THE opposition UPND says it is dismayed by the selective application of the Public Order Act following massive demonstrations by hired PF cadres without police permits calling for the resignation of finance minister Felix Mutati. In a statement, UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka wondered why the police had allowed PF cadres to demonstrate at a time when the country was under a threatened state of public emergency.
PF cadres in Eastern, Northern, North Western, Central and Copperbelt provinces have been organized to demonstrate against Mutati and call for his resignation on alleged lack of loyalty. The cadres have further accused the leader of an MMD faction of using money he was making in the PF government to reorganize the former ruling party.
But Katuka wondered why police were not arresting ruling party cadres who were taking to the streets to demonstrate against the Mutati-led MMD faction like they did with UPND supporters who marched following the release of party leader Hakainde Hichilema and five others from a four-month-long detention.
“We note with interest the seemingly countrywide demonstration by PF cadres against the Minister of Finance Felix Mutati calling for his resignation. Our interest is not on the merits or demerits of these demonstrations as that is really none of our business as we regard that as purely an internal [matter],” Katuka stated.
“But our interest is on the usual selective application of the Public Order Act in the country where PF members can easily get into the busy streets without a police permit and start demonstrating. Of interest equally is how these PF members are being allowed to demonstrate especially at a time when the country is under the State of Emergency where such activities are not allowed.”
He challenged the PF leadership which was attacking Hichilema for speaking out against the injustices Zambia was facing at various public fora to note that “these were some examples of the selective application of laws” which favoured those in power.
“We hope now the PF leadership that have been issuing statements against the UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on what he has been saying at various fora, including at a press conference in South Africa, can understand what he means that there is selective justice and application of laws in the country that favours those in the ruling party to the disadvantage of the opposition, especially the UPND. Mr Hichilema and other UPND members have been very consistent in their messages both home and abroad that there is suppression of the rights of those holding different views from those of the PF, something that Zambian citizens and the international community must pay attention to, with a view to correct the situation so that it favours all citizens,” Katuka added.
“We now hope the Zambia Police Service have finally reflected and have had a change of mind on the discriminatory application of the Public Order Act so that even UPND members will be allowed to freely hold both indoor and outdoor party mobilisation meetings as well as given their constitutional and democratic space to actively engage citizens and share their messages without hindrance. We therefore wish to commend the Zambia Police Service for this seeming change of heart and professional conduct and hope that from now onwards, they will also allow the UPND members who wish to hold thanksgiving rallies on the release of their party leader Mr. Hichilema to do so according to the provisions of the Public Order Act.”
The police in Lusaka recently stopped the UPND from having thanksgiving prayers for the release of Hichilema and five others but later allowed them after religious affairs minister Godfridah Sumaili overruled Lusaka Province commissioner Nelson Phiri’s decision.
“As a matter of fact, the UPND intends to hold several thanksgiving rallies across the country that will be addressed by the UPND senior leadership that includes the UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and his vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM). We believe that peaceful and lawful assemblies, demonstrations, meetings and rallies are part of the democratic tenets that must be allowed like the PF members have been doing against finance minister Felix Mutati of late,” stated Katuka.