By JOWIT SALUSEKI-
IF there is one bigger achievement that the United Party for National Development (UPND) administration, apart from employing civil servants, can be credited for since assuming office last year, it is the restoration of the rule of law.
The rule of law is a key factor for stable, broad-based economic growth.
While there still might be some pockets of illegality especially in high density areas where few individuals may want to ride on the goodwill of the party in power to cause mayhem, generally, there is sanity in most communities.
Even political skirmishes that used to characterise political campaigns especially during by-elections have either somehow reduced or are being contained.
About 12 months ago, citizens and opposition leaders would not freely criticise the party in power without expecting a beating or a backlash.
Opposition political party leaders would be hounded out of live programmes at television or radio stations for merely airing their views on national issues. Examples abound.
On April 14, 2014, President Hakainde Hichilema, while in opposition, had to escape from the rooftop of Sun FM Radio in Ndola.
This was when PF cadres waylaid and wanted to lynch him while he was featuring on a live radio interview at the privately owned station.
Similarly, the likes of opposition Patriots for Economic Progress (PEP) leader Sean Tembo was beaten by suspected Patriotic Front (PF) cadres for expressing his views on a matter of public interest.
The firebrand politician was attacked on November 28, 2019, after leading a protest in Lusaka against the controversial purchase of 42 fire engines.
Conversely, markets never used to accommodate traders wearing T-shirts or body wrappers – known as chitenge – from any rival party apart from those donning the infamous ‘green and white’ colours.
However, evidence abounds that prior to last years’ election, Zambia was slowly degenerating into a banana republic.
Memories in the minds of people are still fresh when political cadres from the then governing party would go on rampage to commit crime with impunity under the guise of defending the ethos of the ruling party.
Back then, it had become a common scenario to see political cadres even daring police officers and showering them with unprintables.
Civil servants who showed professionalism will be threatened with ‘dismissals’ for acting professional.
But now, this is not the case as demonstrated by a recent development where some suspected cadres who committed alleged criminal offences in the name of supporting the UPND met the wrath of the law in Mazabuka District after they appeared in court and were sentenced.
As earlier stated, the rule of law is a key factor for stable, broad-based economic growth.
This is because it encourages investment, both domestic and foreign, along with entrepreneurship and business development.
Governance, Elections, Advocacy Research Services (GEARS) initiative executive director McDonald Chipenzi said the New Dawn administration should be commended for restoring the rule of law as the country was witnessing something that was alien when people’s rights and freedoms were trampled upon.
Mr Chipenzi said the citizens of Zambia were scared to voice out their concerns during the past regime for fear of victimization and attacks, something that has changed under the current administration.
Similarly, the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Dispute (SACCORD) executive director Boniface Cheembe noted that apart from upholding the rule of law, the current administration should be heralded for embarking on a process to repeal the Public Order Act (PoA).
This is being done about four years before the next elections slated for 2026.
He said previous governments were not interested to repeal the PoA as they used the Act to disadvantage political competitors or those with divergent views on governance matters.
“The UPND administration on June 23, 2022, demonstrated political will and formally launched a process to review and amend the PoA… This process should fundamentally enhance the legal framework governing public order, most of which dates back to 1955,” Mr Cheembe said.
He said the recommendations from the consultative meetings on the PoA will give a bigger picture of what the public wants to be reformed in the Act.
Needless to mention that even the United Nations (UN) has continued to re-emphasize on the importance of the rule of law and development among member states such as Zambia.
In the Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law, UN member states noted that “the rule of law and development are strongly interrelated and mutually reinforcing, that the advancement of the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
At international level, the body of international instruments, including those concerning international trade and finance, climate change and protection of the environment and the right to development, establishes internationally agreed standards which support sustainable development.
At national level, the rule of law is necessary to create an environment for providing sustainable livelihoods and eradicating poverty.
Poverty often stems from disempowerment, exclusion and discrimination.
The rule of law fosters development through strengthening the voices of individuals and communities, by providing access to justice, ensuring due process and establishing remedies for the violation of
Security of livelihoods, shelter, tenure and contracts can enable and empower the poor to defend themselves against violations of their rights.
The UN noted that legal empowerment goes beyond the provision of legal remedies and supports better economic opportunities.
The world body states that in order for the rule of law to further sustainable development outcomes, it must ensure protection for all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development.
While “rule by law” may provide a legal framework, contractual certainty and dispute resolution mechanisms that support economic growth and development, it is only the rule of law, consistent with international human rights, which can provide for development that is also inclusive and sustainable.
The UN General Assembly has highlighted, inter alia, the importance of access to justice for all, and in this regard encouraged the strengthening and improvement of the administration of justice, and emphasized that respect for the rule of law and property rights.
This, therefore, means that the rule of law hinges on the pursuit of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks which encourages business formation, including entrepreneurship, and contribute to poverty eradication.