If one did not live in Zambia and just came to visit from a truly democratic country, if there be such, would they not ask this question after assessing the phenomena to be described shortly: Is Zambia a One Party State Masquerading as a Democracy? Wouldn't the same question be asked by someone who lived under President Kenneth Kaunda's One Party State dictatorship?
Zambia has the hallmarks of a One Party State dictatorship. There is a Public Order Act in which individuals and political parties that wish to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, association, assembly, gathering, politicking and so on have to seek a police permit while the governing party roams the country without such a requirement. The President and his wife are campaigning all over Zambia under all sorts of guises and politicking and the public order act does not apply and a different propaganda yardstick is applied! Opposition politicians are harassed at intervals while party cadres can carry pangas and guns to harass, maim, kill perceived opponents without let. Where on earth do you find this in democracies?
Can one point to any democracy where there is still a charge of defaming a President which leads to a prosecution? A president is a public figure and in any democracy, he or she is a recipient or repository of admiration or revulsion or a combination thereof and is not absolvable by the existence of libelous or defamatory laws.
Where on earth is there a democracy in which the public media is controlled by the party in power and panders to every whim and pleasure of the party government? Have you ever read anywhere in the Times of Zambia or Daily Mail of Zambia or heard on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation any criticism of the party government from Kaunda's government to the present? Have these media outlets ever questioned whether any decision by the President or Government was wise? Have these media outlets ever praised any opposition pronouncements as wise or worthy listening to?
These and many others, are the earmarks of a One Party State masquerading as a democracy. There are many more, for example the violence in society whereby the government pins the blame on the opposition and then abdicates responsibility for this violence by involving religious figures to attempt to resolve this problem, as if this violence is other-worldly when it is perpetrated by the party government. Nazi propagandists would be very proud of its progeny way down in post-colonial Africa. George Orwell would have a lot to write about.
There should be no double standards in Zambia. Any discriminatory practices must be subjected to political scrutiny and constitutional judicial review since we still have a semblance of a fair judicial system. That is what happens in a democracy guided by the rule of law. What is good for the goose must be good for the gander.
By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
The author practised law in Canada for 25 years and now teaches law in Africa. He is the compiler of The Case Against Tribalism in Zambia. Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa's recent book is entitled, The Case Against Tribalism in Zambia and is available at Planet Books at Arcades in Lusaka.