2 November 2012

Zambia: LAZ Fights Public Order Act...as State Declares It's Ready to Defend Case

Photo: Zambia Reports
Nevers Mumba, president of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy opposition party, greets supporters (file photo).

THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has resolved to challenge the Constitutionality of the Public Order Act in the High Court, Association president James Banda has said.

The Association is also considering litigation on the issue of who should act as Republican President when the Head of State is out of the country.

However, Attorney-General Mumba Malila says the State is ready to defend its case once LAZ takes the matter to court.

Mr Malila said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the Act was suitable as it addressed the interests of all Zambians and was not meant to appease individuals.

The LAZ chief said in a statement in Lusaka yesterday that the decision to litigate on the Act was necessary to remove perceived tension as a result of its 'arbitrary' application.

"In this regard, we have decided to challenge the Constitutionality of the Public Order Act or some provisions therein in the High Court. Our litigation team will shortly file in the High Court an appropriate application to challenge this colonial law.

"The decision to litigate on the Public Order Act is necessary to remove any tension which is mounting as a result of the arbitrary application of this archaic law. It is necessary in a democratic dispensation such as ours to ensure that fundamental freedoms are not left to the whims and caprices of a few individuals wielding State power," Mr Banda said.

Mr Banda said the Act was subject to manipulation and had been used to stifle freedom of assembly.

He said LAZ's position was that the Act could not be allowed to continue to grace the country's statutes.

"The Association is also considering litigating on issues such as the right of citizens to have a lawyer present at whatever stage of investigations, the issue of who can be acting President if the President is out of the country and the legality of Statutory Instrument No. 33 of 2012," he added.

He accused Government of "unreasonableness" exhibited through the police to prevent citizens from holding public gatherings and that the situation was a source of "grave" concern.

"What is even more worrying is the seemingly carte blanche endorsement of an archaic law by the Republican President and his ministers," Mr Banda said.

He said in the recent past, LAZ had reminded stakeholders, including the Executive, that the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association were inalienable and sacrosanct.

Mr Banda said that the freedoms were guaranteed in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

On this basis, Mr Banda said no person or Government authority had the right to violate these Constitutional rights of citizens, unless under compelling and clearly deserving circumstances.

"Contrary to what was expected of a responsible leadership, our leaders seem to be praising and even rewarding police officers who are brazenly infringing the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Zambia.

"It is clear to us that the Public Order Act as it stands today is subject to manipulation and has been arbitrarily used to stifle freedom of assembly," he added.

Mr Malila, however, said the State would be equal to the task of defending the validity of the Act in the courts and was ready to meet LAZ on all other concerns.

"There is nothing wrong with the Public Order Act in its current form. The problem is the way some people want it applied or interpreted that raises the differences. It is meant to address the interests of all Zambians and not individuals," Mr Malila said.

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