Zambia outlaws anti load shedding protests

Loadshedding-impacting-on-small-businesses.jpg

Loadshedding impacting on small businesses

from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia Bureau
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – ZAMBIAN police have thwarted a protest by citizens against severe load shedding afflicting the Southern African country.

This crackdown by the law enforcers has been denounced as highlighting the erosion of democracy under President Hakainde Hichilema and his United Party for National Development (UPND) since assuming power in
2021.

Zambia is experiencing its worst energy crisis in years, worsened by ongoing drought, which has seen the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) implementing power cuts running to up to 12 hours daily.

Some citizens, mostly youth, had planned to demonstrate at the ZESCO’s headquarters in the capital, Lusaka, on Wednesday, but police prevented the protest.

Four individuals, aged between 25 and 35, were arrested, in what experts said could infuriate other concerned residents and lead to increased security.

A group named Protest Movement planned the protests under the hashtag, “Fix Zesco.”

Danny Mwale, the Zambia Police Service (ZPS) Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, confirmed the arrest of the individuals, whose identities he revealed.

“They are detained in custody for the offence of Idle and Disorderly conduct,” Mwale said.

Police had not responded to a request by the youth-led Protest Movement to demonstrate against load shedding but the group insisted the protests would go ahead.

It was expected that 500 people would engage in the protests against load shedding.

Nawa Sitali (25), organiser of the movement, was among those arrested in Lusaka on Wednesday.

The pro-women Sistah Sistah Foundation decried the alleged violations of its member, Rizicky Fatacky (35), a Muslim. Police allegedly removed her headscarf.

“The environment in which Zambian activists operate is increasingly unsafe, unconstitutional and continues to shrink daily,” the foundation lamented.

Critics accuse ZPS of allegiance to the ruling party, hence a series of arrests of opposition officials, mainly its major rival, the Patriotic Front (PF), which it defeated in 2021.

Rallies are suspended in Zambia but Hichilema has been addressing gatherings since assuming office.

A lawyer, Celestine Mukandila, said the arrest of the protestors against load shedding was a violation of the Zambian constitution, which guarantees the right to protest.

“It has become apparent that Zambia’s democracy has shrunk and the rule of law has broken. We must endeavour to protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic and our democracy,” Mukandila said.

A security think-tank warned that despite the police crackdown, further protests were possible, resulting in localized business and travel disruptions.

“Clashes between protesters and security forces are possible should the former refuse to comply with police orders to disperse,” it stated.

The copper-rich country of 21 million people, Zambia is among a number of countries in the region experiencing an energy crunch.

The worst drought in years, and resultant reduced water levels at major dams, have resulted in insufficient generation of hydroelectricity.

Zambia is alongside southern neighbour Zimbabwe impacted by the drought as a result of lowering water levels in the Kariba dam, the world’s largest man-made reservoir.

– CAJ News

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