LAZ president Linda Kasonde says Zambians have become second class citizens in their own country because of threats from the State when they demand accountability.

And Kasonde who is also OASIS Forum chairperson has condemned the arrest and harassment of Laura Miti and others who have been protesting against the acquisition of 42 fire tenders at US$42 million.

Responding to a press query, Kasonde said in a democracy, it was the fundamental right of citizens to demand accountability for the use of public resources.

“In a democracy, it is the fundamental right of any citizen to demand accountability for the use of public resources. It is the right and responsibility of every citizen to question how public resources are spent. In doing so, the citizen must be able to rely on the right to freedom of expression as provided by the Bill of Rights in the Zambian Constitution. Indeed, it is equally the duty of all public servants to listen to the voice of the people. Greater accountability can only improve good governance, constitutionalism and social justice in Zambia,” Kasonde stated.

“We urge all public servants to allow space for citizens to ask legitimate questions of the people that govern the country without fear of victimisation in order to enhance transparency and democracy in the country for the benefit of all citizens. This is in line with the 1997 UNDP principles on good governance which advocate for participation of citizens in governance; the rule of law; transparency in processes, institutions and information flow; effectiveness and efficiency of the use of public resources and; accountability of government decision-makers to the public.”

And in another statement from OASIS Forum, Kasonde saluted the fire tender protesters.

“Several days ago, Laura Miti and several others were arrested for demonstrating outside the Zambian Parliament, demanding accountability for the US$42 million spent on forty-two fire trucks. To the Oasis Forum, Laura Miti embodies the spirit of patriotism envisioned by the Constitution in every respect. She reminds us that our national leaders are servants of the people and as such they are answerable to them. As Laura Miti often points out in her own work, how public resources are spent is much like how members of an ordinary household would budget their money. Rule number one of any budget is to spend within your means. Public resources belong not to the government but to each and every citizen who must pay school fees, visit the hospital, pay rent and pay for utilities,” stated Kasonde.

“Contrary to accusations that Laura Miti is unpatriotic and is being foreign sponsored, no foreigner needs to tell you that. As Charles B. Rangel once said: ‘Full participation in government and society has been a basic right of the country symbolising the full citizenship and equal protection of all’. Laura Miti is asking legitimate questions of the government: how did we end up spending US$42 million on forty-two fire engines? Ndani aziba (who knows)? She wants answers. We all do.”

She said it was unfair to treat people as second class citizens in their own country.

A brave act, some would say foolhardy in the face of a request from the police not to go ahead with the protest. “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity”. These words have been attributed to an American psychiatrist who medically examined Alice Paul, an obscure suffragette who was imprisoned in 1917 after demonstrating for women’s right to vote… In that sense, we the Zambian people are second class citizens in our own country. Laura Miti, a well-renowned, well respected and patriotic Zambian civil rights activist is trying to remind all Zambians of that fact. Demanding for the accountability of public resources is not only a right, it is a civic duty,” Kasonde stated.

“Article 8 of the Zambian Constitution outlines the national values and principles that underpin the fabric of Zambian society: Morality and ethics; Patriotism and national unity; Democracy and constitutionalism; Human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non-discrimination; Good governance and integrity; and Sustainable development.”

She quoted President Edgar Lungu in his address to Parliament in March 2017 on national values and principles.

“Patriotism and national unity should speak to the heart and soul of every Zambian in our quest to sustain our sovereignty and build a better country for ourselves and future generations. Patriotism invokes an emotional attachment to one’s country. This attachment is not only based on a sense of belonging and national pride, but also a readiness to sacrifice for the country. We need to build a culture, which puts Zambia first in all we do,” Kasonde quoted President Lungu as saying.