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June 16, 2013

Zambia Opposition Demands Inquiry into Violent Attacks

by Peter Clottey

Zambian opposition parties are calling for an independent investigation into violence allegedly carried out by a militia group affiliated with President Michael Sata’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF).

“We are making a demand on the police to be professional, investigate what is going on and let us know whether this government wants to govern by violence, so that we can make up our minds on how to deal with such type of a government, “ said Nevers Mumba, leader of the main opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).

Mumba says there is need for President Sata to address the growing attacks on opposition leaders and supporters allegedly carried out by ruling party supporters.  He also called for Mr. Sata to strongly condemn the violence.

“The role of that militia is to deal with the opposition leaders and supporters who oppose the policies of this government, and violence is what the militia is going to use.  When this issue came up we thought it was a [fake] story, but it has now proven to be true,” continued Mumba, “my supporters were beaten and some ended up in hospitals, but the police have done nothing about it, even when we gave them proof.”

Mumba says Mr. Sata will be shirking his constitutional responsibility to protect life and property if he fails to ensure the safety of his opponents.

His comments came after a Roman Catholic priest, Father Frank Bwalya, the leader of the newly registered Alliance for Better Zambia party was attacked last week at a local radio station.  Bwalya's younger brother was beaten after the assailants poured several packets of a locally brewed beer called Shake-Shake on the Catholic priest.

Bwalya says Mr. Sata is to blame for the ongoing violence.

“This governance is just bad.  It has gone to the dogs.  I am in high spirits, I am confident and if they want to kill me I will not be the first one to be killed.  The one I follow, Jesus Christ, was killed,” Bwalya said.

But a PF youth secretary, Chanda Kabwe, denied father Bwalya’s attackers were members of the ruling party.

“We condemn what happened at [the radio station], that was extremely unacceptable, but Bwalya should not drag the PF in this issue.  We do not allow any citizen to be attacked by anyone.  That violence should not be linked to the PF,” said Kabwe.

Officials of the Commonwealth Secretariat were recently in Zambia to assess the political situation, after opposition parties petitioned the organization about human-rights abuses in the southern African country.

Mumba says the MMD party is pleased with the speed with which the Commonwealth Secretariat is working on their petition.

“We gave them an updated position that nothing has improved because now we have this militia that is terrorizing members of the opposition and that we are demanding for dialogue with the government so that we can take our country back to normalcy and to a democratic state where we can debate,” said Mumba.
Clottey interview with Nevers Mumba, opposition MMD leader