12 February 2013

Zambian Opposition Unveils Commonwealth Complaint in Johannesburg

Today in Johannesburg leaders of civil society and opposition political party met with the CDDR to unveil the complaint to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on violations of the Harare Declaration by President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front.

While there has been much media coverage, in particularly this article in BusinessDay features quotes from the participants explaining why the event had to be held in South Africa rather than in Lusaka, Zambia.

The opposition has accused Mr Sata of being a "dictator" and urged the international community to defend democracy.

"If there were respect for human rights in Zambia, we would not be here," Mr Mumba said in Johannesburg on Tuesday. "We are here today because the signs on the ground are similar to those in Uganda under Idi Amin. We have refused to reverse the gains of independence and we are here to tell the international community."

Opposition leaders, flanked by their lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, said Mr Sata had no respect for the rule of law and his leadership had increasingly degenerated into a brutal dictatorship.

"The situation in Zambia has reached crisis levels," Mr Amsterdam said. "We are here in Johannesburg as shamefully this event can't happen in Zambia."

Zambia's Public Order Act prohibits any meeting in a public place and any meeting (whether or not in a building) that the public or any section thereof are permitted to attend, whether on payment or otherwise.

"This government has behaved in a criminal fashion, and average Zambia citizens are suffering greatly from its destructive and selfish policies," Mr Mumba said.

The civil society and opposition leaders are considering legal steps to ensure that what they call the Zambian government's attack on freedom of expression and assembly is brought to the attention of the global community.

"If you objectively look at the pattern of abuses committed by this government, not just against the opposition parties but also against civil society and business competitors of the allies, it is difficult not to conclude that we are on the road back towards the one-party state," said Mr Hichilema.

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