Police heavy hand wake-up call

The opposition must admit as a reality that Government will continue to use the Public Order Act and  section 67 of the Penal code to penalise and thereby limit the liberties to assemble and people’s desire to express themselves.

These two laws are not only obnoxious but are a total throw back to the colonial days.

The only meaningful way forward is for the opposition to mount a legal challenge in the High Court in order to have them struck down. This should be a combined opposition effort to which civil society must lend a hand.

For as long as these pieces of legislation remain on the statute books, there is very little that can be done to ameliorate the growing intolerance and obvious abuse of the law by the Police.

The meeting between the top leadership of the UPND with Deputy Minister of Home Affairs where they discussed the vexatious issue of the Public Order Act is most welcome and progressive.

However, it must be realised that at the core of the problem is a law that is both vague and manifestly oppressive.

The Public Order Act in its present form is a throwback to the colonial laws which were intended to prevent the natives from meeting to strategise in political meetings.

Indeed the POA and Section 67 of the penal code which deals with publication of false information are both manifestly political, designed to penalise the opposition.

This was the case on Monday in Western Province where Police attempted to arrest the United Party for National Development president Hakainde Hichilema for visiting the Litunga in Mongu’s Limulunga.

There seems to be an invisible hand dictating to law enforcement agencies to wantonly abuse the two pieces of legislation otherwise their conduct or is it misconduct is surprising.

This single action in Mongu has certainly sent a message to other traditional leaders in Zambia that it is taboo for them to interact with opposition political leaders and their members.

We say so because we have not seen this kind of harassment of the opposition extended to politicians in the ruling party.

Last week, the Patriotic Front Secretary General, Wynter Kabimba, was in Eastern Province where he met among others Paramount Chief Mpezeni and evidence is on the ground is that the Justice Minister interacted with the King of the Ngoni without any interference from the Police.

The current Police action is a wake-up call to opposition leaders and other citizens that it would not be easy for them to mobilise their members and later put across their messages.

Mr Hichilema and other political leaders- FDD’s Edith Nawakwi, Alliance for Better Zambia leader Frank Bwalya and MMD president Nevers Mumba-should urgently seek court interpretation of Police’s application of the laws of Zambia.