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Police abusing law? – Public Order Act must be repealed


SUMMONING of opposition leaders who addressed a press briefing yesterday is a clear example of abuse of the Public Order Act, which should quickly be amended, Zambia’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia Emmanuel Mwamba has said.

Mr Mwamba said the decision to summon opposition leaders who held a press briefing yesterday brings into sharp focus the debate that must push for changes regarding the Public Order Act.

He said “clearly, it is time to repeal this obnoxious and archaic colonial law that government after government have used and abused for their own preservation.”

Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo announced that he has received a call-out to report to the Police Service headquarters for investigations.

Mr Tembo said this is in relation to a press conference yesterday held at Southern Sun Hotel by seven opposition leaders, to raise serious concerns over public and governance issues.

The leaders included Harry Kalaba of the Democratic Party, New Heritage Party leader, Chishala Kateka, People’s Alliance for Change (APC) Andyford Banda, National Democratic Congress leader, Saboi Imboela, Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Kasonde Mwenda and United for Better Zambia leader, Hector Soondo.

“The Public Order Act has been challenged regularly and culminated in the Christine Mulundika case in 1996. In the Mulundika case, the appellant challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Public Order Act Cap 104, especially section 5(4). 

The challenge followed on the fundamental freedoms and rights guaranteed by Article 20 and 21 of the Republican Constitution. In its judgement, the Supreme Court quashed the said provisions and held that sub-section 4 of section 5 the Public Order Act, CAP 104, contravened Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution.

“For this reason the said provisions were declared null and void, and invalid for their unconstitutionality. But the Government quickly drafted a fresh law circumventing the judgment and literally reinstated the quashed provisions,” he said.

Mr Mwamba said however, the provisions that removed the need to obtain a permit were revised to petitioners informing the Police about a procession through a seven days’ notice.

He said there is still great misunderstanding on the application of the law as the Police always assume that the notice lodged amounts to an application for a permit. 

The Police, he said, have regularly denied parties and citizens to hold public processions, meetings, demonstration, rallies or public events citing a long list of irrational excuses including the lack of man-power or public insecurity or the presence of the President or Vice President in an area.

Mr Mwamba said the Public Order Act infringes on various constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms such as the rights to assemble, expression, and movement.

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