Zambia: Trial of activists for protesting government spending an affront to justice

The trial of six human rights defenders and activists - including well-known Zambian musician Pilato – simply for taking part in a peaceful protest against exorbitant government spending on fire trucks is politically-motivated and an affront to justice, said Amnesty International, as their hearing resumes in the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court today.

These activists are facing trial simply for demanding transparency and accountability in public spending
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa

The six were charged with disobeying a lawful order after marching on parliament on 29 September 2017 against what they said was the corrupt procurement of 42 fire trucks for US$42 million. The reported cost of the trucks sparked public outcry over alleged misuse of public funds.

“These activists are facing trial simply for demanding transparency and accountability in public spending. They have committed no crime and should never have been charged in the first place,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

Zambian authorities should respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country
Deprose Muchena

“The Zambian authorities must drop these politically motivated charges against them. The authorities should respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country.”

The six, musician Fumba Chama who is known as Pilato, Lewis Mwape, Laura Miti, Sean Enock Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi have pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them.

If convicted, the human rights defenders and activists, who were beaten by arresting police officers, face up to two years in prison.