Zambia

Govt to repeal, replace public order Act

Monze PUND Member of Parliament Jack Mwiimbu address journalists during a press briefing at his office in Lusaka on January 22, 2020 – Picture by Tenson Mkhala

Govt to repeal, replace public order Act

By Fanny Kalonda

GOVERNMENT says it is aware that the public’s expectations on the public order Act are very high.Speaking when he launched the review of the public order Act in Lusaka yesterday, home affairs minister Jack Mwiimbu said the objective was to repeal and replace the Act to develop a legal framework that regulates public assemblies, processions and meetings while being anchored on the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms.

“You do recall that the UPND boycotted the National Dialogue Forum. The boycott was anchored on principle taking into account that the process was not consultative and it was not going to accommodate various interest groups in this country. Having learned from that scenario, we will not allow ourselves to fall in the same pit of failure to adhere and acknowledge the interest of the Zambian people,” he told journalists. “We are going to allow a free and fair consultative process because the law we are going to come up with is not for the new dawn administration. It is for the people of Zambia. And the people of Zambia will speak and make their point known through this consultative process.”

And Mwiimbu said the process would be undertaken in all parts of the country.He expects that the presentation of the bill to Cabinet would be done in September.“During the official opening of the First Session of the 13th National Assembly on the 10th September, 2021, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr Hakainde Hichilema, reiterated the need to enhance the democratic dispensation in the country by reviewing the public order Act. In this regard, Cabinet at its 9th meeting held on the 26th April, 2022 approved in principle to the review and amendment of the public order Act cap 113 of the laws of Zambia,” Mwiimbu said. “The overall objective of this law review process initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security, working with the Zambia Law Development Commission and the Ministry of Justice, is to repeal and replace the public order Act in order to develop a legal framework that regulates public assemblies, processions and meetings while being anchored on the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms.”

And Mwiimbu said the UPND being a victim of the public order Act, would avoid the same for others.He disclosed that process would cost approximately K4 million.“Zambia has been a beacon of democratic hope and stability in the southern African region as far as respecting the rule of law, freedoms and the human rights of citizens are concerned. The new dawn administration is committed to bringing on board all stakeholders to review the public order Act, cap 113 of the laws of Zambia. Government is aware that the expectation by the general public is very high on the revision of the public order Act as evidenced by media reports,” he said. “It is therefore important that wide consultations are undertaken to build consensus. All interest groups such as traditional leaders, faith-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, Law Association of Zambia, political parties and academia, among others will have to be consulted. The process will not only protect the content of the revised public order Act, but also produce a forward-looking bill acceptable by all stakeholders.”

Mwiimbu said it was gratifying that various stakeholders had already developed position papers on the public order bill.“The roadmap for the review of the public order Act will include appointment of the technical committee, receipt of oral and written submissions, national stakeholder consultative meetings, roundtable discussions, national stakeholders’ validation meeting, drafting meeting and presentation of the bill to Cabinet by 29th September, 2022,” said Mwiimbu. “The specific objectives are to, remove from the statute archaic provisions of the law that stifle the enjoyment of the freedom of assembly, association and expression in the conduct of public assemblies, processions and other forms of public gatherings. Develop a legal framework that guarantees autonomy, to law enforcement agencies, in the policing of public assemblies, processions and other forms of public gatherings; and devise measures to prevent arbitrary decisions and abuse of the law in the enforcement of the public order Act. I have no doubt in my mind that the goodwill shown by various stakeholders particularly political parties will result in a public order bill which will be adhered to by all.”

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