Yes, arresting one political opponent is dictatorship

Last Friday, Mwamba authored an article he styled ‘HAS ZAMBIA SLID INTO DICTATORSHIP?’. He then answered his own question thus; ‘The arrest of an individual, cannot slide the country into dictatorship’.

He was writing about the arrest and charging of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema with treason. He appears to have been triggered into writing the article by the European Parliament’s resolution that the Zambian regime must respect the human rights of HH.

In his diatribe, Mwamba attacked Archbishop Telesephore George Mpundu, Archbishop of Lusaka Archdiocese and President of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) for issuing a pastoral letter that condemned the barbaric manner in which HH was arrested.

Mwamba states that the pastoral letter was not the work of all Catholic Bishops in Zambia but Bishop Mpundu’s personal opinions. The simple response to this is that, the Catholic Bishops can surely speak out when and if they have been misrepresented. So far we have not heard any Bishop disputing or distancing himself from the letter signed and read by Archbishop Mpundu. Mwamba is not the spokesperson of the Catholic Church. In fact, we don’t even know what faith Mwamba is. Certainly he has never been ordained a Catholic priest.

Mwamba asserts that ‘the statement from Archbishop Mpundu was largely ignored by government, probably as it was deemed to be an opinion of a single Bishop.’

This is not true. There was a full response by the PF regime. Chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga responded immediately and said that it was difficult for government to dialogue with United Party for UPND leaders because they have publicly refused to recognise President Lungu. Ms Mulenga said the ZCCB and other church mother bodies should tell Mr Hichilema to respect the will of Zambians and stop perpetrating anarchy in the country. This was carried by the Zambia Daily Mail here 

So this lie from Mwamba is hereby dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

Mwamba then delves into the presidential petition and after stating some truths (dates and names) and peddling half truths, he concludes that ‘On September 6th 2016, the Constitutional Court, in a majority vote 3-2, dismissed the petition as no discernible evidence was laid before it and the petition lacked merit or evidence. The Court upheld the decision of the ECZ that President Edgar Lungu was duly elected. The Court also ruled that its mandate was tied to the 14 day constitutional period in which the election petition must be determined.’

Apart from the date, name of the court and last sentence, these are lies. The Constitutional Court did not dismiss the petition for lack of evidence and did not uphold the decision of the ECZ. The only reason given by the court was that the 14 days had lapsed and therefore had no more mandate. The statement that the court ‘dismissed the petition as no discernible evidence was laid before it and that the petition lacked merit or evidence’ and that ‘the Court upheld the decision of the ECZ that President Edgar Lungu was duly elected’, is deception. It is an inclusion by Emmanuel Mwamba. The constitutional Court did not mention anything about the petitioners failing to lay evidence before the court. The constitutional court did not declare any one as the winner of elections.

Mwamba, in his deception omits to state that the Constitutional Court itself made conflicting rulings on its mandate.

He continues with his deception when he says, ‘despite sporadic cases of violence during the run-up to the election, the voting day was peaceful and was characterized by long lines and an electorate determined to have their voices heard through the ballot.’

He deceptively omitted to tell his readers that towards elections, UPND supporters such as Mapenzi Chibulo were killed, buses carrying UPND supporters were stoned and driver Killed in Munali. He left out the fact that on several occasions, the police denied the UPND permits to campaign. He omitted the fact that Lungu and his ministers abused government resources to bribe voters and reach places that the opposition could not. He omitted to state that ZNBC, to which even UPND members contribute TV levy was used as a weapon to vilify, insult and defame the opposition.

He did not mention the fact that in Kanyama constituency, the ECZ was forced to remove 18, 000 extra votes it had awarded to Edgar Lungu. He did not mention the fact for Ludanzi constituency, the ECZ chairperson Esau Chulu announced wrong figures for Lungu and that up to now, these wrong figures are part of the figures that made ECZ declare Lungu as winner. That is paltering. Omitting key facts because these facts will jeopardise your case.

Mwamba accused UPND lawyers of squandering the 14 days by focusing ‘their energies on Article 104(3) of the Constitution in which they claimed the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Patrick Matibini, ought to take over from the incumbent President (President Lungu) during the hearing of the Petition.’

See how he tries to dismiss and belittle this clear constitutional provision because it does not advance his interest? He uses the phrase ‘they claimed’ without giving his interpretation of the same article. Deception.

He said the ‘the lawyers also spent considerable time urging the Court to order a recount of the votes’. Why didn’t the court order a recount?

Mwamba asks, ‘Do people expect the rule of law and constitutional provisions to be abandoned for expediency?’ The right person to answer this question would be Lungu. It was Lungu who abandoned the constitutional provisions when he refused to hand over power to the Speaker as required by the constitution.

He further asks, ‘Can this be the reasonable cause to insult, denigrate and denounce the Judiciary as failing to be impartial?’ The truth remains that the court did not hear the presidential petition and supporters of UPND are aggrieved. From what we can see, this matter is far from being resolved. If anything, it is getting worse.

Mwamba then talks about the arrest of HH, saying HH refused the call by the police and that the police used minimal force to arrest him. Mwamba concludes that ‘It therefore cannot be said that this action by the Police to pursue his perceived lawlessness is an act of tyranny and dictatorship’.

What happened at HH’s residence will surely come out in court very soon especially if the HH’s case goes to the High Court. HH will one day tell the world what happened, so Mwamba should just hold his breathe unless he wants to tell us that he was among the cops.

Mwamba argues that ‘Zambia is renowned for its peace and stability. It has just held a credible general election with international stamp of approval.’ This is not even an argument. Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Uganda plus many other dictatorships have also gone through similar processes. It is this reputation of being a peaceful country that Zambia has lost thanks to Lungu.

Mwamba’s main conclusion is that the arrest of Hakainde Hichilema cannot descend Zambia into dictatorship or an abyss as he is not above the law.

He contends that the arrest of an individual suspected to have broken the law, cannot plunge Zambia into political turmoil as argued and if this argument was true, it would negate the strides that Zambia has made to become a democratic state governed by the sanctity of the rule of law as the law will be subjected to the caprices of political and other narrow interests.

Again, this is factually incorrect. HH is not the only person being detained in Zambia for political reasons. A lot of Zambians are detained or frequenting court on politically motivated criminal charges. GBM, Obvious Mwaliteta, Sylvia Masebo , Elisha Matambo, Chilufya Tayali, Gilbert Liswaniso, Lesa Kasoma and many other people have faced the wrath of the present government not because they are criminals but because they do not agree with Lungu. Celebrated journalist Fred M’membe is now living in exile. How many people are in jail for the so called insulting Lungu? How many people have been arrested for expressing themselves on Facebook? If this is not dictatorship, then it is Satanism.

Even if HH was the only person arrested, it would still amount to dictatorship as long as his arrest is political. It also matters who that person is. Arresting the leader of one of the two main political parties in the country on trumped up charges is dictatorship and it can plunge the country into civil war. So yes, the arrest of an individual, can slide the country into dictatorship.
If arresting one person cannot slide a country into a dictatorship, why is there so much international attention on Zambia right now?

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