Father Frank Bwalya has written an open letter to the First Lady Mrs Thandiwe Banda. The letter raises some important questions. It would be nice if the President was able to respond to the issues raised. Father Frank Bwalya is after all his superior, by virtue of the fact that the President is there to serve us - citizens. (HT : Gershom Ndhlovu).
The First Lady
Republic of Zambia
Dear Madam First Lady,
RE: OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT RUPIAH BWEZANI BANDA
On Saturday 12th March 2010 I was arrested and detained at Kanfinsa state prison until Monday 15th March 2010 when I was released on bail. I will appear in the Kitwe magistrates court for commencement of trial on Wednesday 31st March 2010. As Christians throughout the world reflect on the agony of our Lord Jesus Christ during this holy week and the trial he underwent at the hands of a bunch of hypocrites they will prayer for me and those who suffer for proclaiming the truth.
While in detention I interacted with over 70 percent of the 1,600 inmates at Kanfinsa and a good number of other people that I can’t mention. During these interactions critical issues came to my attention and I wish to make them known to your husband, our president Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda. However, I have decided to do so through you Madam First Lady because I
think that Mr Banda may listen to you. So far it seems that he has been listening to wrong people who smile as they watch him getting into a ditch. This explains why the Red Card Campaign is succeeding. If it were possible for the Zambian people to reclaim the power delegated to members of parliament your husband would have been impeached long ago.
The following are the issues I wish you let your husband know about;
1. PRISONERS AT KANFINSA STILL MOURNING LEVY
Please, let your husband know that many prisoners at Kanfinsa state prison are still mourning late president Dr Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC, may his soul rest in peace, who they describe as a good man. They told me that Dr Mwanawasa SC regularly pardoned prisoners that had served the greater part of their long prison sentences. They convinced me that many inmates that had spent many years in prison had reformed and needed to be pardoned after remaining with a few years to finish their terms. Unfortunately, since your husband came to power after hoodwinking Zambians that he would maintain the legacy of Levy, he has not shown the same love and compassion towards prisoners that deserve pardon throughout the country. Instead your husband has been pardoning those with shorter sentences who return to jail for similar offences shortly after being released.
2. MR BANDA DEFENDS THE RICH AND UNREPENTANT CRIMINALS
Your husband is labelled as a defender of the rich that have money to buy their innocence and freedom. He is also disparaged as a committed advocate and protector of one unrepentant serial plunderer of public funds. Many prisoners wondered how some of their colleagues found themselves in jail for stealing a tin of shoe polish or toothpaste while somebody who had stolen millions of US dollars continued to enjoy eating cake at state banquets. They wondered how a certain white man who brutally murdered a defenceless Zambian woman in 2005 was pardoned and released this year after serving only about six years in prison. This prompted me to start asking some prisoners about the offences they committed and how long they had stayed in prison. I cried as I listened to their testimonies and I convinced myself about the significance of the Red Card. Indeed the Red Card that your husbands fears like death is a sum total of the frustrations of millions of Zambians.
Dear Madam First Lady, please understand that the point is not that prisoners that committed grave crimes should be pardoned and released. Not at all! The issue is that there seems to be a different law for the rich and powerful who enjoy the favour of your husband and his government. Convicts that committed similar offences to the said white man continue to languish in jail having served far more years. In fact some prisoners that committed less serious crimes have stayed in prison beyond six years. So you can understand why the Red Card Campaign has found fertile ground.
3. GENERAL CONDITIONS AT KANFINSA PRISON
Madam First Lady, I am sure that prison authorities through out the country write reports about difficulties they encounter in their work. I am sure that relevant authorities are aware about congestion in our prisons and the need to implement programmes to decongest prisons and above all address the root cause of petty crimes that land our people in prison. Please plead with Mr Banda to do something about this. Also plead with him to ensure that prisoners have the basic necessities they are entitled to such as clean water, food, proper health care and beddings. As a mother of the nation I urge you in the name of Jesus our Lord to convince your husband to pardon terminally ill inmates especially those with little hope of surviving. I visited at least two of such ailing inmates.
I also urge you to speak for those taking ARVs so that they can have required food supplements.
4. NEED TO SAVE MONEY FROM TRAVELS ABROAD
Madam First Lady, please be informed that when prisoners are released they are not given transport money to go back to their homes. Some of them get stranded and start begging for transport money. Kindly ask your husband to cut down on trips abroad and allow relevant authorities allocate some of the savings to prisons as transport money for prisoners when they are released.
5. NEGLECTING THE POLICE
My heart bleeds and tears collect in my eyes as I write about the cruelty of your husband’s government regarding the in human conditions that our police officers are subjected to. Be informed that as the police made arrangements to take me to Kanfinsa prison, I was driven to Wusakile police station to be locked up in the cells. Before getting into the cells I requested to go to the toilet but I was advised to use the toilet in the cells because it was in a much better condition. To prove the validity of the advice I insisted until another officer convinced me. This is just one simple example to show that our police officers are neglected and subjected to conditions that are inhuman. But your husband presides over a blotted, selfish and greedy government. Your husband and his friends are enjoying life and getting all the good things of life while poor people including police officers and their families wallow in poverty that can be avoided. This explains why these people do not vote for the party your husbands claims to belong to. As a matter of fact many of them have collected red cards from me and when I joke that Mangani will arrest them, they just laugh sarcastically. Please Madam First Lady, intercede for these people as well. Selfish people in government will never speak for them.
It is my sincere hope that Mr Banda will not start witch hunting to establish who interacted with me and make them face state-managed reprisals but that he will concentrate on the issues raised and respond accordingly as a mark of true leadership.
I am hopeful that you will intercede effectively for prisoners throughout the country.
God bless you and your family.
Fr Frank Bwalya – Prisoner for Justice