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Sishuwa Appeals to HH For Civil Discourse Amidst Personal Attacks

Letter to the President

Greetings Mr President . I hope you are well.

I imagine you have read this malice, published by Koswe, a Facebook page run by State House individuals who are known to you. This malice is aimed at scandalising me over my criticism of some of your leadership actions. I request that you prevail on your officials to avoid taking this path of character assassination or personal attack. I have never turned personal in any of my public criticism of our leaders, both you and those who came before. I am always respectful and civil and I always stick to the issues that matter most.

You and your supporters have the right to criticise my opinions on any topic. What you don’t have is the right to maliciously scandalise me especially on rogue pages that are linked to State House.

Attacking my person does not address the content of the criticism, risks undermining your administration’s democratic credentials and puts me in harm’s way including by way of political violence, especially in a society where many have been encouraged to believe that criticism of the government is not only wrong but should also attract punishment.

No democracy is without critics and no government anywhere in the world believes itself to be perfect. If your officials believe l am mistaken on any issue, they should argue the merit of their case rather than attacking my person and my apparent motives. A more helpful response to my writings would be to pay attention to the content of my criticism and address the identified flaws, or to employ competent people who can respond or explain your or the government’s actions. Political speech and debate should be respected and protected as you yourself promised you would do once you ascended to leadership.

Successive ruling parties and their supporters fail to realise my simple approach to public commentaries: to hold to account elected public leaders in office, whoever these may be. Once they exit, my attention shifts to the failings of the new leaders. This often makes me appear like I am working with the opposition. As a result, successive sitting presidents tend to mistake me for an opposition supporter when all I do is to share my opinions on matters of governance.

When I pointed out critical failings of the state under president Rupiah Banda, I was accused of supporting the opposition PF led by Michael Sata. When I pointed out critical failings of the state under president Sata, I was accused of supporting the opposition UPND led by you. When I pointed out critical failings of the state under president Lungu, I was again accused of supporting the opposition UPND led by you. Today, whenever I point out critical failings of the state under your leadership Mr President, I am accused of supporting the opposition.

In all these instances, my supposed support for any of the presidential candidates are a matter of public record, making this characterisation entirely false. I regard my writings as an indispensable part of our democracy and l will continue playing my role the same way I have been doing in the past and present.

I would like to believe that I have been consistent in my criticism of the failings of our leaders, starting from Banda, to Sata and Lungu, and now you. And I am never personal in my criticism of our leaders. I focus on the issues that matter most and use respectful and civil language.

I am not there to change regimes. I only share my opinions on governance issues. I am a requited lover of Zambia, a defender of democracy, and a critic of all politicians and their political parties, in and outside government, when I think they are straying from the path of democracy and the promotion of the common or public good. That is all. You, our leaders and your supporters, will do well to engage the substance of what I say as opposed to attacking my person. As I said, a more fruitful relationship is to exploit my independent criticism and opinions while protecting my independence.

I implore you and your team, Mr President, to learn to appreciate the importance of feedback on government performance by citizens. Contributing to national affairs through public commentary and discourse is not a partisan affair; it is civic or patriotic duty.

The effectiveness of any government is amplified when it has the support and guidance of its academics, political economists, policy analysts, and other data-driven stakeholders. These professionals and academics play an important and critical role in steering discourse and promoting accountability towards enhancing government functions and delivery. They help bridge the gap between politicians and citizens by providing crucial feedback about the effectiveness of government actions, programs and policies. This kind of feedback is crucial.

I conclude by repeating that contributing to meaningful discourse is not partisan, but essential in promoting accountability and transparency towards enhancing government peformance. I hope my communication to you will align your actions to protecting this critical role of citizen speech as you promised during your campaigns.

Best wishes