Power and Politics

Govt urged to repeal Public Order Act, as it reportedly punishes peaceful meetings, protests


Socialist party (SP) leader, Dr Fred M’membe, has noted the need for government to repeal all ‘bad laws’ such as the Public Order Act.

M’membe said there was a role for the government in keeping people safe from actual criminals but that some of the laws, like the Public Order Act, did not keep people safe.

In a statement issued in Lusaka on Monday, M’membe noted that the Public Order Act punishes peaceful meetings, protests, demonstrations or rallies and other activities unlikely to be performed with criminal intent.

He stated that the absence of criminal intent should be taken more seriously by the politicians, legislators and other leaders.

“With a law like the public order Act which punishes you without you having intent to commit a crime on our statute books, the old adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” no longer makes sense,” M’membe said.

He noted the need for government to regularly repeal laws, like the public order Act, which was deemed not needed.

M’membe said although there were some exceptions, criminal intent was an essential element of most crimes and under the common law, all crimes consisted of an act carried out with a guilty intent.

Read More: Lawyers lambast Hichilema administration for breaches, abuse of Public Order Act

“In modern society, criminal intent can be the basis for fault, and punishment according to intent is a core premise of criminal justice,” he said.

M’membe stated that crimes that lack the intent element are less common and are usually graded lower, as either misdemeanors or infractions.

He said malice aforethought was a special common-law intent designated for only one crime: murder.

“Society considers intent to kill the most evil of all intents, so malice aforethought crimes generally mandate the most severe of punishments, including the death penalty in jurisdictions that allow for it,” M’membe said.

M’membe argued that criminal intent was a necessary component of a “conventional” crime and involves a conscious decision on the part of one party to injure or deprive another.

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