CHOMA resident magistrate Exnobert Zulu has urged stakeholders privileged to make submissions on the public order Act bill being conducted by the Human Rights Commission to put the weak in society at heart.
In his presentation at a two-day HRC workshop held in Choma last week, magistrate Zulu noted that it was important for stakeholders when making their deliberations to prioritise the weak in society and not their personal or political interests.
“It is very important to look at the weak in society when making laws other than looking at the powerful ones because them can bulldoze their way out. We need to have a sober mind in order to engage each other well when making deliberations about POA and you don’t have to put your certain people in mind but look at the weak in society,” he said.
Magistrate Zulu said it was cardinal for stakeholders to resolve their anger when engaging each other as well as law enforcement officers.
“We need to behave like soccer fans who despite supporting different teams but can still argue peacefully without injuring each other’s rights,” magistrate Zulu advised.
He urged political parties to teach their members to love one another.
“Let’s not forget that we are human. The person you want to harm today may be the same person you will need tomorrow. I have observed that there is an element of dehumanising each other in our society which is not good,” Magistrate Zulu said.
He emphasised the need for people to enjoy their rights without injuring those of others.
“The soberness which people exhibit when they come to court should be the same even when they seek audience with law enforcement officers such as the police and by acting in that manner peace and understanding of each other will prevail between all parties involved,” magistrate Zulu said.
“I have observed that among the stakeholders there is an element of lack of trust for law enforcement agencies especially when it involves matters of the application of POA. You hear sentiments like ‘police is biased, this magistrate is biased’; such issues. As citizens and stakeholders we need to develop friendship with law enforcement agencies so that it becomes easier to talk to each other instead of using our authority to attack each other when we can just coexist.”
He noted that it was not a solution for citizens and political parties to arm themselves against police in retaliation for the effecting of the POA when they could simply report anything wrong or apply for a permit.
“Nowadays people go to public processions armed. It’s not good to provoke the police to act and then blame it on them,” he said.
“Regardless of political affiliation when roles change or tables change you still need a sober society because you can’t preside over monsters. Above all, as political parties let’s teach our people to love one another.”
And magistrate Zulu counselled stakeholders against mistreating each other based on their ethnicity and political affiliation.
“We live in a multiracial society hence the need not to despise each other based on tribe, political affiliation and colour,” said magistrate Zulu, adding that acts of tribalism must be condemned regardless of the perpetrator’s political affiliation, tribe and colour.
And UPND representative James Hankuba complained that police were often not ready to give the opposition permits but were eager to disperse their gatherings.
“Public officers like police must be impartial in the discharge of duties. They must be fair to everybody regardless of their political affiliation, otherwise these are cases where if there is change of government some officers might find themselves in trouble or get fired,” warned Hankuba.
NDC Choma district youth chairman Ronald Kaliyangile said it was frustrating that justice seemed to be blind when it comes to those in the ruling party.
“Recently, senior PF members were quoted issuing tribal remarks yet the law has not visited them despite the POA being clear on such issues. And it’s like now everything has been ignored. But if it was the opposition involved, police would have swung into action already. Could it mean that the PF have different laws from others? Because those in the ruling party can insult, nothing is done, or is it that law enforcers do not hear these insults or hate speech from the PF?” Kaliyangile wondered.
But Choma district PF chairman Peter Kampamba denied the allegation levelled against his party saying that there was no law specifically for PF members.
“As PF in Choma we have had no situation where we clashed with the opposition despite meeting in the field. So the complaint from our colleagues that the police are not fair is not true. At least here in Choma our police are applying the law fairly to every political party,” said Kampamba.
And Malambo Mudenda, a legal officer from the Zambia Police Service, urged the public to understand the work of the police and not just condemn them.
“Police officers work under a mandate such that even if they don’t want to carry out that mandate but they are obliged. As police when enforcing POA we are here to promote sanity and order,” Mudenda said.
He explained that the main problem surrounding the application of POA was that conveners don’t understand the way administration was done.
“You would find that stakeholders apply for a permit to hold a meeting and us as local leadership we cancel or deny them citing security concerns but instead of them going to higher offices than us they end up at us ignoring the fact that the higher you go the better. Mostly higher offices are more civil in their responses,” he said.
Mudenda said the spirit of the POA from the police perspective was to make sure that there was tranquility in society.
And Human Rights Commission spokesperson Mwelwa Muleya regretted that the country lost an opportunity in the 2016 failed referendum.
“Good efforts went to waste. There were good pieces of law in that failed referendum but because of the Zambian culture of not reading they ended up believing myths. As citizens don’t get hearsay but you must read on your own so that you understand. Right now because of the same myths, innocent people are being killed, burnt alive in the name of suspects that are gassing people,” Muleya said. “Even this issue we need to know the truth first before acting.”
And responding to a concerns on tribalism, Muleya advised that the best way forward was to start isolating individuals who were doing wrong instead of blaming the entire institution.
“Sometimes you people just complain on social media and not lodge complaints formally to law enforcement agencies as per required by the law,” said Muleya. “We can only win this fight if we start isolating those individuals who are doing wrong than attacking an institution, singling out an individual and blame them for the wrong they committed is better whether be it a police officer or politician.”