Justice Minister Given Lubinda says the process to amend the Public Order Act (POA) will start after President Edgar Lungu is sworn in this August, saying this would be the ideal time as some political parties would still be recovering from the imminent loss of election.
Responding to a question from Kanchibiya PF member of parliament Martin Malama who wanted to know what other strategy government would use to ensure that the opposition took part in amending the POA, Lubinda said he hoped the Zambian people would give themselves a “different complexion of Parliament” so that the ruling party could meet the required threshold to legislate laws without hindrance.
“After 2021, what will we do differently? I am not too sure. There will be many things that we will do differently. We will start straight after elections, straight after His Excellency is sworn in. He will come back here and he will come and repeat this commitment. My only hope, my only hope is that the Zambian people will give themselves a different complexion of parliament so that they have the numbers required for them to legislate without hindrance, without political manoeuvres,” Lubinda replied.
“Indeed, I have also been asking myself how much time shall we require to convince everybody that we have given them sufficient time to make submissions, and the reason for this question Mr Speaker is that you will recall that the then Minister of Home Affairs Honourable Davies Mwila standing there in 2014, was the first to say ‘please give me your views for us to amend the POA act but Parliament came to an end. And then the Minister of Home Affairs came in, Honourable Stephen Kampyongo still had hair on his head, he also came to Parliament and appealed to submit but no one submitted.”
And responding to Manyinga member of parliament Robert Lihefu who wanted clarity on when the process would start, Lubinda insisted that it would be after the general elections, under the tutelage of President Lungu.
“The environment around elections should not create subjectivity in handling such laws. Surely today in February we are a few months before Parliament is dissolved for us to start talking about the POA amendment bill which will affect the elections that are coming in August, it’s too close to the elections. I don’t think it will be prudent for us to start the process because even the people we will be consulting now are tuned towards elections. So sir, it won’t be before the 2021 August elections but it will be commenced after the general elections of 2021 under the tutelage of His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu,” Lubinda said.
And when asked by Mufulira PF member of parliament Evans Chibanda whether it would be the right time to consult political parties that would be frustrated with the loss they would go through in August, Lubinda said it would be the right time as some political parties would be recovering.
“What I anticipate is that soon after the elections of 2021, some political parties like he said will still be recovering from the imminent loss. And one hope is that because of that, they will look back and see what is that we should have had in the POA which could have given us better chances so that when we ask them to make proposals, they may come up with proposals that will enhance the political space hoping that the next time around they will have a better chance at success. So I am happy to do it that way because we will be talking to people who will be just recovering, unlike now. So we will not stop, we will consult even those who refuse to be consulted, we will give them the platform and if they chose to do what they did when they were talking about the Bill 10 to go and respond to newspapers and hotels, we shall pay attention, we shall listen,” Lubinda said.
In his ministerial statement, Lubinda said the proximity of the elections did not warrant or guarantee a smooth and objective handling of such an important piece of legislation.
“The proximity of the elections does not warrant or guarantee a smooth and objective handling of such an important piece of legislation. The government is committed to initiating this process soon after the 2021 general elections. The PF government of His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu was the first to pronounce its desire to amend the POA act. The PF did not act out of coercion by anyone. The PF desired an opportunity to present an opportunity to the Zambians to armed their POA act. I want to reassure you sir, the House and the nation at large President Lungu and his government remain totally committed to the process of reviewing the POA act. Sir, had it not been for the close proximity to the next elections, the process could have started now,” Lubinda said.
Meanwhile, Lubinda said the failure of Bill 10 affected the POA.
“Mr Speaker, following the failure by this House to pass the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019, I wish to update this House and the nation at large on the status of the much talked about act, the Public Order Act. Sir, this House will recall that the Minister of Home Affairs called for submission from stakeholders on proposals to amend the POA on numerous occasions. Mr Speaker, government demonstrated commitment to the review of the POA chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia in line with chapter 22 of the Patriotic Front manifesto which places an obligation on government to subject the review of the POA to enhance consultations with all stakeholders in order to arrive at a consensus. In this regard, you recall that in July 2016, government through the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Home Affairs called for submissions on the review of the POA cap 113 of the laws of Zambia,” said Lubinda.
“As a result of the few submissions received, the Zambia Centre for Inter Party Dialogue requested the government to facilitate a meeting involving key stakeholders. To this effect government invited all key stakeholders to a national symposium for the draft of the political parties’ bill and the POA bill. Following the failure by people to make submissions Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Justice to facilitate the receipt of submission and stakeholder consultations on the bill in order for the bill to be drafted and presented to Parliament. Mr Speaker, as you are aware, the POA bill number 12 of 2019 was deferred as awaited the outcome and consideration of Bill 10. Sir, let me indicate that the review of such politically sensitive acts of parliament such as the POA act is best considered quiet well before a general election. I wish to state Mr Speaker that this is because politically sensitive bills require consultation and consensus building. The implementation of the POA bill of 2019 will therefore require further consultations because a lot of issues have arisen from the time the last consultative processes were undertaken. From the time the bill was drafted in May 2019, even if the amendments were undertaken Mr Speaker, the implementation would require sufficient time for law enforcement officers and other enforcement agencies to adequately prepare themselves and enforce the newly introduced measures.”