Zambian Watchdog

Kabimba orders police to arrest YALI officials for meetings over constitution

December 15
07:33 2012

Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba has ordered the police to arrest members of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) for holding meetings on the constitution making process.

A few months ago, Kabimba banned NGOs from holding meetings unless when supervised by the government under its Technical Committee Drafting the constitution.

But NGOS like YALI deem the ban as unconstitutional and have continued engaging the public in debates.

On December 12, 2012, Kabimba wrote a letter copied to the Inspector General of police telling YALI that they will be arrested if they hold another meeting against the prescribed format of the PF regime.

But YALI has dared Kabimba to arrest them and have threatened to ask donors to stop funding the process.

In response to Kabimba’s threats, YALI president Andrew Ntewewe put Kabimba in his position.

‘Our Board has reviewed your correspondence and notes with sadness that you, as learned counsel, are failing to appreciate provisions of the Constitution of Zambia which guarantees fundamental freedoms and rights of citizens to freely assemble, participate in public activities and determine laws that govern their lives without government coercion. You will note that the Provincial Dialogue you referred to is not a parallel workshop on the constitutional making process but one of the many interventions by citizens of this Republic who wish to engage in our country’s Constitutional reform process,’ said Ntewewe.

YALI, in the response copied to all embassies in Zambia and to president Sata said:

‘The Technical Committee, which is now working under intense pressure from your office, was informed of the same dialogue and they sent apologies for their inability to attend our dialogue. An invitation was later extended to the Town Clerk in Kasama, the Committee’s District Facilitator who delegated his deputy also mentioned in the Post story.

At this point, we would like to state as follows:

 

  1. Your threat of “stern action” – be it arrests by the Inspector General of Police who, no doubt, has no autonomy and works at the mercy and convenience of the appointing authority and politicians like you – is unfounded and has no basis in law as YALI is not committing any offense when it decides to hold forums with young leaders on the constitution. We stand ready to defend the rights of fellow citizens and our own rights to engage in the process without any interference from politicians.

 

  1. The Technical Committee and the Constitution-making process, which will gobble over K110billion, is funded by taxpayers money and resources gifted by the international community. It goes therefore that taxpayers have a constitutional right to engage in this process. There would be no reason at all for this process to continue receiving any support if Government has positioned itself to control how people engage in this process by use of the Technical Committee. YALI will therefore be left without any option but lobby Members of Parliament and the International Community to rethink funding to this fraudulent process whose outcome seems to be already predetermined. Your appointment to that office, we now believe is serving to frustrate the constitutional reform process as your immediate predecessor exhibited political willingness for this process to be people-driven.

 

  1. Undeterred by your threats, YALI will continue to hold its activities which are legal and we are prepared to use all available legal means to defend the right of our young citizens to participate in this process. Should your directive pose any further threat for young citizens to have a say in the process, we are ready to seek an injunction to restrain the Technical Committee from holding its activities in exclusion of our voices as citizens to contribute towards a people-driven constitution. We may further seek a review of your decision in our courts of law which we feel is arbitrary and made without consultations with stakeholders.

 

Finally, Hon. Minister, there is need for you to make a clear distinction in the manner in which you want to run Party affairs from your public responsibilities in that honorable office of Minister of Justice. It is, however, in our country’s best interest that you restrain yourself, put Zambia first and be impartial in discharging your duties and serve all our peoples. It will not help any Zambian to have a popularly, legitimately and democratically elected Government practice dictatorial tendencies and unleash our men and women in uniform on citizens who exercise their democratic right.

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