dictator? The only offence Lungu committed was to win the election. The plan to oust him failed and that is why he will never be forgiven by you and HH. That is why there is all this hatred and peddling of lies about Zambia. You think the international committee is so stupid they cant see that Zambia is peaceful? To prove to you that we voted for Lungu we are going to march for Lungu in the 8 provinces he won. You are singing all over saying Lungu is not wanted. Well we who want Lungu are going to demonstrate and show you and your cohorts that actually we love Lungu. He is a more principled leader than HH. He does not play to the gallery. He is so hated because he has what you and your master dont have. Leave Lungu alone.

  13. kaya ndithu

    I have always thought Sata should never have become president of Zambia. MHSRIP. His politics were divisive. He did not respect the rule of Law. That was when Zambia regressed to anarchy. Lungu is a product of such an anarchy party. He is trying very hard to clean up this party but he is not doing enough. Sata’s babies are now running loose creating confusion with whatever they touch. Kambwili, GBM, Winter are all out there. Laura Miti failed to take account of this fact. The problem is not Lungu but Sata’s ghost. And UPND appears is adopting Sata’s tendencies through GBM. We need an exorcist to get rid of Sata’s bad vibes in Zambia’s parties. How that will be done is anybody’s guess.

  14. Don cj

    We only want a president who’s GOD fearing and who has a soft heart that’s full of love and full of understanding for his people not a stone hearted president which doesn’t have love and doesn’t understand his own people and doesn’t have fear for his creater

  15. James Badoo

    It is always nice to read a good blog. Certain things are so obvious in the state of the nation in Zambia. We do not have to be too blinded to see the reduction in democratic space, arbitrarily arrest and detentions, intimidation and all. its there..Well done Laura

  16. chimphepo

    Laura Miti you are a fake journalist .Often time your argurmemts are baseless.
    We Zambians have seen Democracy in lungu ,he has added value to it .
    The problem with UPND is the heavy loses and loss of financies continuously for six times or so ,its not ajole but painful.
    And we have mo.ercies because of their behaviours.
    2021 is coming ,they will not win but badly fall.
    They are a brutal polical party who have NO.Zambia at heart like you

    • concorned zambia

      Ms miti,b patriotic and do not be to judgemental over something you don’t know

  17. Joe

    it’s only happened, in zambia, where we have IDOITS called pfool changwa

  18. alkalifah

    Exactly

  19. Top ten

    Just looking at the sir name,before even reading it. You know it is biased.

  20. BlackBird

    This is a masterpiece

  21. pad one

    Hh Nizi

  22. pad one

    That is great news

Comments are closed.