THE Socialist Party says freedom of assembly and expression are at stake in Zambia.
Socialist Party general secretary Dr Cosmas Musumali said the fact that opposition political parties are prevented from holding rallies means Zambia is run without real political opposition.
Dr Musumali, Socialist Party president Dr Fred M’membe and party member Boston Chifita were at the Human Rights Commission (HRC) offices in Lusaka to complain about the skewed application of the public order Act.
The trio went into an hour-long meeting with HRC chairperson Mudford Mwandenga, his vice Kondwa Sakala-Chibiya, commission director Florence Chibwesha and a commissioner.
After the meeting, Dr Musumali told The Mast that the Socialist Party had been trying to hold rallies, “to be more specific the Matero one,” but that police had not allowed it.
“This is our second month pushing documentation to the police, notifying them. [But] the response, so far, has been negative. We have taken care, in terms of arrangements, security, logistics and so forth. But we are not getting that cooperation,” Dr Musumali said.
“In other words, we are being told we can’t hold those rallies. We feel this is unfair, unacceptable [because] as a political party, we depend on interacting with the Zambian masses. We have to bring out what our programme is and being denied this chance is essentially telling us that we cannot participate in the affairs of this country.”
He added that the Socialist Party took the grievance to the HRC for them to take it up and engage the different authorities that were impinging “on our rights to assembly, expression.”
“Freedom of assembly [and] expression is at stake and this is a fundamental human rights issue. We could have escalated this by taking it to the courts but we know that’s also not the right way to go,” Dr Musumali noted.
“We had a fruitful meeting; we have given them our complaint and they have processes, procedures for following up on such issues. We should be hearing from them soon. We have taken this approach because we feel we have to exhaust all approaches that are available to us and we’ll not relent in the pursuit to exercise our fundamental rights.”
Dr Musumali said unlike opposition parties, the PF had a lot of platforms for talking to Zambians.
“They are using government facilities [and] the opportunities that government is offering to them to speak to the Zambians and to spread out their messages,” he indicated.
“Us not being given the chances to talk to the people basically means this country is running without the opposition political parties participating and that should not be accepted. This is a journey we are embarking upon and we’ll not stop until we have also that right to play our role.”
Asked when a response was anticipated from the HRC, Dr Musumali said it depended on the procedures and the time that they would take.
“We’ll definitely make a follow-up two, three weeks from now to find out how far they have gone,” said Dr Musumali.