Alliance for Community Action (ACA) executive director Laura Miti has vowed to continue protesting lawfully with other Civil Society Organisations and citizens in order for their voices to be heard.
And Lusaka lawyer Keith Mweemba says police sometimes cause embarrassment to Zambians, adding that he doesn’t believe the law enforcers always have instructions from politicians for them act in a certain way.
On Friday, the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court acquitted Miti, PeP president Sean Tembo, musician Chama Fumba commonly known as Pilato, ZCSD executive director Lewis Mwape, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi after they were arrested last year on the charge of disobeying lawful orders.
The six were nabbed outside Parliament building in Lusaka on September 29, 2017 as they were protesting the purchase of 42 fire trucks for $42 million.
Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile dismissed the charge saying, the police did not act professionally and lawfully and were indeed the major obstacle in the proper administration of the Public Order Act.
“As rightfully submitted by the defence, the police did not act professionally and lawfully and they are indeed the major obstacle in the proper administration of the Public Order Act. The order issued by PW1 to the accused persons was not duly made or was not backed by law. As such, I find that an essential element of the offence under consideration has not been proved. I do hereby dismiss the charge [and] I accordingly acquit all accused persons and set them at liberty,” she ruled.
And speaking after the judgement, Pilato expressed happiness that justice had been delivered.
He however, added that, “this is what happens when you have insecure leaders who want to cover their insecurities using the police. This shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
And Tembo regretted that the State had proceeded to prosecute the matter despite knowing that it would be dismissed.
“We regret the fact that the State knew from the very beginning that they did not have a case in this matter and yet they proceeded with the prosecution of the six of us. The intention was malicious; it was merely to deprive us of the financial resources that we would incur, as well as the inconvenience of going to court knowing fully well that the matter would be dismissed at the earliest possible instance,” he said.
He added that their acquittal was a victory not only to them, but to all citizens who had been denied their fundamental right to demonstrate.
“And we are hopeful that going forward, the police are going to be ashamed to violate the lives of citizens when they know that they don’t have any case in any particular instance,” he said.
Meanwhile, Miti vowed to continue protesting lawfully.
“We will continue to protest lawfully. The Court has stated that citizens have the right to assemble and that the Constitution is above any other subsidiary law. Yes as civil society, as members of the public, we have the right to protest peacefully, to not injure anyone, but so that our voices should be heard,” she said.
And their lawyer, Keith Mweemba said the ruling was good and well reasoned.
He however regretted that it was not coming from the superior court so that it became binding on the lower courts.
“My only regret is that it’s not coming from a superior court because the way the magistrate has analysed the evidence and even the legal reasoning of the court, you would just admire and hope that it came maybe, from the superior court so that it becomes so binding on other lower courts,” he said.
Mweemba observed that police sometimes caused embarrassment to Zambians, adding that he didn’t believe the law enforcers always had instructions from politicians for them act in a certain way.
“The police keep saying ‘we are arresting somebody because he has got no permit’. The law is very clear, there’s no need for anyone to get permission to speak. The law is simply ‘you must notify the police within seven days’. But the sad thing is that the police always give one excuse ‘we are unable to police the event on security grounds’. That is a ground under which they hide,” said Mweemba.