It is not very wise for the Police to play games and underestimate the intelligence of Zambians.
It is common knowledge that Police use Police cells to humiliate and exact political retribution against political activists perceived to be opponents of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), just as they are always ready to unleash violence on defenseless and unarmed civilians from the opposition.
These are the realities on the ground.
In contrast they will be cowed by cadres of the ruling party to a point where a life can be lost and nobody is held accountable and yet there is evidence of a fully armed and organized sorties transported to the areas where the mayhem and subsequent loss of life occurred.
This is not the democracy that Zambians are striving for.
Zambians threw out the one party UNIP era because it suffocated and repressed their wishes for a democracy in which they could exercise their democratic and inalienable rights of freedom of movement, assembly and conscience. They did not want to be regimented into a political formation that demanded uniformity and blind obedience.
That is why the Police must be careful not to display ignorance of the law.
The issue of Police controlling assemblies has been tested in the highest court of our country, the Supreme Court which ruled that it was untenable for a democracy to be shackled by rules and conditions that left determination to the caprice and political orientation of the officer exercising the law.
Mulundika and her colleagues went to the Supreme Court to question the wisdom and propriety of police issuing permits in order for citizens to hold assemblies. The Court found it contradictory that while article 21(1) of the constitution guaranteed unfettered freedom to citizens to hold assemblies a subsidiary law namely the Public Order Act proscribed this right by imposing a conditionality namely that a police officer could either issue or deny a permit. In addition the same law provided for an officer in charge of a police station or any magistrate to stop any procession for which no permit had been issued.
The Court struck down this law. They deleted it.
These laws were a carry over from the 1953 Ordinance but which ordinance had also been truly tested by 1959 when the High Court of Northern Rhodesia acquitted individuals accused of an unlawful assembly.
The effect of the ordinance was to proscribe any kind of assembly regardless of the nature or the subject of discussion.
That is why by 1959 the Pubic Order Ordinance No. 10 were deleted from the Northern Rhodesia police ordinance and relocated to the Public Order Ordinance where they survived until the ruling of Mulundika and Others in 1995 when it was finally struck down.
The effect of the Supreme Court ruling was to abolish once and for all the notion of unlawful assembly.
In a democracy where people are free to speak their minds and assemble the notion of unlawful assembly is not only untenable but a complete contradiction.The suggestion that a police officer can determine the validity or otherwise of an assembly is a severe diminution and indictment of the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.
That is why we agree with Counsel Sakwiba Sikota, who has asked Attorney General Mumba Malila to counsel and advise the police that they have not right or power to stop Zambians from assembling in whatever form or shape.
The role of the police is to provide security and ensure that such meetings are orderly.
They have no right to stop them. This is the law.