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Allow protests against fire tenders, HH urges police

HAKAINDE Hichilema says the police should allow tomorrow’s planned protests against the purchase of 42 fire tenders at a cost of $42 million by Grandview International.

A consortium of civil society organisations and individuals such as musician Chama Fumba, aka Pilato, have formed Joint Action for Accountability in Zambia (JAAZ), through which they notified police of their intention to protest at Parliament tomorrow over the government’s purchase of 42 fire tender at $42 million, a figure which many critics, including PF cadre Max Chongu, say is way beyond the actual cost of the fire-fighting equipment.

But the police command in Lusaka has told the civil society groups and Pilato that they should not go ahead with their protests.

“The police should allow those that want to speak out and demonstrate against the looting and gross abuse of public resources through dubious tender deals to freely do so. It’s very unfortunate that the police have advised the organisers of this protest march, Joint Action for Accountability in Zambia (JAAZ), from going ahead with this demonstration. This is not only illegal but against all tenets of a democratic dispensation. The demonstration is representative of the interests and opinions of the majority of Zambians as they demand that the full public resource management processes, that led to the purchase of the 42 fire trucks be opened to public scrutiny,” Hichilema stated yesterday.

“JAAZ is demanding that the budgetary choice making and procurement process of the fire engines, represents the kind of imprudent use and mismanagement of public resources that must be brought to an end if the quality of life of ordinary Zambian citizens is to improve.
The freedom of expression is unmistakably enshrined in the Republican Constitution and therefore it’s legally not right for the police to stop the general citizenry from freely expressing their views when they see the government abusing public resources. It’s for this reason that the UPND fully supports and rallies behind the organisers of the peaceful demonstration to be staged at parliament buildings tomorrow, in protest over the $42 million dollars that was spent to purchase 42 fire-fighting engines.”

Hichilema stated that he was dismayed that the PF and President Edgar Lunga were continuing to use the police to stifle constitutional freedoms and rights in the country.

“It’s unacceptable that a fundamental right to freely express oneself is being denied by those that are supposed to uphold and respect the Constitution. These are the same tactics and methods the PF has been using in its attempt to silence the opposition and the UPND in particular. Every time we notify the police of a peaceful protest we are given a flimsy excuse as not to go ahead. When the PF want to protest, they do it nonchalantly, when and wherever they please. We demand that the PF and the police stop the selective misapplication of the Public Order act with immediate effect,” Hichilema stated. “We absolutely agree with the contentions brought forth by the organisers of this protest, that the procurement process for the purchase of these fire engines smacks of corruption and was not done in the best interest of the general Zambian populace. What is even more shocking is that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Zambia Public and procurement Authority (ZPPA) both sanctioned the purchase of these fire engines at very exorbitant prices and yet what was delivered was not worthy of the value for the money used. Purchasing 42 fire engines at a million dollar each does not befit a country that is grappling with acute poverty levels, ever-increasing unemployment, inadequate health services, an ailing agricultural sector and general lack of development countrywide. The UPND will not stop until we get a satisfactory and intrinsic investigation over this fraudulent procurement of the fire engines. We will pull all stops to ensure that all those that were involved in this sham of a procurement process be brought to book and made accountable to the Zambian people. We will apply everything at our disposal, political and legal pressure, to get to the bottom of this issue.”

Hichilema stated that it was cardinal that the general citizenry, civil society and the rest of our society took keen interest in the welfare and governance process of this country.

“It’s important that we sound our demands in unison and speak with one strong voice. The purchase of these fire engines at $1 million each shows how corrupt the PF government is and how they don’t adhere to prudent management of public resources. It also shows that there is a serious disconnect between those at the helm of governance and the masses. We would also want to add our voices to the accusations labeled on Home affairs Minister, Steven Kampyongo, that he received a bribe of three vehicles from Grandview, the company that won the tender to supply the 42 fire fighting engines. We are surprised that Kampyongo hasn’t responded to this very serious accusation. Why is he suspiciously quiet? May the ACC take up this issue with uttermost urgency and investigate these allegations,” stated Hichilema. “We urge all Zambians that detest corruption and abuse of public resources to come out in the open and speak out against this daylight robbery of our public resources. We strongly implore the police and the PF government to allow this protest so that those aggrieved with the wastage of $42 million dollars on purchasing average fire fighting engines stand up and express their displeasure in a legal and peaceful manner.”

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