Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia is shocked at the manner in which Zambians are being restricted from meeting to discuss matters of national interest.
Of particular interest is the arrest of human rights advocate, Fumba Chama -also known as Pilato - and Ladlas Mambwe by Police in Livingstone on Saturday, 21st December, 2019 for the alleged crime of Unlawful Assembly. What is more shocking is that other human rights defenders, Lauta Miti and Bornwell Mwewa were also nabbed after they went to Livingstone to negotiate the release of Chama and Mambwe.
The Right to Assemble is a constitutional right, provided for and guaranteed by Article 21 of the Zambia Constitution which is for all intents and purposes is the supreme law of the land. Section 5 (4) (e) of the Public Order Act provides that the public meeting, procession or demonstration shall not create a risk to security or public safety, a breach of the peace or disaffection amongst inhabitants of that neighborhood; and (f) that the conveners of the meeting, procession or demonstration have been assured by the Police that at the time of the proposed activity shall be held, it will be possible for it to be adequately policed.
Eye witness accounts have revealed that police forces initially went to the Catholic church’s YCTC premises where Chama and Mambwe were engaging youths on various issues of national interest. Important to note is that they were not the conveners of the meeting, neither was there –as provided for by the law – creation of any risk to security or public safety, nor a breach of the peace or disaffection amongst inhabitants of that neighborhood. Police left the scene only to return later, aggressive and with instructions to arrest the two.
This is unacceptable, deplorable, and unjust. Zambia is a democracy and every citizen has a right to participate in meetings and assemblies that do not pose threats to public safety. The activists were in a peaceful initiative. There is no crime in empowering the youth to demand accountability from their government.
We at the Alliance demand the immediate and unconditional release of Chama, Mambwe, Miti and Mwewa.
The continued shrinking space for civil society is an affront on the rights of Zambians to access information on their entitlements and we condemn it with all the contempt it deserves. Authorities must realise that Zambia is a democracy in which the freedom of speech and right of assembly are both guaranteed. Anything to the contrary is murderous to the Independence the country gained in 1964 from such colonial style of leadership as well as the 1991 democratic option of governance that the people of Zambia chose.
Fight Inequality Alliance Zambia