Power and Politics

Group calls for enactment of Public Gatherings Bill amid concerns over democratic space


The Civil Society Organisations Coalition has called on government to expedite the process of enacting the draft Public Gatherings Bill.

According to the coalition, since the bill was handed over to the Ministry of Justice on January 16, 2023, there was no tangible progress or a roadmap shared with the public on its enactment.

Gears Initiative Zambia Executive Director, Patrick Kaumba, said the continued refusal by the police to allow opposition parties the political space to exercise their fundamental rights of association and assembly by holding rallies outside of by-election periods was dent to democracy.

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“These actions are a serious dent on our democracy,” he said.

Kaumba urged the government to recognise that the rights to freedom of association and assembly are fundamental human rights and were essential for a vibrant democracy to thrive.

He further opposed the reasons given for the failure to facilitate notifications to hold rallies, including the shortage of police officers to oversee the events, as well as unspecified and unsupported security concerns.

“We are of the strong view that this is the right time to change the legal framework regarding public assemblies, and accompanied with accountability and a mindset shift in the police service when applying the law,” he stated.

He also appealed to the government to recognise the importance of enacting a law that would facilitate the enjoyment of rights and freedoms of association, expression and assembly.

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