Do You Agree with the Assertion That the Public Order Act in Zambian Constitution Has Made It Difficult for Opposition Parties to Exercise the Right of Assembly?

Topics: Democracy, Human rights, Freedom of speech Pages: 9 (2542 words) Published: April 10, 2013



DUE DATE : 11th April 2013


P.O BOX 31295


The debate on the Public Order Act is an interesting one. There is no doubt that this piece of legislation has for a long time raised a lot of contentious arguments between those in government and those outside the realms of power (opposition parties, NGOs etc). However, it seems this piece of legislation is viewed differently depending on who assumes state power as seen by the former ruling party which has been crying foul over the same controversial law it took advantage of, while in Government. The aim of this paper is to support the assertion that, “Public Order Act in Zambian Constitution has made it difficult for opposition parties to exercise the right of assembly”. The heart of the subject hinges on the note that; there is urgent need to review the public order Act and its implementation. It is clear that in its current form, the public order Act is not advancing liberties, but is curtailing inalienable rights, which include freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly.

Public Order Act is the piece of registration that gives tight to hold public meetings in a lawful manner.1 According to the present laws anybody intending to hold a meeting must notify the police and such notification would determine whether or not such a meeting would take place (Favour,2013:2).

However, according to LAZ such impositions and criminalization have tended to negate the rights and freedoms of individuals and the public to associate and freely express themselves in speech and through assembly.2

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-Interpretation: "meeting" means a meeting held for the purpose of the discussion of matters of public interest or for the purpose of the expression of views on such matters; on the other hand "public meeting" includes any meeting in a public place and any meeting (whether or not in a building) which the public or any section thereof are permitted to attend, whether on payment or otherwise.


1. GRZ, Constitution of Zambia. Public Order Act

2. Favour 2013. Review of the public order act in Zambia.

The public order Act in its current form and implementation has not changed things much from the way they were under the one-party state. Despite some amendments having been made to the public order Act to try and bring it in tune with a multiparty political dispensation, its enforcement or implementation has not changed much from what it was under the one-party state.

Bulungwe (2012:23) notes that, “ it is true freedom of expression and that of assembly are sometimes abused by various individuals and groups, and society sometimes needs protection from such abuses.” But the solution is not to try and take away such liberties in a generalized way. And moreover, what is at stake here are not small privileges that the government of the day extends to some citizens. We are here dealing with fundamental liberties which exist independently of government.

And since these liberties exist independently of government, these rights cannot be legislated away, nor are they subject to the momentary whim of an electoral majority. And this is a fundamental principle upon which democratic government is founded. It is said that governments in a democracy do not grant fundamental freedoms; governments are created...
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