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Zambians treated as second class citizens, notes CSOs

ZAMBIANS must be allowed to constitutionally express their discontent against acts of oppression and against a government that chooses to shield the perpetrators of discrimination and human indignity against our people, say several civil society organisations.

The organisations, ActionAid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Caritas Zambia, Chapter One Foundation, CiSCA, Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Transparency International Zambia and the Zambia Council for Social Development, said they find it unacceptable that ministers and power holders would demand apologies from Zambians who have exercised their right to express themselves on the state of governance and public resource management in their own country.

The CSOs said they stand in solidarity with all Zambians who are raising their voices on matters of public concern.

“We stand in defence of Zambians demanding their full rights and freedoms, as provided by the Zambian Constitution – including their inherent right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. We echo the cry that Zambians are not accessing the full benefit of the country’s natural resources with citizens, especially young people, forced to endure poverty that could and should be alleviated with a prudent management of the country’s wealth,” Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde said on behalf of the CSOs.

Kasonde said the CSOs agree with sentiments that foreign investments into the extractive sector largely benefit political elites, leaving ordinary Zambians without a living wage or decent working conditions.

“We agree that Zambians are treated as second class citizens in their own country both by the ruling elites and by some foreigners working in Zambia. We further find it unacceptable that ministers and power holders would demand apologies from Zambians who have exercised their right to express themselves on this state of governance and public resource management, in their own country,” she said.

Kasonde said Zambians must be allowed to constitutionally express their discontent against acts of oppression and against a government that chooses to shield the perpetrators of discrimination and human indignity.

“In particular, we condemn statements by Lusaka Province Minister, Mr Bowman Lusambo, who has threatened those who seek to stand up for our country. We condemn the silence of the Republican President, who watches whilst the dignity of our citizens is trampled upon without redress,” she said. “We are however encouraged that out of the attempt by powerholders to intimidate citizens, has emerged signs of hope for our future as our youth find their voices and refuse to be silenced and intimidated for raising concerns about the governance of this country.”

Kasonde applauded the youth and urged them to continue using their voices and their power constitutionally in the interest of Zambia.

On Thursday, responding to Lusaka Province minister Lusambo’s 24-hour ultimatum to him, Gospel artiste Kings ‘Malembe’ Mumbi and photographer Chellah Tukuta for allegedly demeaning the presidency in their social media video postings, singer B-Flow – real name Brian Bwembya – said he would not be silenced for speaking on behalf of marginalized Zambians.

But addressing PF supporters in Chirundu on Saturday, President Edgar Lungu said what Lusambo said should not give reason to people to take to the streets.

“We have information that some people are ganging up under the name of civil society organisation to bring anarchy because they are saying the freedom of speech has been threatened by remarks attributed to Honourable Lusambo,” said President Lungu. “If this continues, we’ll tolerate it but if the law is broken, we’ll deal with you as lawbreakers.”

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