LUSAKA lawyer Mulambo Haimbe says the current Public Order Act is being deliberately misinterpreted and misused in order to oppress the opposition.

Last week, Justice Minister Given Lubinda said the process to amend the Public Order Act (POA) would start after President Edgar Lungu was 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.

But in an interview, Haimbe said the PF government was using laws as tools to oppress the opposition.

“The current POA act is being deliberately misinterpreted and misused in order to oppress the opposition. Even when you look at proposed amendments, they complain and say that we never played a role in looking at the provisions and proposing changes, we actually did. I personally sat on a committee that looked at the proposed amendments and made very progressive proposals but none of those have been taken on. We have seen consistently this regime using the laws as a tool to oppress the opposition. But as long as they enjoy a majority in parliament they can take advantage of that but that is a short lived situation because very soon the people of Zambian will speak through the ballot and we will bring an end to this insanity. POA will be amended by the UPND government so that we have a fair level playing field and respect human rights as contained in the constitution. It is only right to the extent that it will be amended but it will be amended by us when we form government,” Haimbe said.

He added that there was an ill motive to the cyber security bill.

“The question is why all this time the act has not been put forward? Why must it wait until there are few days literally before the elections? Clearly there is an ill motive. And clearly the PF is trying to take advantage of the fact that it enjoys the simple numeric advantage in parliament and unlike the constitution amendment like Bill 10 which required two thirds majority this one will be subject to the arrogance of the number but ultimately the people of Zambia will be able to say ‘we don’t want our rights infringed,’” said Haimbe.

“And by the way, the bill [cyber security bill] as it currently reads is a direct contradiction, a direct violation of the enshrined constitutional rights of you and I. So provided that it is unconstitutional it ought to be struck down from the laws. Clearly it is indicative that the purpose of this legislation in this particular instance is not necessarily to make progressive laws but rather oppressive ones. We saw the way the closing down of the internet in Uganda worked to the disadvantage of the people in Uganda and was used as a tool to oppress the opposition.”

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,” replied Lubinda.

“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.”