A CONSORTIUM of civil society organisations say they are concerned with President Hakainde Hichilema’s silence on the leaked audio which implicates his Political Advisor Levy Ngoma and Ministry of Home Affairs Administration Permanent Secretary Josephs Akafumba.

And the CSOs say rather than issuing an alarming statement on media freedom, Chief Government Spokesperson Chushi Kasanda should have been more concerned about the leaked audio which borders on undermining state institutions.

This was contained in a joint statement issued by Chapter One Foundation Executive Director Linda Kasonde on behalf of ActionAid Zambia, Alliance For Community Action Zambia, Transparency International Zambia, GEARS Initiative Zambia, Zambia Council For Social Development (ZCSD), Peoples’ Action for Accountability and Good Governance in Zambia and Bloggers of Zambia.

Kasonde stated that the contents of the audio bordered on undermining State institutions and the rule of law.

“We are particularly, concerned with the silence of the President Hakainde Hichilema regarding the leaked audio that implicates his Political Advisor, Levy Ngoma and Ministry of Home Affairs Administration Permanent Secretary, Josephs Akafumba. We have noted with great concern the recent governance breaches by some key figures in the UPND Administration that have the potential to undermine the country’s human rights record and the rule of law in Zambia. In his inaugural Speech, President Hichilema committed His Government to the promotion of National Unity, Good Governance, and Adherence to the Rule of Law. It is therefore saddening to note the contents of the audio which bordered on undermining State Institutions and the rule of law,” Kasonde stated.

“We therefore call upon the President to publicly address the allegations and necessarily, disassociate himself and the UPND government from the contents of the audio. Not only should good governance and Adherence to the Rule of Law be spoken of, it should also be seen to be implemented at all levels.”

And the CSOs said Kasanda’s statement on the leaked audio was alarming.

“We further note the alarming statements made by the Minister of Information and Media and Chief Government Spokesperson Chushi Kasanda on professionalism in the media. Most particularly when the Minister stated that “media freedom is not absolute as it comes with responsibility of the media verifying information before publishing it, providing balance, objectivity and accuracy. We wish to remind the Honourable Minister that Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia provides that: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a law shall not make any provision that derogates from freedom of the press.” The media remains an effective means of promoting accountability in Government, and Journalists play an essential role in upholding the rule of law,” Kasonde stated.

“In addition, media freedom is a necessary tool in any Democracy as it ensures that the democratic principle of publicity, also referred to as transparency, is satisfied. Publicity, in this context, refers to making information about the operations of government public and provides the opportunity for public debate and scrutiny of matters of public concern. It was our expectation that the Minister should have been more concerned with the revelations in the audio which has the potential to erode Good Governance and negate the country’s democratic credentials beyond just focusing on the dissemination the same.”

The CSOs said the recent arrests of media personnel was worrying.

“Furthermore, we note with great concern that the Minister chose to rely on the provisions of the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act, the very Act that the President, while in the opposition then, pledged to repeal as soon as he was ushered into office. Which to date has not been made mention of when the Act will be repealed. We therefore urge the President to immediately put in measures to reverse the worrying trend in the conduct of some of his senior leaders and investigating wings,” the statement read.

“Our expectation is for the President to be decisive and deliver on his promises to bring forth professionalism, integrity, and good governance in the running of the country. The recent arrests of media personnel such as KBN will be a worrying trend if allowed to be perpetuated. Our call is for the Government is to allow freedoms of expression and association prevail and relevant checks and balances advanced for the advancement of Zambia’s growing democracy.”

Meanwhile, CSOs said a public advertisement should have been made to fill a vacancy in a Public Institution such as ZESCO.

“Further, we the undersigned Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) note with concern the appointment of Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Honorable Collins Nzovu’s wife, Shezzipe Nzovu, as Head of Procurement at ZESCO without following institutional laid down procedures. It is evident that to fill a vacancy in a Public Institution such as ZESCO, a public advertisement should have been made so that the position is competed for. This is a major cause for concern as the President has repeatedly stated that he would usher in an era of Professionalism, Integrity, and Good Governance and yet we have so far witnessed the mentioned contrary development,” read the statement.

“The Head of State has, on several occasions, made commitment that under his rule, Zambians would be employed in public institutions based on merit. We urge the President to publicly condemn such blatant breaches and call officers involved to order.”