THE Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) is demanding the immediate release of former police officer Jeyson Musonda Chipepo.
On June 2, Chipepo staged a one-man protest at the police headquarters in Lusaka against what he considered the intimidation of citizens and the abuse of the police service by Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja.
In a statement yesterday, CiSCA condemned the arrest describing it as unconstitutional.
“As a movement which advocates for and promotes the supremacy of our Constitution and the rights and freedoms contained therein, and in this instance the right to freedom of assembly and expression for everyone, CiSCA wonders why the police arrested someone who was simply exercising these rights and was in no way riotous” CiSCA chairperson Judith Mulenga said.
She said Article 26 of the Zambian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
She said the article warrants all citizens “the right, without carrying weapons, to assemble, demonstrate, protest and present their demands to the government”.
Mulenga said it was this justiciable right that Chipepo was exercising and as far as CiSCA could see, he was not carrying any weapons and so his was a peaceful demonstration against a public officer, Kanganja.
She said Chipepo was also exercising his right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 20 of the Constitution.
Mulenga said the freedom guarantees one the right to say what they want to say and includes the freedom to express one’s opinion on a matter.
“As pronounced by one of the supreme courts within the SADC region, the freedom of expression is ‘one of the most precious of all guaranteed freedoms and it has four broad purposes to serve: i) It helps an individual to obtain self-fulfillment. ii) It assists in the discovery of truth. iii) It strengthens the capacity of an individual to participate in decision making and iv) it provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change’,” she said. “By arresting Mr Chipepo, the police are denying him the opportunity to exercise what the supreme law of our land guarantees him. His arrest is therefore nothing but an infringement of his rights as a human being and CiSCA condemns this gross violation of his human rights in the strongest terms.”
Mulenga said the same Constitution that guarantees Chipepo’s rights also places upon the Zambia Police Service the responsibility to “(a) protect life and property; (b) preserve peace and maintain law and order; (c) ensure the security of the people; (d) detect and prevent crime; (e) uphold the Bill of Rights; (f) foster and promote good relationships with the defence force, other national security services and members of society; and (g) perform other functions as prescribed”.
“Which of these functions does the arrest of an unarmed, non-violent individual like Mr Chipepo serve?” she asked.
Mulenga noted that the Executive and its agents continuously deny its deliberate squeezing of the civic space while Zambians wake up to and witness the arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions every single day.
She said explanations of police conducting investigations were trite since Zambia has had a police service since before independence and Zambians had never seen “this rate of wanton depravation of liberties and extrajudicial killings too”.
Mulenga said reminded the police that the Constitution which guarantees the rights of freedom of assembly was the supreme law of the land.
“Therefore, the public order Act cannot be superior to the Constitution. Under the public order Act the police are only under a duty to regulate public meetings, assemblies and processions strictly for the purpose of preserving public peace and order,” said Mulenga. “There was no breach of peace and order during Mr Chipepo’s exercise of his constitutional rights and so the police are in breach of the Constitution for arresting him. CiSCA therefore demands the immediate release of Mr Chipepo.”