In view of the escalating violence sponsored by the PF government that has now resulted into police killing opposition supporters, the Law Association of Zambia has resolved to organise a peaceful protest with the church and other interest groups.
The lawyers, through their organisation the Law Association of Zambia say they gravely perturbed by the continued degeneration of law and order in Zambia being exhibited in the run up to the general elections.
In a statement issued by the LAZ council, the lawyers said they were particularly disturbed by the following recent events:
The 1st July 2016 raid of the United Party for National Development (UPND) by police officers on account of an undisclosed complaint ,purportedly from a member of the public.
The 7th July 2016 police raid on Mipal printers and confiscation of numerous copies of the Post Newspaper.
The 8th July 2016 shooting of UPND protestors in Lusaka’s Kanyama and Chawama townships by police officers following the cancellation of UPND rallies in those areas,which led to the regrettable death of a woman.
With regard to the raid on the UPND offices and the raid of mipal printers ,LAZ is concerned that these attacks appear to be politically motivated and targeted at organisations that are perceived to be anti- establishment.According to officials at the Zambia Police service the search and seizure of documents at the UPND office was made after a report that there were illegal weapons on the premises.The search did not reveal any such illegal weapons however documents were seized from the premises nonetheless.
The raid on Mipal Printers is particularly worrying as there does not appear to be any legitimate reason for the raid.We find the position of Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) officials that the search and seizure of documents from Mipal printers was merely coincidental to the fact that Mipal printers has a contract to print of the Post Newspaper quite incredible.This is particularly in light of the fact that the search and seizure was done pursuant to section 9 of the Customs and Excise Act,which avoids the requirement for a court order to search the premises.
This adds credence to the allegations by the Post Newspaper that the cases against it are being prosecuted merely to ensure that the Post Newspaper is not operational and not because of any tax offenses,especially as the nation draws closer to the date for the general elections.
The shooting of UPND protestors by police officers in Kanyama and Chawama is also of grave concern to LAZ as it appears that excessive action by the police against opposition political parties is escalating to the extent that we have now seen the loss of life and injury of several Zambian citizens.LAZ has read the press statement issued by the Inspector –General of Police which raises a few questions: how was the deceased victim of the shootings,Mapenzi Chibulo,killed by a rubber bullet? If the police service have a duty to serve and protect those in the opposition?We would also like to remind the police that pursuant to the Supreme Court judgement in the case of LAZ vs The Attorney General,Appeal No.8 of 2014 over the constitutionality of the Public Order Act, the Supreme Court stated as follows:
‘It defies logic that the Police would rather provide manpower to prevent people from exercising their right under Article 21 of the Constitution ,than protect them against the elements that are planning on infringing upon this right… it is the duty of the Police to protect persons who are properly exercising their right to assemble from those that are threatening to infringe upon their right.’
The Supreme Court further stated that the police are required to propose an alternative date for a political rally cancelled at their instance at the earliest possible time.The police did not do so in this case.
Regarding the general atmosphere of violence and intimidation during the election period.LAZ is on record as having stated that the problem of political violence is largely attributable to the failure by political leaders in the two main poliyicla parties ,the Patriotic Front and the UPND,to reign in their members who are acting with impugnity.The advent of political militias from any party is undesirable and is a threat to national peace and security.In addition,the credibility of the general elections as being free and fair is at grave risk which may lead to a refusal by the losing paarties to accept the results.
LAZ believes that the ruling Patriotic Front party ,as the party in government,has an additional responsibility to ensure that law and order is maintained by the public law enforcement agencies regardless of the political affiliation or persuasion of the parties involved.
LAZ has read the statement issued by the Republican President following the shooting of the UPND protesters on 8th July 2016 and LAZ is of the view that it does not go far enough in condemning the excessive use of force by the police ,as police brutality should always be condemned by the Head os State in the strongest possible terms.
Zambia has enjoyed relative peace for over 50 years.however,Zambians should not be lulled into false sense of security that this will always continue.Democracy and peace are fragile and for theM to be maintained intolerance ,tribalism,violence and disregard for constitutionalism and the rule of law must never be entertained.If we continue to accept the unacceptable the escalating violence and civil unrest may become uncontrollable.
As political leaders have not heeded LAZ and other organisations constant calls to ensure that their supporters campaign peacefully and calls for the police to administer the Public Order Act in accordance with the law and guidance of the Supreme court, LAZ has resolved to do the following:
Engage the Church to urgently convene another meeting of political party Presidents with a view to them making a joint pledge before the Zambian people to end the culture of violence and intolerance and allow for peaceful campaigns and Organise a march for peace to be held in the coming days in conjunction with the Church and other interest groups Council of the Law Association of Zambia.
In the photos, mourners attend the church service of Mapenzi Chibulo, the UPND supporter who was murdered by police last Friday