We are not against genuine calls for prayers and reconciliation in the nation.
To start with, prayers and reconciliation for some of us who are believers and regularly attend church service in our Christian nation is a major undertaking and we do this with very genuine intentions. We are resolute in our faith and Christian beliefs. We are guided by words from the Holy Scriptures in the Bible. Exodus 20:2-17 lists the 10 commandments as given to Moses on Mount Sinai by our Lord. Commandment 3 in particular advises us not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain.
It is clear to us that there is an attempt to abrogate commandment 3 with regard to the call for a dedicated day of prayers and reconciliation.
In our view, before a call for prayers and reconciliation, the Patriotic Front (PF) government need to first reflect on, acknowledge and remedy the factors that are causing friction, injustice, acrimony, anger and disunity in our country.
Some of these are summarised below:
1. Police Brutality and Abuse of the Public Order Act (POA)
As opposition parties and civil society organisations, including the church, it has been very difficult for us to freely operate since the PF government came into office including under the leadership of President Lungu. Many citizens are daily being tormented through police brutality purely for wishing to hold meetings, assemble or share views and alternative policy directions with fellow citizens. Just last week, we were victims of brutal and savage police suppression in Solwezi West when we convened a campaign meeting despite prior police notification. The police fired live ammunition at us, empty cartridges are in our possession and we were teargassed together with defenceless women, children, and other people that came to our meeting. To date the health condition of some of our people is still under serious threat after those dangerous actions by Police Officers under President Lungu’s command.
Currently, a number of our supporters and other citizens are facing lengthy court litigations while others are in filthy police detention cells on trumped up charges, which in some cases are twisted to severe unbailable offences such as aggravated robbery. There are many examples we can give in this respect.
Tied with this repression and brutal police oppression there is a deliberate policy by your PF cadres to attack us and our members in various parts of the country and areas such as markets and other public places to the extent where some of our supporters have even lost their lives while others can no longer freely enter trading places to conduct business without fear of repression.
We cannot be duped into prayers and reconciliation when some of the PF senior party and government officials are freely shooting citizens yet no arrests or other remedial actions have been taken by your government.
Recent examples include your Secretary General Mr. Davies Chama who gunned a citizen Mr. Mushaukwa and your Mitete District Commissioner Mr. Manjolo who shot a Mr. Mbangu, and two other citizens in full view of the Police during the recent Mulobezi Parliamentary bye-elections.
President Lungu, needs to realize that because of his inability to provide leadership, our country is experiencing a serious breakdown in the rule of law.
2. National Registration Card (NRC) and Voters Registration Exercise
We do not think he means well in his calls for reconciliation and prayers at the moment going by the way he has deliberately and systematically dealt with the ongoing voters and mobile NRCs exercise. This whole exercise is selective, segregative, discriminatory, and therefore acrimonious. It seeks to systematically disfranchise citizens who reside in certain regions of our country so that the PF may win the 2016 elections. We consider this as some form of rigging.
We have previously raised and notified President Lungu of these serious attempts to undermine this democratic process by systematically denying some citizens NRCs purely for political reasons. So far, a number of our traditional leaders, civil society organisations, the church and other stakeholders have raised serious concerns on these issues but there are no signs that the PF government is willing to address them, yet they wish to blind us into prayers and reconciliation under such circumstances.
3. Victimisation of Private Citizens
We are in receipt of numerous cases of dismissals and victimisation of people perceived to be our members from their gainful employment rendering them destitute in their own country. May we remind President Lungu that commandment 9 advises us not to bear false witness against our neighbours. The PF regime has created duality in the treatment of citizens i.e. favoured and un-favoured.
4. Abuse of the Public Media
To many of us, the public media has been turned into PF media houses yet they are funded by taxpayer’s money. Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Times of Zambia, and Zambia Daily Mail have banded together as tools of political suppression and oppression being used by the PF regime for malicious propaganda against us and other people opposed to the PF. These media houses have completely ignored their mandate as public media institutions to provide fair coverage to various interest groups, but are now being used in such a biased manner purely to alienate us from our citizens. This is dangerously divisive.
5. Divisive Language and Biased Development
President Lungu calls for national unity, prayers and reconciliation yet his tone of language during campaigns and other statements is purely one that is meant to divide our peaceful people. President Lungu and his officials are on record that his government is not ready to work with or take development to areas where citizens have exercised their democratic right of electing opposition Councillors, Members of Parliament and others that support us and other opposition leaders. This has even been demonstrated through the uneven and selective disbursement of the Constituency Development Fund.
With these and many other issues including President Lungu’s failure to adequately address and provide leadership to the current serious economic crisis, and continued abuse of public funds with lavish expenditure on private jets, increasing the size of the already bloated government when it should be reduced, collapsed Kwacha, load shedding, job losses, increase in the overall cost of food and living, reckless borrowing leading to an unprecedented increase in our country’s debt stock which is unsustainable, inconsistent economic policies that have created massive poverty in households, we do not think President Lungu’s calls for prayers and reconciliation are genuine.
President Lungu would do better to first address the above issues and others causing acrimony and suffering to millions of Zambians.
On our part as UPND, we are always ready for prayers and genuine reconciliation with those who mean well.