The Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) has handed over the review of the draft Amendment Bill Public Order Act, Chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia and the proposed draft Public Gatherings Bill to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security.
Zambia Law Development Commission Chairperson, Ruth Chibbabbuka, said the Proposed Public Gathering Bill that has been handed over seeks to repeal and replace the controversial Public Order Act which has been cited in the past for giving too much power to the police to suppress freedom.
Ms Chibbabbuka said the review was held in consultation with several stakeholders and is based on the submissions received during stakeholders and public engagements.
She said the commission noted that the Public Order Act is part of the colonial legacy that has a strong history of being used as a tool for suppressing the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression as granted in the constitution.
Ms Chibbabbuka said in a speech read on her behalf by ZLDC Vice Chairperson, Munukayungwa Munyima, that the commission has appreciated the desire to remove archaic provisions which were resonant of a colonial legacy from the Public Order Act and develop a law that reflects the social and political values of the Zambian society.
And Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jack Mwiimbu, said the government has demonstrated its resolve towards undertaking legal reforms that are aimed at enhancing the rule of law in the country.
Mr Mwiimbu said the review of the Public Order Act chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia and the proposed Public Gathering Act will facilitate the enjoyment of the fundamental freedom of assembly and association which the country is known for.
He said the Zambia Law Development Commission was tasked to lead the process to repeal and replace the Public Order Act with a law that facilitates the enjoyment of the right of freedom while maintaining law and order.
“You may recall ladies and gentlemen that in June 2022, I officially launched the review of the Public Order Act and I did acknowledge that our current Public Order Act of 1955 hinders rather than facilitating the enjoyment of the fundamental freedoms of Association Assembly and Association,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice, Mulambo Haimbe, said the proposed draft of the Public Gathering Bill fulfils the government’s promise of protecting democracy, human rights and constitutionalism.
Mr Haimbe said the drafting of the proposed Public Gathering Bill 2023 was anchored on inclusiveness with active participation of key stakeholders such as judiciary, professional bodies such the church, academia and the Law Association of Zambia through a national consultative meeting which was held on 29th and 30th August 2022.
He disclosed that the government, through the Ministry of Justice, has embarked on law reforms which are specifically aimed at amending some of the old laws that are not responsive to modern legal standards.
The minister said his ministry will work with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security to ensure that the Public Gathering Bill 2023 is approved by Cabinet for possible enactment by Parliament.