By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
The decision to summon to Police, Opposition leaders that held a press briefing at Southern Sun Hotel on Monday, brings into sharp focus the debate that must foster outstanding changes regarding the Public Order Act.
Patriots for Economic Progress( PEP), Mr. Sean Tembo has announced that he has received a call-out to report to the Police Service Headquarters on Tuesday 25th January 2022 for investigations.
He says this is in apparent relation to a press conference 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.(CHRISTINE MULUNDIKA AND 7 OTHERS v THE PEOPLE (1995) S.J.).
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.
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.
There is still great misunderstanding on the application of the law as the Police always assume that the Notice lodged in amounts to an application for a Permit.
The Police has regularly denied parties and citizens to hold public processions, 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.
Clearly, it is time to repeal this obnoxious and archaic colonial law that governments after government have used and abused for their own preservation. The Public Order Act infringes on various constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms such as the rights to assemble, expression, and movement.