JUSTICE minister Mulambo Haimbe says amending the public order Act will be a “top priority” of the UPND government.
He also says those in public offices should ensure they have an upright approach, in terms of handling national affairs.
Haimbe, a lawyer, was speaking on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme.
Under the fallen regime of Edgar Lungu, the application of the public order Act was akin to pre-independence despotic colonial masters.
Programme host, Grevazio Zulu, asked Haimbe to comment on the public order Act, especially its amendment.
“For me, so far as it (commitment) comes from the highest office in the land – at the very first opportunity when the President addresses Parliament and he makes that commitment – it shows that we are taking this matter very seriously,” Haimbe answered. “That is, in itself, an instruction for the Ministry [of Justice], in terms of ensuring that the public order Act meets the aspirations of the people of Zambia. The commitment has been made and as soon as Cabinet sits and the necessary formalities and procedures are undertaken, this will be one of those pieces of legislation that will be looked at.”
On what would be up for amendments, especially that some people still argue that the Act, in its current form, does not need amendments but only ‘good people’ to implement it, the minister said: “there are certain aspects of it, in terms of implementation when you consider some of the decisions of the Supreme Court, for example.”
“We are alive to the fact that there is need for order in the way we interact in the public spaces; in the way we have our public processions. But there is room for improvement and that room must come to meet the aspirations of the people of Zambia,” he explained. “We’ll be looking critically at each and every aspect of the Act and see how we can improve it. I don’t think as at now, without a draft before us, we can actually go into the little nitty-gritty of it. But certainly I can say for a fact that the whole essence of review and legislation in this particular dispensation will be to ensure that it meets your and my aspiration.”
Haimbe indicated that past humiliations of some citizens, using the public order Act, should not recur.
“[We don’t want] to see what has happened in the recent past where [when] you try to go to any part of the country, the Act is used as a means of preventing you, as though you need a passport,” he said.
About the assertion that the public order Act simply needs good people to implement it, Haimbe pointed out that: “from my perspective, at least,” there is need for the Zambia Police Service to be re-engaged, in terms of the mode of training and related aspects.
“Of course, that is not within my purview. But certainly, it’s something that I would advocate and lobby for as a member of parliament and as member of Cabinet,” Haimbe, who is Lusaka Central UPND member of parliament, said.
On the timeframe for amending the public order Act, he said: “I don’t think that the timeframe is really the issue that we should be dealing with.”
“We want to make it (the public order Act) one of our priorities. The people of Zambia will be able to watch and see what we are doing. There are a number of formalities that need to be addressed,” he said. “So, it’s very difficult for me to be able to say it without the necessary guidance from the larger group, Cabinet, as to when we’ll take this particular step. But I can re-assure the people of Zambia that it is a top priority and this is why it was one of the key elements of the presidential address [to Parliament on September 10, 2021].”
The minister was further asked how is he going to deal with the perception that the Judiciary is under siege by politicians, thereby making the corrupt with political connections to go scot-free because of their political connections.
Haimbe responded that perception would always be there.
“The only way this can be dealt with is to ensure that we have an upright approach to handling of national affairs. [We have] to ensure that where there are strong and credible allegations, they are dealt with immediately,” indicated Haimbe. “I suppose that is not just the function of the Ministry of Justice but will be a function of broader government. At the end of the day, it’s about being upright in the management of the affairs of the country. This is one of the key pillars that our Head of State has talked about, not just in the parliamentary address but in previous engagements with the media.”