The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) has said that the invocation of Article 31 is directly aimed at stifling the opposition and any dissenting voices rather than a measure to ensure or guarantee public safety.
In a statement to the media, CiSCA said that the PF has been threatening to do this for some time like other threats insured before; it has now come to pass and that the action to invoke Article 31 appears premeditated and is in bad faith.
Below is the full statement
CiSCA Press Statement on Invocation of Article 31 on State of Threatened Public Emergency in Zambia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LUSAKA, 11th JULY 2017
The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) calls on President Edgar Lungu to revoke the Statutory Instrument to proclaim a State of Threatened Public Emergency which will be tabled in Parliament today. CiSCA further calls on the Patriotic Front Members of Parliament to rise above partisan interest by ensuring that they do not approve and extend the proclamation beyond seven days.
CiSCA had earlier appealed to President Edgar Lungu not to proceed with invocation of Article 31 of the Republican Constitution to declare a State of Threatened Public Emergency. Sadly, this plea was not considered. The decision by the Head of State to invoke this particular Article of the Constitution is unjustified and premature. The President has the Constitutional power to revoke the Statutory Instrument, and we appeal to him to do just that.
As Parliament meets today to pass the Statutory Instrument on the State of Threatened Public Emergency, we would like to appeal to the Members of Parliament to critically debate the motion without fear or favour as not doing so will be an injustice to the people who elected them.
Before the invocation of Article 31, President Edgar Lungu is on record as having told the world that there was need to establish WHO and not WHAT was responsible for the city market fire. He also assured the nation that the long arm of the law would catch up with the perpetrators.
CiSCA expected President Lungu to allow the investigative wings to do a thorough investigation in order to conclusively establish the cause of the fires for three reasons:
i. Firstly, to avoid speculations on the motives and cause of the fire that would make the current political tension worse in the country.
ii. Secondly, because it is a standard procedure in an organized society.
iii. Thirdly, and even more importantly, to aid the President and cabinet in deciding the security and safety measures to institute to put a stop to the fires and improving the general security of public installations and citizens.
In a strange and unfortunate turn of events, various government officials, ministers and ruling party officials are already pointed pointing accusing fingers at the opposition as having been responsible for the fires even before professional investigations have been concluded. We are left to wonder whether the investigative wings would to bold enough to give a report different from what has been already pronounced in public by government officials if they found that the cause of the fire at city market was not what these officials have said. We would like to challenge government and the PF to furnish the nation with information and evidence of who is behind these acts and for law enforcement agencies to act as earlier pronounced by President Lungu.
CiSCA is concerned that given these pronouncements, the invocation of Article 31 is directly aimed at stifling the opposition and any dissenting voices rather than a measure to ensure or guarantee public safety. The PF has been threatening to do this for some time like other threats insured before; it has now come to pass. This action to invoke Article 31 appears premeditated and is in bad faith.
We find it strange that the President can take such a drastic decision that has implications on people’s rights based on rumour mongering and half-truths This pronouncement has far reaching consequences on our country and has no place in a democratic dispensation like ours.
CiSCA would like to caution that while the State is by national and international law empowered to derogate or suspend certain civil liberties and freedoms in pursuit to the preservation of public security as provided for in Article 25 of the Zambian constitution and article 4 of the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, the State must remember that there are certain rights that cannot be derogated from or suspended even in a fully-fledged state of public emergency. Some of these non-derogable rights as provided by the Zambian constitution include: Right to life (article 12); Protection from slavery and forced labour (article 14); Protection from inhumane treatment (article 15).
Therefore, given the complexity and intricacies, interdependence and interrelatedness of human rights, coupled with weak institutional capacity of the Zambia Police Service and other state agencies in protecting human rights, it is difficult to see how measures provided for in the preservation of public security Act would be enforced without infringing on the non-derogable rights of citizens as provided by the constitution.
We therefore appeal to our Members of Parliament to rise above partisan interests and debate the issue of invocation of Article 31 bearing in mind not just the political consequences of this invocation, but the social and economic consequences of this action. Our Members of Parliament must act with integrity and must be bold enough to stop the creation of tyrannical rule in our country that has hitherto been lauded for its maturing democracy. We caution the PF MPs that in the absence of the 48 suspended UPND MPs, they have no legitimacy to pass the law or even debate the Statutory Instrument although they have the legal powers to do so.
CiSCA and other well-meaning citizens stand ready to engage government to ensure that the country’s democratic credentials are upheld. It is in our interest, as a people, to ensure that Zambia remains a democratic State devoid of any tyrannical and dictatorial symptoms.
Let dignity, peace and justice prevail in our land. May God bless Zambia
Bishop John H. Mambo