The Police officers involved in the infamous Lundazi Teargassing incident on 18th of December 2015 used the Public Order Act which is an archaic piece of legislation from 1953, whose sole purpose was to harass and intimidate opposition voices. The Patriotic Front have greatly abused the Public Order Act by forcing political parties to obtain so-called Police permits to hold rallies. This is completely wrong.
In 1995, there was a landmark Supreme Court ruling in the case of “Christine Mulundika and Seven Others Versus The People”. The Supreme court noted that the Public Order Act is a hangover from colonial times and was abandoned by the British themselves who wrote it. So why do we still have it in our books?
The Supreme Court ruled that it is not necessary for anyone to get a police permit for a public gathering as it was inconsistent with Freedom of Speech and Movement which are guaranteed in the Zambian Constitution. The provision requiring police permits was declared null and void and struck down 20 years ago but it is still being misused because of ignorance. Let me quote from the judgment.
“… we hold that subsection 4 of section 5 the Public Order Act, CAP 104, contravenes Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution and is null and void, and therefore invalid for unconstitutionality. It follows also that the invalidity and the constitutional guarantee of the rights of assembly and expression preclude the prosecution of persons and the criminalization of gatherings in contravention of the subsection pronounced against. Accordingly, a prosecution based on paragraph (a) of section 7 which depends on subsection 4 of section 5 would itself be inconsistent with the constitutional guarantees and equally invalid.”
Fellow Zambians, the court advised political parties to inform the Police of impending public meetings which those of us in the opposition adhere to but the PF themselves never follow. Moreover, a private meeting with our party structures requires no notice to the Police because we are a private club. It would be absurd for the Police to require notice for every private meeting we hold because this would entail that even the Lions Club or Rotary Club or churches would also require police notification.
Unfortunately, the PF has taken advantage of its position in power to force us in the opposition to apply for police permits which they then reject for flimsy reasons. We demand that the PF stop using the Police to enforce a non-existent law.
Once elected, we shall abolish the Public Order Act within my first year in office. It has no place in a modern society. There are enough provisions in other parts of the law which deal with public disorder or damage to property. The Public Order Act does not add any value to Zambian politics.
Nevers Sekwila Mumba