The decision by the Law Association of Zambia to challenge the Public Order Act in courts of law is a very sad development.
It testifies to the breakdown in our systems of governance.
There is no reason why the entire LAZ should resort to courts of law to enforce rights that are enshrined in the constitution. These should be inalienable rights that should be attached to any form of controversy.
The situation, sadly, is not as clear and transparent as it should be. The Police, with the support of the political leadership, have taken it upon themselves to chaperon the political community by determining whether and where political parties will hold meetings.
This is not correct.
The highest court in the Land has already ruled on this matter. It envisaged circumstances in which overzealous police officer, sponsored by their political appointing authorities would make it impossible for the opposition to hold meetings.
It was for this reason that the Supreme court outlawed the requirement of police permits to hold meeting or demonstrations.
Anywhere else the ruling of the Supreme Court would have been respected, but not in Zambia. The Police appear to be a law unto themselves and will apply conditionalities as they see fit without referring to existing law.
For these infringements they will not be censured by will instead win accolades thereby encouraging them for further abuse of the law.
These conditions set a very bad precedence. Lawlessness of any type and disregard of the rule of law will easily become endemic and metamorphosise into a culture of absolute impunity from which the country may never recover.
The culture of impunity is also showing in other areas of governance especially those related to the law. Progressively, transactions that are less than arms length are dominating the government through direct and indirect involvement of those occupying the offices.
It is a disgrace, criminal and totally immoral and unethical for an officer of government to with an interest to decide on a matter with or without declaring interest, and any such actions should be subject to censure, investigation and ultimate sanctioning. The whole point of the anti-Corruption crusade is to ensure that individuals do not derive personal benefit arising from their proximity of indeed tenure of office which has authority, purview and oversight.
We agree with Mr. Changala that many of the decisions that have been taken will be subject of further review upon change of regime and as Mr. Mulongoti said previously many of the decision makers today must gird their loins in the face of certain imprisonment.
There is no question that issue has been taken of the manner in which governance issues have been sidelined against political expediency. The rot of indiscipline, abuse of authority and sheer negligence now pervade public service to the extent that no service is readily available without beneficiation or indeed gratification.
Public service should be about performing duty for the greater good of society. We hope the challenge by LAZ, admonition by Brebner Changala and a greater outcry from civil and political society will influence systems of governance to pay heed to the issues being raised, otherwise the future of this great country will be bleak.