CHAPTER One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde has commended government on its decision to approve, in principle, the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to amend the Public Order Act.
And Human Rights Commission principal information officer Simon Mulumbi says the approval by Cabinet to introduce a Bill in Parliament to amend the Public Order Act will improve the Zambia Police Service’s administration and protect the right to freedom of assembly.
In a statement, Thursday, Kasonde said the current Public Order Act was a major threat to the full enjoyment and protection of the rights to freedom of assembly and association.
“We would like to commend Cabinet on its decision at the 9th Cabinet meeting of 2022 as communicated through a press statement issued by the Chief Government Spokesperson on the 3rd of May 2022. The decision to approve in principle the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to amend the Public Order Act, Chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia, is one which should be commended,” she said.
“The current Public Order Act has been a major threat to the full enjoyment and protection of the rights to freedom of assembly and association in Zambia, which are freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. The dangers inherent in the Public Order Act have been used as a tool of oppression by successive regimes. Efforts to rectify this issue through litigation has over the years proved to be an unending struggle that cannot fully succeed without a total revision of this colonial relic. The current Parliament is not bound by the decisions of their predecessors. Today’s world requires an enabling environment that promotes the holistic enjoyment of human rights and freedoms to the standard required by the Constitution as well as regional and international human rights instruments. This is what the people of Zambia have demanded for many years.
She said an inclusive process was needed in amending the Public Order Act.
“While Chapter One Foundation commends Cabinet for its approval of the introduction in Parliament of a Bill to amend the Public Order Act, we would like to remind the government that such an undertaking should follow an inclusive process that takes into consideration best practices obtained through wide consultations with citizens, experts, and civil society actors. We believe that no law can attain legitimacy among the citizens of a country it intends to bind if they do not consider it as good law. Zambia has an opportunity to enact a law that promotes freedom of association and freedom of assembly whose aim is primarily to facilitate the enjoyment of these rights. Anything outside these expectations will only erode our democracy, shrink the already compromised civic space, and leave citizens uninspired by their elected officials. The current government acting through Parliament must not miss an opportunity to do the right thing,” said Kasonde.
“We welcome government’s moves towards law reform. We look forward to seeing law reform with regards to other pieces of legislation that are inimical to human rights and democracy. We remain committed to seeing that this is implemented and that citizens are fully consulted throughout the process to ensure meaningful and progressive change that betters the lives of all Zambians.”
And in a statement, Wednesday, Mulumbi observed that successive governments had on numerous occasions expressed the desire and commitment to amend the POA, but there had been no significant progress achieved so far.
“The Human Rights Commission welcomes the announcement by the Government that Cabinet had in principle approved the introduction of a Bill in Parliament to amend the Public Order Act, Chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia (POA). The Commission notes that having the POA amended to improve its administration by the Zambia Police Service and subsequently enhance the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of assembly is an integral part of an inclusive democratic system of governance, respect for human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism in Zambia. The Commission also notes with regret that successive Governments have on numerous occasions expressed the desire and commitment to amending the POA, but there has been no significant progress achieved so far towards meeting that noble objective aimed at ensuring the enjoyment of freedom of assembly is enhanced,” said Mulumbi.
“Since the process to enact the Public Order Bill No.12 of 2019 into law failed in 2021, the nation has been anxiously waiting to see the government table in Parliament a Bill for amendment of the POA. The Commission hopes that the Bill to amend the POA will be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible because the current Act and its selective application have not been in the interest of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights. In amending the POA, the Government will also be fulfilling its commitment to implementing one of the 183 recommendations which it accepted during Zambia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of her human rights record at the United Nations in Geneva in 2017.”