By Lumbiwe Mwanza
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened’,” a human rights advocate Christopher Shalwabala laments following the dismissal of four (4) Senior Police officers for alleged unprofessional conduct during the just ended parliamentary by-election in Sesheke districts of the Western province.
Zambia held the Parliamentary by-elections on the 12th February 2019 where a ruling Patriotic Front member was struck to death by a flash of lightning and left others injured due to political violence.
After the by-elections of which the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) scooped the seat, four (4) senior police officers were retired in the national interest on allegations of brutalizing political party cadres of the ruling party.
Stakeholders have since continued to express mixed feelings regarding the manner in which the civil servants have been retired stating that respect for rule of law and human rights is fading away in favour of politicians that wish to gain political mileage.
Mr. Shalwabala observes with concern that in Zambia, Human Rights are not violated by terrorism, repression or assassination but by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.
“Us the stakeholders should strengthen calls to amend the constitution in order to uphold rule of law and Human Rights,” Mr. Shalwabala said.
The Human Rights campaigner adds that failure by Political Parties in the Country to co-exist is the reason why Human Rights are fading away adding that due to Political intolerance and lack of respect for human life Human Rights continue to be violated in the Country.
On 5th of October 2018, a student at the University of Zambia, Great East road campus Vespers Shimuzhila died during the riots due to suffocation of tear gas by the police officers who were called to restore order at the institution.
And Mr Shalwabala says it is unfortunate that police officers are being retired in the national interest for beating political party cadres whose aim was to cause confusion but not when a student died because of Police brutality no action has been taken.
He notes that lacunas in the constitution are resulting in intimidation of the civil service personnel by political leaders.
Zambia Alliance of Women Executive Director Edah Chimya is saddened that strategies discussed in the past aimed at promoting Human Rights have not been effectively implemented.
Mrs Chimya observes that political violence has continued to violate women’s right to exercise their right to vote.
“Our right to participate in electoral processes and be able to vote for our preferred candidates is being violated due to the violence and there is no political will to curb it”, Mrs Chimya stated.
The Women’s Rights advocate adds that for as long as political violence is not curbed and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to book, violation of women rights to participate in the various electoral processes will remain a challenge.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the opposition UPND, Charles Kakoma regrets that rights of political party cadres seem to be favoured than that of ordinary citizens.
“The decision to automatically retire Senior Police Officers without instituting conclusive investigations clearly shows that the rights of cadres are more respected than other citizens,” Mr Kakoma said.
If Zambia is to attain its socio-economic emancipation, respecting the right to life should be the yardstick to measure fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Based on this benchmark, the government should instead ensure that all individuals are allowed to maximize their right to life and effectively contribute to society as a whole.