Communique Drawn at the CSOs Pre-Summit for Democracy Conference in Zambia
Lusaka, 10 March 2023: A CSO Pre-Summit for Democracy Conference was held in Lusaka on 9th and 10th March 2023. The conference is a precursor to the Second Summit for Democracy, which Zambia will co-host with Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the United States of America and the Republic of Korea from 29th to 30th March 2023.
The Conference was officially opened by the Minister of Justice, Hon. Mulambo Haimbe, S.C, who expressed the government’s commitment to expediting democratic reforms, in line with the commitments made at the first Summit for Democracy, held in December 2021, where Zambia made commitments relating to ensuring a free media, restoring the rule of law by protecting freedoms of assembly and association, and improving the independence and transparency of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). Through our civil society representatives, we presented to the Government three papers reviewing its 2021 Summit for Democracy commitments, as well as initial CSO recommendations for Government commitments at the 2023 Summit for Democracy.
Following our deliberations over the past two days, having reflected on the implementation or lack therefore of the 2021 commitments, informed by our ongoing work across the country, in our quest to continue to provide oversight in the implementation of democratic reforms in Zambia, we the organizing committee of the CSO Pre-Summit for Democracy Conference, urge the Government of Zambia to utilize the Second Summit for Democracy event to demonstrate and extend its commitment to better governance and a stronger democracy.
We urge the Government to make the following commitments, among others:
Citizen, Media, and Information Rights
Take practical steps to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for freedom of expression, independence of the media and access to information, freedom of peaceful assembly, creating an enabling environment in law and in practice that guarantees freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and impartiality of the IBA, anchored on the following:
- Enact an Access to Information law not later than June 2023.
- Repeal the Public Order Act and enact the Public Gatherings Bill.
- Repeal the ZNBC Act and IBA Acts and replace with one law that equates equality for all media.
- Amend provisions of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act Number 2 of 2021 which infringe on the practice of journalism such as section 54 of the Act which talks about publication of information.
- Amend the Penal Code and other laws in view of enhancing media freedoms and freedom of expression.
Elections and Electoral Process
Adopt a mixed member electoral system as a means of actualising the increased political participation of marginalised groups, namely women, youth and persons with disability and dismantle barriers to electoral participation.
- Reform the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Act to transform the Commission into a truly independent body by removing any presidential or ministerial authority over the Commission so that it reports directly to the National Assembly, has financial autonomy and neutrally appointed commissioners who do not swear allegiance to the President.
- Reform the Electoral Process Act to improve the integrity of elections by codifying the rights of observers; more narrowly defining the prohibition against announcing election results; providing for a graduated list of sanctions for Electoral Code of Conduct violations; mandating transparency in processes and decisions on Code violations and other ECZ actions; ensuring due process for any political parties facing disqualification; and reducing the ECZ’s discretion in the allocation of public media time.
- Provide a roadmap for the constitutional reform process urgently, including issues related to political inclusion, and revise the Constitution so that it expressly states how the democratic principle of inclusion for women, youth and persons with disabilities will be realized.
- Commit to repealing and replacing the National Youth Development Council Act with the Zambia Youth Act, a legislation that enhances youth participation in the Council and covers all youth related affairs, ensuring that youth led CSOs, and young people are consulted and kept informed on each step in the process.
- Address political and electoral violence, as well as online violence, to create a safe environment for men and women to participate in the electoral process.
Institutional Independence, Transparency & Effectiveness
Increase the independence of institutions, boards, commissions, and law enforcement agencies, such as the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the Judicial Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the IBA Board, among others, by revising the legal framework to eliminate direct ministerial and presidential appointment and removal and by providing financial autonomy of these.
- Enhance the independence and operational autonomy of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) by streamlining the appointment and removal processes of the ACC Director General and ensure financial and constitutional autonomy and strengthen the prosecution of corruption cases by ensuring efficiency and consistency in practice.
- Develop a private sector engagement strategy as well as business integrity framework to be regulated by business sector regulatory entities which will collaborate with anti-corruption entities through the integrity committees’ framework.
In conclusion, we, the undersigned, have every reason to believe that the Government will deliver these commitments to promote growth in the country’s democracy, the fight against corruption and nurture a transparent, inclusive, and accountable governance system in Zambia. We will use these recommendations as our blueprint for following up on the Government’s implementation of democratic reforms. We will do everything practically possible to hold the government accountable for these commitments.
We wish the Government and the People of Zambia the best in co-hosting the Second Summit for Democracy.
Vusumuzi Sifile, Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THESE ORGANISATIONS:
- Alliance for Community Action
- Bloggers of Zambia
- Centre for Young Leaders in Africa
- Chapter One Foundation
- Christian Churches Monitoring Group
- Centre for Trade Policy and Development
- Free Press Initiative
- Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative
- Law Association of Zambia
- Media Institute of Southern Africa
- Panos Institute Southern Africa
- Transparency international Zambia
- Zambia Federation of Disabilities Organization
- Zambia Cyber Security Initiative Foundation
- Zambia National Women’s Lobby