Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks the seven-day ultimatum the 12 CSOs gave government to address the issue of removed subsidies on Fuel and maize which it made without any consultations whatsoever with all stakeholders. Further, 12 CSOs are also concerned with the PF government’s failure to respect fundamental political and civil rights of its citizens as exhibited by the manner it is running the affairs of the country. We went further to declare each Friday as a Black Friday to symbolize our dissatisfaction in the manner things are being administered by the PF Government and is a peaceful expression to the government to take vital steps to addressing issues affecting ordinary citizens.
First, we would like to welcome the pronouncements by President Sata last Friday that he has opened up doors to State House for ordinary citizens to dialogue with him. We note with great displeasure, however, that despite having made that pronouncement, President Sata allowed the police to pounce on students from the University of Zambia who intended to march to State House and seek audience with him as well as petition him to address what has become to be government’s arbitrariness in removing subsidies that have raised the cost of living for an ordinary citizen in the country.
We wish to totally condemn the move by the Police to teargas innocent students who peacefully conducted their demonstrations and we call upon the Inspector General of Police madam Stella Libongani to ensure that the Police professionally discharge their duties than provoke citizens who exercise their rights peacefully. In as much as we would like to appreciate the Police’s quick response to save MMD Die Hard Youth Leader Bowman Lusambo from being harmed by the PF cadres, the fact that Police failed to arrest the culprits is greatly worrying. PF must be reminded in the strongest possible terms that the habits it has adopted from the fallen MMD regime are causing them to lose popularity at a faster pace than the MMD did. We totally condemn the action of the PF cadres and we challenge Mr. Sata and his Secretary General, Wynter Kabimba, to come out clear if his party is ready to have a showdown with any citizen who exercises his or her rights. The PF cadres and leadership in Lusaka have continued to hurl threats on groups opposed to government’s way of doing things but police have not summoned anyone and yet the same police command were in haste to arrest former UPND National Youth Chairperson Joe Kalusa when he allegedly threatened to organise his former party cadres to gang rape FDD president Edith Nawakwi.
Dear Colleagues, the same haste the police moved to arrest those who threatened others in the past should be the same speed they should use to arrest the current culprits. We also wish to urge those that are threatened to report such characters to the police. We detest selective justice as a result of selective application of the law. If Mrs. Libongani is failing to act in a motherly and professional manner, we call on her to reconsider her suitability of occupying such a position as the conduct of her men and women in uniform is disgraceful, irritating and disgusting to say the least.
President Sata and his 70 ministers who receive 800 liters free fuel and enjoy free mealie meal have maintained that government is not ready to rescind its decision on the subsides and have gone ahead to mock citizens to sacrifice by bearing the high prices of commodities while President Sata, his about 70 ministers, about 107 District Commissioners, 10 police commissioners and the police top Command are continuing to enjoy free or subsidized living. This is hypocritical of President Sata and his cabinet and we call upon them to sacrifice by leading by an example in foregoing the free fuel that is being provided to them so that they would in turn enjoy the long term benefits together with all citizens. We feel the removed fuel subsidy of 12% could have been removed incrementally especially that both President Sata and his Minister of Finance had not indicated during their separate addresses to Parliament that government would remove subsidies in the year 2013.
It is our considered view as a Consortium that President Sata and his cabinet have merely removed fuel and maize subsidies so as to meet expenses of running the bloated cabinet and senior public service who all draw free services and enjoy subsided living supplemented by the 100% salary increase for the President, his cabinet and Civil Servants which have all created financial pressure on government. In light of what has become of a huge expenditure of running government, we have no doubt that the move by President Sata and his government to remove subsidies on essential commodities is a method of asking the poor to pay for the huge cost of government expenditure and budget overrun, against earlier pronouncements by the President that his administration would reduce the cost of running government and would implement pro-poor policies. It is increasingly becoming difficult to believe what President Sata and his ministers are explaining on where they intend to take the money that will be realized on fuel subsides as the PF have not stayed true to their word on the size of cabinet, fight against corruption, respecting peoples freedoms, creating greater tolerance for divergent views, and so many promises on which the Party was elected into government.
We further wish to challenge the Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda and his Home Affairs counterpart, Edgar Lungu, to clarify reports that government has begun a system of purchasing and providing electricity vouchers to police officers at a time when government has done away with subsides on major commodities and the majority poor have to pay for their own electricity.
Further the PF has not indicated to the country that they have revised their party Manifesto which is pro- continuation of subsidies on agriculture and other commodities as contained on page 14. We therefore reiterate our earlier position that government must rescind its decision to remove subsidies and better still engage with other well meaning stakeholders who have offered some expertise in management of this economy. Though the sending of 70 ministers to explain the removal of subsidies on fuel and agricultural products would have been done before the action itself, this exercise alone will gobble millions of kwachas in fuel and allowances for those going in the field and we also wonder whether all those ministers understand the issue of subsidies. We wonder how President Sata and his cabinet would find it sustainable to maintain a cabinet who, in the words of Honorable Munkombwe, are in government to “eat” but find it unsustainable to help the poor with their daily struggles to make a living with the provision of subsides to cushion the impact of our country’s economic harsh conditions.
Democracy demands on an open dialogue without fear and favour. Therefore, President Sata should engage in open and mature dialogue with his fellow leaders and other stakeholders. We appeal to President Sata’s conscience to lead this nation by example and cut down the excesses of his government through a reduced cabinet and high salaries for ministers and other constitutional officeholders rather than staying adamant on the issue of the removal of subsides. We should haste to remind President Sata and his administration of their promises when in opposition that that they would promote human rights for every citizen. What is happening is extremely opposite of the promised. The government has continued to tramp on the rights of fellow citizens and those who supports the opposition are increasingly finding it difficult to move and exercise their constitutional and unalienable human rights of assembly, expression and speech.
We are also concerned that institutions of governance aimed at protecting citizens are being weakened on a daily basis. This brings to mind the issue of the DPP who is now being challenged by a parliamentarian in the name of Hon. Lucky Mulusa of Solwezi Central over his alleged lies to the parliamentary committee during the scruntisation of his appointment as DPP. As the case is table before the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) today, we would like to challenge the Association to moderate the issue with impartiality and be the hope for the Zambian people on matters of legal interpretation. We further wish to rest assure Hon. Mulusa that he is not alone in this battle but we are comrades and shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Black Friday Campaign, is on as you can see here and our snap survey in town shows the same trend. This peaceful expression is a clear reminder to the PF that our citizens are concerned with the black governance cloud that has befallen this country. The PF promise of freedom to its citizens has colluded with police to turn arms against the very citizens they want to liberate from the MMD and this is a total shame. In this regard, we would like to announce that the Consortium has filed a notice to the police of our planned peaceful demonstration next Friday, 31st May and we expect the police to come and march with us to a rally where we CSOs will deliver their messages of solidarity to the ordinary Zambians hard hit by the removal of subsidies and who continue to be asked to sacrifice while their leaders are busy unsacrificing instead increasing their salaries by 100%. We have also received a request from bus drivers who, on Friday, want to down tools from 05hours to 10hours in protest for the increase in fuel pump prices. As a Consortium, we would like to encourage bus drivers to come on board on every Friday if this is the only way government will listen to the genuine complaints of the ordinary people.
As we end our statement, we would like to call on all African leaders to use the 50th anniversary of the African Union as an opportunity to improve good governance and respect the rights and freedoms of their citizens in their respective countries. Democracy in Africa is only possible if our leaders appreciated dialogue and respect the view of other stakeholders.
We thank you.