Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Linda Kasonde says neither the President nor the National Assembly have powers to extend the Threatened State of Emergency beyond the already approved three months.
And Kasonde says LAZ will consider taking action if any set regulations under the Threatened State of Emergency are not in conformity with the Constitution.
At a press briefing today, Kasonde said the executive should have been slow in invoking Article 31 until a conclusive public statement regarding the outcome of police investigations on the unfortunate events leading to the invocation was issued.
“In this case, the declaration continues to have effect having been approved by the National Assembly (subject of course to the result of the Court action that we have referred to above). Following such approval, Article 31 (5) provides that the resolution of the National Assembly will continue in force until the expiration of a period of three months commencing with the date of its being approved or until revoked on an earlier date,” Kasonde said.
“Parliament cannot extend the Threatened State of Emergency based on the same set of circumstances cited. Parliament only has powers to extend under an actual State of Emergency under Article 30. We note anxieties regarding how long the declaration of threatened emergency can last. This in our view cannot extend beyond three months as there is no power of extension under Article 31 as distinct from powers to extend that are available under Article 30.”
She said that the question as to whether or not the circumstances cited for the invoking Article 31 were justified could only conclusively be determined by a court of law.
“President Lungu had the legal discretion to invoke Article 31. However, the question as to whether the circumstances cited for invoking Article 31 were justified can only be conclusively determined by a court of law. The government does not have full emergency powers under a Threatened State of Emergency. Any powers exercised must be used in accordance with the Constitution and in particular in accordance with the Bill of Rights. Finally, the government has no powers to extend the threatened state of emergency beyond the three months approved by parliament,” Kasonde said.
She also urged the public to remain calm as the courts still had authority to ensure that powers were exercised lawfully under the Threatened State of Emergency.
“In the interim, we urge the public to be calm and be comforted that even during this time, the Courts have power to oversee the exercise of executive and police powers to ensure that such power is exercised lawfully. We also urge the police to speedily investigate the unfortunate events and keep the public informed so that as soon as possible, we can return to a situation where the proclamation under Article 31 ceases to exist and remove the current anxiety on implications of invoking Article 31,” Kasonde said.
“We have taken note of the reasons given in invoking Article 31. We sympathize with the victims of all these unfortunate events but also note that there is yet to be issued, a conclusive public available information, regarding the outcome of investigations by the police with respect to the unfortunate events leading to invocation of Article 31. For this reason, we think the executive should have been reluctant to invoke Article 31 despite such power being given to the President under the Constitution.”
And Kasonde said the association would consider taking action if any of the regulations under the Threatened State of Emergency were not in conformity with the Constitution.
“We will definitely consider taking action if there comes a time that those regulations are not in conformity with the Constitution. But as I earlier mentioned in the statement that we are engaging with government to ensure that anything of that act doesn’t happen,” said Kasonde.