Stroppy suspension

THE national debate on councillors’ demands for salaries should not be aligned to any political party. It has become a matter for public discussion across political divide, allegiance and expresses how truly democratic Zambia has become. It is a dictate of democracy to allow citizens, regardless of their political affiliation, to freely engage in progressive discussions through exchange of ideas which serve as building blocks to national development. Participation in these public debates by citizens primarily endorses one’s civic responsibility as a true democrat and patriot. This is what a healthy democracy entails. And gagging citizens on account of their party loyalty or otherwise is otiose. A contrary position that deviates from the path of well-established ethos of democracy, tolerance and freedom of expression must be condemned in the strongest terms. The Patriotic Front (PF), as a governing party, must espouse and abide by the tenets of democracy. This must not only be professed at national level but ought to be practised in the manner the party handles its internal affairs too. The suspension of Patriotic Front (PF) Mfinshe Ward councillor Anthony Mubanga from all council activities for six months on allegation of the simmering row over councillors’ salaries is quite unfortunate. It shows vindictiveness and heavy handedness in the management of party affairs by the party secretary general Davis Mwila particularly that only one councillor was suspended while leaving the others with whom he demanded for sitting allowances at the convened extra-ordinary meeting. Were the demands for sitting allowances by the Mungwi councillors at the convened extra-ordinary meeting out of order? Why was Mubanga the only one consequently suspended? Did his fellow councillors set a trap for him? In our view, the councillors reserve the right to demand for a sitting allowance provided that it has been the norm each time a caucus of such nature is called to order. By virtue of the nature of the meeting, extra-ordinary, there was nothing wrong for the councillors to have demanded for a sitting allowance. How many Government officials, and PF top party officials, have attended such an impromptu meeting without demanding for a sitting allowance? We are, however, not surprised at the turn of events in the ruling Patriotic Front as the party secretary general was before last month embroiled in another tussle with Lusaka councillors over the selection of the deputy mayor. It took President Lungu to intervene in the standoff that had emerged among councillors. We think suspending the councillor for merely expressing himself over an issue of this magnitude is unreasonable and may plunge the party into turmoil. The demands for the review of the paltry K700 monthly allowance for councillors is not only affecting one region. It is a concern raised by all councillors from across Zambia. Will PF suspend all its councillors for demanding for the review of their meagre allowances or sitting allowances? What is so undemocratic, unconstitutional and unjust in the Mfinshe Ward councillor saga is that he does not know the basis on which he is slapped with the six months suspension. Doesn’t he deserve to know the grounds of his suspension? Natural justice demands that when an individual is accused of committing an offence, they must be charged accordingly, let alone be given an opportunity to exculpate themselves. This is not the case with the manner in which Anthony Mubanga has been treated. And it is on this premise we assert that there is vindictiveness meant to silence radical and revolutionary individuals within the party’s rank and file. As a growing democracy, we need to observe and emulate the democratic practices from other democracies such as America, where citizens who hold dissenting views are not vilified. Public discourse on topical issues cannot be left to only those in the opposition political party on the pretext that members of the governing party would bring the name of the ruling party and its leadership into ridicule and disrepute.