THE Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) says instituting a privatisation commission of inquiry is not in the best interest of Zambia but a ploy to eliminate a formidable opponent in the name of Hakainde Hichilema.

Acting chairperson Judith Mulenga said while welcoming President Lungu’s affirmation of Article 88 of the Constitution on the right to petition, CiSCA would like to caution him to tread very carefully on the commission of inquiry on privatisation.

Mulenga said Zambia currently faces many problems that need laser focused sober solutions than the Pandora’s Box that the President is being nudged to open as it may boomerang in his face.

“We put it to President Lungu that instituting a privatisation commission of inquiry is not in the best interest of Zambia but a ploy to eliminate a formidable opponent in the name of Hakainde Hichilema. Not too long ago, president Rupiah Banda’s government wanted to introduce a degree criteria for a presidential candidate aimed at barring one Michael Chilufya Sata from standing for the presidency. What happened next: the man [Sata] won the presidency in the very next general elections! Provisions of the Constitution should be respected equally. Invoking Article 88 at the expense of other justiciable civil and political rights in our Bill of Rights is setting a very dangerous, reckless precedence,” she said. “CiSCA demands that since we are in dire straits as a country, President Lungu should make this commission of inquiry the mother of all commissions of inquiries so that he leaves a legacy of leadership when everything that Zambians need closure on was healed in the nation.”

She said the inquiry should include, among other inquiries, the cost of the fire engines, cost of the ambulances, mukula trees smuggling, sudden wealth of politically connected persons including the President’s own jump from K2 million to K23 million in one year, the cost of the Michael Sata Tollgate, the exorbitant cost of roads, the K450 million money laundering from corrupt government tenders, the outright embezzlement of K4 million by government officials, tribal diatribe from PF senior leaders against the people of Southern Province, the indebtedness that Zambia is in, the fencing of the Chimutengo Forest, and the 48 houses.

“Let us heal this nation once and for all so that as we go to the 2021 elections, we are all truly exercising our democratic right to hear freely from all who aspire to rule and for us to vote without anyone’s fear of security of the person that Zambia has had to go through at every election since the 2015 presidential by-elections,” Mulenga said. “While as CiSCA we do not question the legality of the commission of inquiry, we are not convinced that the 40,000 signatories in the YALI petition represent even remotely what would be considered public interest. CiSCA does not believe that President Lungu’s intent is to shine a spotlight on past errors and ensure that such events do not recur.”

Mulenga said CiSCA was not convinced that the urgency with which events are fast moving on the issue meet the legal reasonableness test.

“For instance, since there is a case in the High Court on privatisation and the High Court is at the same level as a commission of inquiry but without the former’s legal binding status, CiSCA urges the pro-commission of inquiry on privatisation to hold off and wait for the outcome of the court case. Mind you, Zambia has a $18.5 billion albatross around its neck, most of it acquired by the Executive without approval by the National Assembly, therefore ultra vires to the Constitution and another issue needing a commission of inquiry,” she said. “We contend that it is wishful thinking, for the petitioners, to think that the commission of inquiry will not call witnesses from not only within but also outside our territory since the privatisation involved international buyers too. The scope of this commission of inquiry is envisaged to be huge taking into account that evidence will straddle three decades. And since a commission of inquiry is not a court hearing, it is not reasonably expected that the recommendations from the commission of inquiry will be acted upon by the court if this became necessary. We further challenge President Lungu to release all commissions of inquiries reports since PF came to power. The funds spent on them is not PF’s money but every Zambian’s money.”

Mulenga said CiSCA hopes the President, having set a precedent, would also accept a CiSCA petition to withdraw Bill 10 from the floor of the National Assembly in national interest.

“For those that have allowed themselves to fit snugly in the PF’s mold of a culture of silence, please be reminded that your voices of apathy should not be louder than your courage of conviction. Being silent is the same as abetting a de facto absolute monarch which President Lungu has become. Him and those connected to him live luxurious lives financed by our very meagre resources that they are supposed to safeguard for all of us, while the majority of Zambians, more than 54.5 per cent live below the national poverty line,” said Mulenga. “If people think this is an exaggeration, we challenge them to name one thing that President Lungu has wanted against the people’s will and he has respected our voices and backed off?”


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