Editorial

Observe the rule of law

IT is inconceivable that given the gravity of the current health crisis some Zambians are prepared to defy prevailing laws and statutes in pursuit of mindless pleasure.
We indeed sympathise with, but wish to caution, the modality that Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo has taken in bringing to book miscreants who have wilfully chosen to abrogate the law.
The rule of law is the restriction against the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws.
It means that those seeking to enforce the law must follow the law. They cannot be above the law, otherwise they descend to the same level as those abrogating it.
It is true that liquor traders in collusion with frivolous fun-lovers have devised devious schemes to sell beer behind locked doors in bars and shebeens dotted around townships and other places. At the same time in spite of the very ample evidence of the benefits of wearing face masks some citizens have belittled this counsel choosing to endanger themselves and those they come into contact with.
Many infected people are asymptomatic meaning that they do not exhibit any signs of the corona virus, meaning that they can appear health and mingle with others in drinking places and other congregations where they spread the disease.
Even in the in the face of 61 cases of COVID-19 with three deaths Lodge and night club owners have also joined the melee to make a quick buck out of uncaring alcoholics and their cohorts.
Clearly, this is an indication that some people have underestimated the devastating effects of the COVID-19, which has brought some Western countries to their knees.
While the infection rate in Zambia is relatively low thus far, some greedy and unpatriotic citizens have gone astray either ignorantly or deliberately.
Some dedicated revellers and their host bar owners are using phones to call each other when the ‘cost is clear’ to sneak into the bars, whose doors are later shut as though there is no activity inside.
In some cases, inebriated patrons are spotted wobbling out of quiet and seemingly shut pubs one by one as a way of evading police officers on patrol.
It is worrying that compliance levels are very low when citizens could have adjusted even before the first two cases were reported. According to the World Health Organisation there were 1,056,159 confirmed cases novel coronavirus with 57,206 deaths in 208 countries as at April 3, this year.
This is a virus which was detected in Wuhan and first reported to the World Health Organisation Country Office in China on 31 December, last year yet some citizens have elected to remain causal about it.
The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and by now Zambians should have been extra cautious instead of devising secret drinking schemes.
It is no wonder that authorities in some countries resorted to whipping defiant citizens.
Videos abound on social media of police whipping citizens in South Africa, Kenya and many countries and little wonder our own Bowman Lusambo has adopted similar hard line tactics.
Indeed these miscreant deserve harsh treatment but this should be within the law and in proportional measure.
It is not fair to whip people who congregate to pray through the misguided counsel of greedy pastors and another to let go of people who deliberately organise merry making.
It is our considered view and common wisdom that two wrongs do not make a right. Abrogating the law in any form cannot be condoned in a country that believes in the sanctity of the rule of law and constitutionality.
Zambians must remain brother’s and sister’s keepers in order to effectively fight the COVID-19.
On the other hand, police, councils and health officials must upscale surveillance and patrols in all townships and arrest anyone abrogating the Public Health Act and the Statutory Instruments 21 and 22 designed to prevent the spread of infections.
In this regard there are no negotiations.

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