Power and Politics

Civil Society Organisations call for clear roadmap on reforms on public order laws


The Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Coalition advocating for Public Order Act reforms has expressed concerns about the lack of transparency and uncertainty on the reform process of the law.

The CSOs also urged the government to provide a clear roadmap and ensure greater transparency in the process through regular updates to the public at every stage.

They made the demands during the dialogue meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jack Mwimbu, in Lusaka on Thursday.

The objective of the meeting was to dialogue on issues around Public Order Act reform and CSOs submission of a joint position paper on the Public Gatherings Bill

On behalf of the CSOs, GEARS Initiative Zambia, Executive Director, Patrick Kaumba, said the public should be informed at every stage of the legislative process to avoid anxieties among the stakeholders.

Kaumba expressed concern over the slow pace of the legislative process since then and urged the government to expedite the process of enacting the Bill into law.

“This is whilst recognizant of progress in the reform process shown with the handing over of the Public Gathering Bill to the Ministry and the Ministry of Justice by the Zambia Law Development Commission on 16th January, 2023,” he said.

Kaumba called on the government to recognize the importance of enacting a law that would facilitate rather than one that over regulates.

He said the law should ensure that citizens are assured of enjoyment of their rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly in line with best practices as enshrined in international and regional human rights conventions.

Kaunba noted the need for the government to embrace the mindset change of the Zambia Police and adopt a human rights based approach when applying the law once enacted.

The CSOs later submitted the position paper to the Minister and shared highlights contained therein and reiterated their earlier position that the Public Gathering Bill was largely a progressive Bill that can address people’s concerns if well implemented.

The Minister expressed government’s resolve in delivering a good law that would satisfy the citizens.

“Government is aware of concerns by some citizens on the civic space but we are determined to continue opening up the civic and political space and further strengthen democracy for the benefit of the people,” Mwiimbu said.

He expressed government resolve to table the Bill in parliament within the year, 2024.

‘”I wish to express my gratitude with the CSOs approach to dialogue and committed to review the position paper in its entirety and incorporate some of the views in the final Bill to be tabled in Parliament,” Mwiimbu stated.

The CSO Coalition members on the Public Gatherings Bill include GEARS Initiative Zambia, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) and MISA Zambia.

Others are Panos Institute for Southern Africa, Common Causes Zambia (CCZ), the Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes SACCORD), Operation Young Vote (OYV) and the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP).

It also comprised of Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), Action Aid Zambia (AAZ) Alliance for Community Action (ACA) and Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) among others.

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