Public Order Act attracts debate in Chongwe

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—The Public Order Act has attracted mixed reactions amongst petitioners making submissions to the Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission in Chongwe District in Lusaka Province.

Some petitioners are calling for the abolition of the Act due to its vulnerability to abuse by police officers while others are recommending the Act citing security reasons.

Among the people advocating for the abolition of the Public Order Act is a Chalimbana University lecturer, Boyd Mwanabayeke, who contended that the Act was being used by police officers to brutalise innocent citizens for merely exercising their rights to assemble.

Mr Mwanabayeke stated that police officers have misapplied the Act to stop people from enjoying their rights to assemble without permit which he said should not be the case because the Act only requires citizens to notify the police.

He observed that police usually claims that they have no man power to police the gathering but when people convene they quickly find the unavailable man power to brutalize them which he said was a violation of people’s rights with impunity.

He described the Public Order Act as a colonial law which needs to be abolished if Zambians are to enjoy their full rights to freedom of assembly and speech.

Meanwhile, another petitioner, Richard Mabane, observed that the much talked about Public Order Act was a good law which simply needs proper understanding by law enforcement agencies.

Mr Mabane, who is former Chongwe Farmers Union Chairperson, however, admitted that despite the Act being enacted for a good cause, it has been abused by police to suit their selfish desires.

He said instead of abolishing the Act, government should work on training police officers to ensure that there is no abuse of the law.

The two petitioners only agreed on the appointment of the judges and the chief Justice where they recommended that the Judicial Service Commission be mandated to carry out this function so that the judiciary is left independent from the executive.

Submitting on the same topic, Anuel Simwawa, a retired District Education Board Secretary, stated that the judiciary is too compromised and corrupt and called for the restructuring and
decentralisation of the whole system so that it can serve the people better.

Mr Simwawa, who described the judges and lawyers as criminals in robes, disclosed that corruption has engulfed the judiciary especially judges whom he said take bribes from offenders in exchange for justice.

The Public Order Act has sparked debate in all the threedistricts of Lusaka where the Legal and Justice Sector Reforms Commission has held public sittings to inquire on the operation of the judiciary.