HONE SIAME, Lusaka
STATE House has advised civil society organisations that have been discrediting the country’s democratic credentials to examine their unpatriotic actions.
Special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda has described as misplaced assertions by some opposition political party-aligned civil society organisations that Zambia is undemocratic.
Mr Chanda said some of the things which some civil society organisations (CSOs) and opposition political parties are complaining about now could have easily been addressed by an enhanced Bill of Rights.
Efforts to enhance the Bill of Rights through a referendum failed last year when some opposition political parties, including the United Party for National Development (UPND) as wells as CSOs, campaigned vigorously against it.
Mr Chanda said this on Thursday as a member of the audience during a Voice of America-organised public talk moderated by Straight Talk Africa host Shaka Ssali at the University of Zambia (UNZA) in Lusaka.
“When you talk about an impossible Government and getting things done, ask yourselves this question; ‘who defeated the Bill of Rights which can take care of all the things you are complaining about?’ It’s the opposition. We called a referendum question to say yes to the Bill of rights and the opposition defeated that,” he said.
Mr Chanda said President Lungu has maintained an open-door policy on matters of national interest and remains committed to running an all-inclusive government.
“The law says the President shall appoint ministers from within Parliament. And if that is not sufficient, in the broader principle of inclusiveness, the President has eight ministers to nominate from those who are not in Parliament,” he said.
Mr Chanda urged civil society organisations to advise opposition political parties that do not see anything good in President Lungu’s government to engage in issue-based politics and support their members when given ministerial positions.
“When Honourable (Richwell) Siamunene was Defence Minister, the people of Southern Province literally retired him. I am happy that (former State House press aide) Dickson Jere has been there, he can tell you the difficulty of any President,” he said.
Mr Chanda said the Patriotic Front government has left the media to operate freely contrary to claims by some disgruntled opposition politicians and their allies that there is no freedom of the press in Zambia.
Mr Chanda said some civil society organisations operate like opposition political parties such that even when facts are before them on matters of national interest, they opt to ignore them.
The panelists included Alliance for Community Action executive director Laura Miti, media practitioner and lawyer Dickson Jere and UNZA political science lecturer Lee Habasonda.