The continued police harassment of opposition parties brings to question the commitment of the Patriotic Front to tenets of good governance and democracy.
It should be realized that the principle of social justice is premised on the fair and proper administration of laws. It also means that the rules of natural law implying that all people are equal regardless of their religious, political or ethnic origin and persuasion.
Zambian citizenship confers very specific rights on individuals which which are described as being inalienable and therefore protected by the law. These rights cannot be abrogated or interfered with by the Government or any other authority in the manner the Police are presently doing.
The rights conferred by the constitution include the right to assembly, association, conscience, movement and expression.
This means that the Government cannot stop citizens from meeting simply because they do not belong to the ruling political party. This is an abrogation of the law which ordinarily must be punished.
Sadly it has become customary for police to stop, harass and even arrest opposition members who exercise their constitutional right to assemble. This is often blamed on the public order act which has already been outlawed by the highest court of the land- the Supreme Court.
It is very important to note that the very first amendment of the American constitution had to do with fundamental rights of speech and association and is couched in the following words: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It would be unheard of in the USA for the Police to harass a meeting of the Republican party, or indeed the Police in UK to stop a meeting of the conservative Party or indeed the Piolice in South Africa to stop a meeting of the Democratic Party.
Such things are unthinkable in a democracy and yet they are now the norm in Zambia. Why is this the case?
The continued abrogation of the law raises a major constitutional issue regarding the manner in which citizens can petition and enforce the law when the law enforcers are at fault.
Legitimate rights and expectation of the Zambian people should not be frustrated by misplaced authority as has been the case in the last few months when the police, on instructions from political authorities have acted in a manner that undermines democracy.
Clearly the ruling party has an agenda to ensure that the opposition does not mobilize and therefore threaten to take over power and yet freedom of assembly is at the heart of democratic practice which allowed the PF to ascend to power.
There is no provision in the law that a ruling party can abrogate the constitution with impunity in the manner it is doing.
Surely the judiciary has a role to play to stop this abuse of the law!
Thankfully the international community has had reason to express concern at the increasingly narrowing democratic space. Our appeal therefore is to the Law Association of Zambia to assist opposition parties secure redress from the courts of law by finding the best possible manner of challenging the continuing harassment.
This matter must be taken very seriously because it goes to the very heart of democracy and the continued abrogation of the law raises the possibility of violence and conflict between citizens and the police, who by law should have the monopoly of violence which they are using in a very biased and selective manner.
Zambians fought and won the campaign for independence and multi party democracy. It will be very unfortunate if this right will now be reversed because the party in power is determined to suppress and oppress alternative thoughts and opinions.