NGOCC says the charges against the fire tender protesters must be dropped immediately because their arrest was unwarranted and unconstitutional.

In a statement today, NGOCC board chairperson Serah Longwe stated that Alliance for Community Action executive director Laura Miti and others had a right to protest the purchase of 42 fire tenders for $42 million which pointed to corruption.

“The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) condemns in the strongest terms the arrest of the six members of the Joint Action for Accountability in Zambia that were arraigned on Friday September 29th, 2017 for peacefully protesting against corruption and Government’s purchase of 42 fire truck tenders at US$42 million. We henceforth demand that the charges against the six protesters be immediately dropped. The arrest is not only unwarranted but totally unconstitutional given that citizens have the right to protest and question the decisions of those that are in Government. Without doubt the transaction involving the 42 Fire Tenders points to corruption and must be investigated,” Longwe stated.

Longwe joined those calling for the Head of State to constitute an independent Commission of Inquiry on the matter.

“NGOCC in collaboration with other Civil Society Organisations are petitioning the Head of State to immediately constitute an Independent Commission of Inquiry. NGOCC and other organizations are of the view that constituting an Independent Commission of Inquiry will help to settle this matter since it was already dealt with by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), who cleared the tender process. It is important, therefore, that an Independent Commission of Inquiry is constituted to, among others things, provide the following: 1. An independent and expert opinion over the transparency and integrity of the tender processes, 2. Comparative cost findings of the 42 Fire Tenders at $42 million, taking into account the specifications, 3. Where wrong-doing is found, recommend prosecutions of those found wanting, 4. Any other recommendations that may arise therefrom,” she stated.

“It is NGOCC’s contention that any reckless expenditure of public resources and more so reports of corruption, precludes meaningful women’s and girls’ empowerment programs. It is also a fact that resources sipping through Government treasury into private corrupt hands are robbing the nation of the needed resources to invest in empowering social services like sexual reproductive health, curbing of gender based violence. Other critical empowerment interventions like building of educational boarding hostels for girls, broadening access to agricultural inputs for female farmers all lay in jeopardy when corruption is left to reign. Therefore, on behalf of the women’s movement, we join other progressive voices in demanding for action against this particular transaction by the named suppliers and all other entities involved.”

She stated that it was irresponsible to intimidate citizens with arrests.

“The Zambian people are demanding answers on this transaction and it is insensitive and irresponsible for the State to seek to intimidate citizens by arrests. The intimidation will not wash away the anger of the citizens on this indiscriminate expenditure at a critical moment when the country is expected to be implementing a stringent economic recovery plan and exercising highest levels of financial prudence. We, therefore, reiterate our call for the law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and allow the citizenry to exercise their right to holding Government to account. As the focal point of the women’s movement we expect Government to rise to the occasion and show leadership on this matter,” stated Longwe.

Others who have called for an independent inquiry are Young African Leaders Initiative and NAREP leader Elias Chipimo.