CHAPTER One Foundation executive director Linda Kaosnde says the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are enough to address the Covid-19 pandemic without having to declare a State of Emergency.
Reacting to public calls for President Edgar Lungu to declare a national state of emergency, Kasonde in a statement which was streamed live on her organization’s Facebook page, argued that the Constitutional Provisions on the State of Emergency were best suited to situations of war or civil strife.
She said the Disaster Management Act provided an adequate and comprehensive framework for government to take the necessary measures to address COVID-19 without unduly compromising human rights in Zambia.
“There are concerns in the Public that the measures that are being taken are not enough to protect the people of Zambia. We have seen and heard calls for the Republican President to exercise his powers under Article 30 of the Constitution to declare a State of Emergency so that the Zambian Government can issue regulations to control the spread of the [Coronavirus] pandemic. Chapter One Foundation disagrees with these calls as we are of the view that the provisions on the declaration of a State of Emergency in Articles 30 and 31 of the Constitution are powers that must be used thoroughly. This is because the use of emergency powers suspends the human rights contained in the Bill of Rights,” Kasonde said.
“Chapter One Foundation is of the firm view that the Disaster Management Act provides an adequate and comprehensive framework for the government to take the necessary measures and to introduce the necessary regulations to address the Covid-19 scourge without unduly compromising on human rights in Zambia. South Africa has successfully managed to put in place drastic measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus using the provisions of the South African Disaster Management Act. As an organization that among other things promotes and protects human rights, we cannot support the calls for the president to declare a State of Emergency when there are other adequate alternatives. We are of the view that the Constitutional Provisions on the State of Emergency are best suited to situations of actual war or civil strifes. The government must tackle this pandemic while respecting the rights of the people of Zambia.”
Kasonde, who is also former Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president, expressed fear that the COVID-19 pandemic, if not well addressed, would cause human losses both economically and health-wise.
“We believe the COVID-19 pandemic falls within the definition of an event that is associated with the impact of a human-induced or natural hazard and it has caused and will cause serious disruption in the functioning of our society. The pandemic may cause widespread human losses which are fragile healthcare systems and the economy cannot withstand,” she said.
And Kasonde said the efforts implemented by the government so far were not enough to address the pandemic and further proposed a lockdown as other countries had done.
“The Disaster Management Act allows the government to put in place a continuous integrated multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary process of planning and implementation. We would like to commend the government for establishing a multi-stakeholder Covid-19 response committee which has already put in place efforts to manage the pandemic. However, as highlighted by the various stakeholders, the efforts so far implemented are not enough to address the pandemic. Section 36 of the Disaster Management Act allows the government to declare a disaster and designate an area. The measures under the Disaster Management Act are designed to allow the government to implement a humane approach in managing disasters. Such measures can include regulations on the restrictions of movements and even a lockdown similar to the regulations placed in South Africa,” said Kasonde.
“The government has a duty to protect the people of Zambia from the looming disaster that Covid-19 causes. The virus has already disrupted air travel in many countries as well as potentially disrupting trade between Zambia and our trading partners across the world. This virus, if not managed well will disrupt the various developmental programs that our government has already implemented and is implementing. The Covid-19 pandemic requires the government to prevent and reduce the risk of the pandemic spreading further than it has in Zambia.”