Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has mocked the opposition UPND for sharing with the media its recommendations on the need to repeal the Public Order Act, instead of taking their concerns to the on-going National Dialogue Forum, which the party is not officially participating in.
In its weekly newsletter to News Diggers! the UPND through party spokesperson Charles Kakoma submitted an analysis on the discriminatory nature of the Public Order Act, giving detailed recommendations on how the law could be improved by taking away colonial powers from the police.
“Section 5 of the POA which deals with the regulation of assemblies, public meetings and processions is highly defective. For example, section 5 (1) confers powers on a sub-inspector of police when the position of sub-inspector no longer exists in the police service. It should be amended to inspector. The section also purports to give power to a district Secretary (nowadays called a district commissioner) to regulate public meetings. The whole section 5 (2) should be deleted as the district secretary is not part of the police service. 2. The current Public Order Act stifles freedom of expression by making it an offence to talk against authorities. Section 5 (5) (c) (d) and (e) violate people’s freedoms of expression as enshrined in the constitution. The section should be deleted from the Act,” submitted Kakoma.
“We are witnessing cases where police are giving themselves power to issue “police permits ” under section seven of the Public Order Act contrary to the ruling of the Supreme Court on unauthorised assemblies. Section 7 of the Act should be deleted and replaced with rulings of the Supreme Court in the case of Christine Mulundika vs the State. Section 7 should therefore be amended to conform to the Supreme Court ruling as follows: (A) delete subsection 7 (a) and 7 (b) and its accompanying penalties. (B) Any person intending to assemble or to convene a public meeting, procession or demonstration should notify the police seven days before the event. (C) The requirement that the notice should be in a prescribed form should be deleted and replaced with a “written letter ” specifying the date, time, venue and speakers. This is because in many areas, these forms are not available.”
But Kampyongo whose ministry superintends on the operations of the police, laughed at the “wasted” submissions which he said would only be considered if they were taken to the Constitution amendment Dialogue Forum.
“They have written to Diggers so that Diggers can enact that for UPND as an Act of Diggers. The submissions we are dealing with are there at the [dialogue] forum. So they are wasting time submitting to Diggers and that is why I am saying maybe they are expecting a Diggers Act. Everyone who has submitted those submissions will be at the forum there to validate them and what will come from there, will go to parliament. That is why we are there as members of parliament. So they are wasting time putting those things on Diggers instead of coming to the forum to argue those things. You see the hypocrisy. Because when we are done with the forum, we have got drafters there who are drafting what we are discussing openly. So those will remain a draft for Diggers, UPND draft,” Kampyongo said mockingly.
Asked to comment on the POA suggestions made in the said newsletter, Kampyongo said he would serve his energy for the Dialogue Forum.
“I will be wasting time [to comment on the issues raised in that article] because that energy I have is what I am using at the forum. They have got MPs from UPND [at the forum and] they can give them those submissions to take to the forum, that will be the option. So my advice to them is [that] instead of writing in the Diggers complaining, because those complaints have been there, it’s not new, there is nothing new in there about what UPND is saying but what they can do is to give those submissions to their MPs who have decided to participate and they are participating effectively to come and see if maybe they can be tabled when we start dealing with the draft bill of the Public Order Act,” he said.
“I will only respond to the views that are reflected in the draft bill which is in the fora. When we start then I can refer to and you [the media] are going to cover it [because] it will be a public document. So I can’t start pre-empting what we will discuss. That is why I am saying that its better for UPND to be giving those submissions they are putting in your newspaper to their MPs so that they can help [instead of] just writing in the newspaper. And this time it is a very first time that government proactively said ‘let’s discuss in the first attempt to try and amend the Public Order Act through the courts action’. So if the government says ‘look, let’s go and discuss’ and you stay away and you start putting [your views] in the Diggers. Those who are concerned about the Bill are there and they want to discuss because the train is moving and so for those who have opted to stay away, the train will still be moving. And when the time comes, it will be law and they will continue writing to Diggers in the same format.”
Meanwhile, when asked to comment on ruling party cadres who were calling for Secretary General Davies Mwila’s removal, Kampyongo who is also PF national youth chairperson, said the matter was being dealt with by youth chairmen from Lusaka constituencies.
“The issue about the unruly characters in the PF who are not in the structures is adequately being dealt with by the constituency youth chairmen in Lusaka Province. As the national youth chairman I can’t sink so low to talk about those unruly characters who are not on the structures,” said Kampyongo.