The attack on Law Association of Zambia President James Banda is misguided, unfortunate and a deliberate pervasion of the truth.
Mr. Banda did not say anything that the Oasis Forum, Transparency International, Misa Zambia, Christian Council or indeed Transparency Zambia and a host of other organizations and political parties have said.
The only difference is that Mr. Banda used a bit more technical language to express the anger, frustration and in some cases disgust that Zambians are beginning to feel over many Government actions and statements.
More importantly it is common knowledge that the President of LAZ speaks for and on behalf of the association and only does so after the appropriate committees have deliberated an issue.
Therefore to single him out as an individual as State House and Government spokesman did without addressing the substance of the issues raised is a failure to apply logic and a sign of immaturity.
It is folly for the Government to ignore public sentiment at a time when the country is in uproar over a multitude of issues including Parliamentarians repeatedly walking out of the house in protest, non Governmental organizations up in arms over Government decisions and more recently the detention of opposition leaders on the flimsiest of grounds and detentions by plain clothes policemen.
The President must be told the truth about the reality outside State House to avoid him appearing to sound totally out of synchronization when he lauds the public thuggery as was exhibited at the ACC Headquarters. That conduct was deserving of a reprimand rather than approbation.
In the circumstances it is incongruent and defeats logic to attack the Law Association on matter of the law being abrogated. For example; there is no law that requires an individual to obtain a permit to exercise their constitutional right as contained in Article 21(1) which protects freedom of assembly and association. The article reads, “except with his own consent a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say his right to assemble freely ad association with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade union or other association.”
Similarly Article 22(1) gives every Zambian the right to move freely throughout Zambia. These are the laws of Zambia as contained in our constitution and what the lawyers are saying is that criminalizing what is contained in the constitution is not only an abuse of authority but an infringement of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.
We have said before and we would like to repeat the voice of the people is the voice of God. It is not wise for the government and indeed state house to issue disparaging insulting and demeaning statements when citizens raise profound issues. Everywhere else in the world including the most conservative Arab countries have to contend with the Arab Spring, a movement towards less authoritarian government in preference for consensual government that derives authority from legitimacy rather than brute force. There is no question that the country is at crossroads, where a few individual are now taking it upon themselves to personalize institutional authority be it at governmental or indeed political level. Zambians have often been blamed for being docile and passive in the face of abuses and excesses of authority but very often they have stood their ground to oppose unreasonable use of authority.
Our advice is that where differences occur, dialogue and consensus must be achieved rather than confrontational rhetoric that serves no purpose than heightening tension and misunderstanding.
There is no question that tremendous unhappiness in the country at the moment with the unreasonable and totally senseless arrest and detention of people who have done nothing but exercise their constitutional rights. The highest court in the land, the Supreme Court has already pronounced itself on the issue of the Public Order Act stating quite succinctly that there is no requirement for citizens to obtain a police permit in order to assemble. Why then should this become an issue?