Former State House press aide George Chellah yesterday led several members of a WhatsApp group in grilling Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba after the diplomat posted what they described as a shameless defense of the Public Order Act.
Mwamba who was late President Frederick Chiluba’s spokesperson, posted a BBC article in which Swedish police violently clashed with a neo-Nazi group.
The article was posted with an attached comment, justifying the necessity of the Public Order Act in democratic countries, as evidenced by police action when they arrested Alliance for Community Action Executive Director Laura Miti and five other fire tender protesters.
“’Public Order Act is important to keep peace in Sweden.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41454708’ In this footage police violently clashes with protesters who refused police orders not change the route allows to them to stage their demo. 20 protesters have been detained. In Zambia Laura Miti and co refused police orders to hold her protest on a day other Friday. She was detained just like those neo-Nazis in Sweden. Sweden is a First World democracy and one most liberal societies by any standard. Yet the public order act is an important instrument to regulate public processions,” Mwamba posted.
But Chellah who has taken up political social commentary lately, did not hesitate to differ with the High Commissioner.
“HE (High Commissioner) Mwamba, is that a comparative argument you can ably and convincingly sustain from this stage onwards? You are satisfied beyond measure that the administration of the POA in Zambia and Sweden is comparable? Really? And when I mention Zambia, I’m in no way attaching my reasoning to any specific regime or period, but since Welensky days. Let’s agree that just like defamation of the President, the POA is an archaic piece of legislation and must either be repealed or done away with all together,” Chellah argued.
Others joined in with a barrage of attacks on Mwamba and among them was Zambia council for Social Development Executive Director Lewis Mwape.
Mwape who was among those who were arrested during the fire tender protest said President Lungu had a team of people who were patriotic to defending wrong things.
“This is the problem President Lungu has. It is having a team that is honest, bold and Patriotic not only to the party but also to the people. Not only patriotic to defend wrong things but also to advise him on progressive ideals! It is important sometimes your Excellency @Emmanuel Mwamba to side with the people! It is a good principle even for the presidency. Presidents who take sides of the majority citizens are more popular than those who are slaves of their Political Parties,” Mwape reacted.
Wesley Chibamba of the Transparent International Zambia, expressed disappointment with the reasoning from a diplomat he respected.
“Mr Mwamba, I personally have great respect for you. You have a very [sharp] mind, you are extremely brilliant. But I think you need to start carefully choosing some things you support. Sweden has a long standing democracy with strong institutions! That’s not a comparison you can bring here. We are all well read,’ Chibamba said.
“This High Commissioner is shameless; the crush was between Neo-Nazis and Ant-fascists. Violence was escalating, how then can you compared that to a peaceful Laura Miti Demo?” posted another group members.
Meanwhile Mwamba who remained silent as group members reacted to his posting, resurfaced early this morning defending the POA.
“I shared a forwarded link yesterday with attached comments. The link was not mine neither were the comments. But my views on the Public Order Act is that; it’s totally necessary for maintenance of law and public Order. In South Africa, you require to deposit a notice of 3-7days prior to the picket, procession or demonstration. Although our POA is a colonial legacy enacted in 1935, with amendments in 1958 and others, our POA underwent fundamental changes in the Christine Mulundika Supreme Court ruling that relegated the issue of permission to a mere Notice. But be aware that it also requires that the event be policed ( by Police or Marshals or both). It also has an internal appeal process upto the Minister, a process that was not available before,” High Commissioner Mwamba responded.
Mwamba further charged that police did not deny Miti’s request to demonstrate but they simply had no man power to manage the procession.
“In the case of Laura’s procession or picket, when Police said they had no man power to manage the procession, she had options, (1) To appeal the decision, (2) To propose her own marshals, (3) Stage the picket on any other proposed day as advised by the Police. The Police DID NOT deny the request for her demo She did none of the above but her and her group chose to ignore or defy the law or instructions . (Someone even praised her that bad laws should be disobeyed quoting Nelson Mandela). The presence of the POA is not anachronistic or the absence of Freedoms, or the erosion of democracy.To my knowledge all countries have a law or regulations that maintains public order and balances freedoms with public order and responsibilities. Show me a democratic country that does NOT have a POA (by whatever name!) debated Mwamba.