Friday, January 08, 2010
By George Chellah
Fri 08 Jan. 2010, 04:01 CAT
ZAMBIA is on the verge of becoming a totalitarian state, Heritage Party (HP) president Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda has said.
Giving his expectations for 2010, Brig Gen Miyanda observed that it seemed the stage had been set for continued quarreling in 2010 because of the many unresolved contentious issues that are hanging in the air.
“Government must not assume the role of 'manufacturer of controversy'. They did it with the NGO Bill. Now it is media regulation. Why has government opened up this new battle front?” Brig Gen Miyanda asked.
“Information is important and the media are one of the most active tools for dissemination of information. We are totally against media regulation by the government as revealed in the press.
“Barring genuine security and morality issues, people are entitled to know what is happening in our country and around us. We believe that the best media regulation is already in place; it is called the law of defamation, which protects everyone. Defamation is about publishing untruths about another person.
“This law favours all citizens, including government and newspapers. In the New Year we pray for a change of culture and for an atmosphere that will be devoid of political fantasies intended to deceive and to discourage citizens from demanding accountability, especially from those in authority. Zambia is indeed on the verge of becoming a totalitarian state!”
Brig Gen Miyanda stated that 2009 had been a traumatic journey and a year when Zambians seemed to have been going somewhere and yet not going anywhere. He said there had been too much government and too much rule by threats.
“So as the year was coming to an end, we were looking forward to a better New Year. But the treason message by the Minister of Justice seems to have dashed hope of a new beginning. We pray that, that was just an ill omen, which will not come to pass,” he said.
”In 2009 everything was under assault; our nationhood, our tribes, our families and all government institutions including the justice system.
The contenders seem to be saying that only an outcome that is pleasing to them is the correct one. We must soberly reflect on this challenge of a contentious spirit that has manifested itself among us. All the talk about reconciliation only takes place when leaders are attending a church gathering where those they must reconcile with are neither present nor even listening; such messages are intended to impress the audience and may not be a serious call for reconciliation.”
Brig Gen Miyanda stated that people were never reconciled through the media or via well-timed phrases from the pulpit.
“Those who qualify to be called peacemakers must interact with those who should be encouraged to reconcile, otherwise their messages remain empty slogans. We appeal to the Church to use appropriate fora to call for reconciliation by getting in touch with those in serious disputes requiring reconciliation. Let the New Year be a new beginning in our political conduct,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated.
“The Heritage Party is seizing this chance to plead with all Zambians to let the New Year be our turning point for turning back to decent politics and for all of us to change our ways and depart from the culture of intimidation, hatred, deception, violence and vulgar debates.”
Brig Gen Miyanda stressed the need for Zambians to see a new man in President Banda, with new energy for resolving issues with those he disagrees with.
“Let him be quick to discourage intimidation and misinformation all round. I urge the President to help the nation to start the New Year on a new leaf and encourage dialogue without compromising important national principles and to discourage patronage while promoting patriotism. We are over eleven million people, we cannot have the same views even if we tried,” he stated.
He also highlighted the need for President Banda to deliberately encourage debates with opposition parties live on the national broadcaster for people to see their leaders talking together.
“It is more important to let our uninformed citizens learn from different national leaders instead of just the government officials and/or their supporters. The President must steer clear of media regulation by the government because it will not achieve what its advocates think it will achieve. Instead of spending a lot of energy trying to muzzle the media, government must urgently resolve the issue of access to the public media,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated.
“In this regard there is the obvious bias by the public media, especially ZNBC, in favour of the ruling party. Of course there is the chronic disease that all ministers of information always deny that there is bias against opposition parties. I believe that it is perfectly in order for free time to be allocated every so often for political parties to promote their organisations at government expense. This will remove the 'wamuyaya' syndrome, which was inculcated in our people during the one party state era.
“President Banda must leave a legacy that records that he was the one in 2010 who opened up the air waves to even those opposed to his government. Let him be the first republican President since independence to achieve this. It will be a wonderful and rich gift to the people of Zambia because our people will have confidence that in fact we have a huge national pool or reservoir of national leadership from which to tap.”
Brig Gen Miyanda stated that President Banda must give an undertaking that he would go out of his way to ensure that there is genuine access to the public media by opposition political players and be seen to carry out this policy in 2010.
He also advised his fellow opposition leaders that politics was not only about getting votes at all cost.
“It is also about building our young nation that has been struggling to find its feet for over forty years and about educating the less fortunate of our followers who believe in us and not taking advantage of their lack of knowledge. Let us raise the standard and quality of debate. If you have nothing to say, do not say anything; instead, take a walk or jog a little and maybe calm down and reduce some weight and BP; enjoy the fresh air for a little while, and you will be surprised how much refreshed you will have become,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated.