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What is wrong with the public order Act?

[By Simon Kalolo Kabanda]

It was enacted on 19 August 1955. The public order Act (POA) is described as follows:

“An Act to prohibit the wearing of uniforms in connection with political objects and the maintenance by private persons of associations of military or similar character; and to make further provision for the preservation of public order.’’

Although there have been thirteen (13) amendments made to the Act since then, it still carries the spirit that was meant to respond to the political environment of 1955.

The sub-title of Section 5 of the POA is:

REGULATION OF ASSEMBLIES, PUBLIC MEETINGS AND PROCESSIONS

And Section 5(4) states as follows:

“Every person who intends to assemble or convene a public meeting, procession or demonstration shall give police at least seven days notice of that person’s intention to assemble or convene such a meeting, procession or demonstration.”

The catchword in this provision is: NOTICE.

Although giving notice to the police is not a request to the police to issue a PERMIT, other provisions of the POA talk about issuance of a permit.

For example, Section 5(8) reads as follows:

“Any police officer, magistrate or any District Messenger may stop any procession for which no permit has been issued under this section or which, if such a permit has been issued, contravenes or fails to comply with any conditions specified therein, and may order any such procession or any assembly or public meeting for which a permit is required and which has been convened in a public place without such a permit or which, if such a permit has been issued, contravenes or fails to be convened in a public place without such a permit or which, if such a permit has been issued, contravenes or fails to comply with any condition of such permit, or which contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of subsection (1) of section nine, to disperse.’’

The sub-title of Section 6 is:

PENALTY FOR DISOBEYING A DIRECTION OR VIOLATING CONDITIONS OF PERMIT ISSUED UNDER SECTION 5

This sub-title implies that the NOTICE to the Police is followed by issuance of a PERMIT.

And Section 7(a) states as follows:

“Any assembly, meeting or procession for which a permit is required under subsection (4) of section five and which takes place without the issue of such permit shall be deemed to be an unauthorised assembly …”

Arising from the Amended Section 5(4), the requirement to obtain a police permit was done away with. The subsequent provisions, which refer to issuance of a permit, are therefore a contradiction to Section 5(4).

If you have any question or issue regarding the Constitution and/or related matters that you would like this column to discuss, kindly send a message to me either through SMS, WhatsApp: +260-761-206353, or email: shimwenya@yahoo.com.

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