Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia Rt Hon. Mr Justice Dr Patrick Matibini, SC.,BA, FCIArb, MP has urged Members of Parliament to provide the necessary impetus for the entire reform process of the Public Order Act (POA). The Rt Hon Justice Dr Matibini said that it was imperative and befitting to critically review the POA because it has been controversial for a long time now.

Dr Matibini was speaking at Parliament Buildings in Lusaka on Wednesday, 20th March, 2019 when he officially opened the workshop on the International Standards and best practices to guide the review of the Public Order Act organised by the Ministry of Justice in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

He said that he was optimistic that the workshop would provide a very useful platform for MPs to effectively analyse the Act in light of best international standards which should eventually inform the reform and modernisation of the Act.  Dr Matibini added that the workshop would present the MPs with rich and insightful information especially with regards to keeping the Ten Principles for Proper Management of Assemblies which guarantee the protection of rights to expression, association and assembly.  The Act is not only essential for maintenance of public order, but also in levelling the political field in a multi-party political dispensation such as Zambia.

Earlier, Minister of Justice Hon Given Lubinda, MP reiterated governments’ commitment to ensuring that a legal framework that supports freedoms of assembly, association and inclusive participation in politics, is put in place to support the growth of democracy in the country as outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan. Hon Lubinda assured the MPs that once the revised POA is enacted by Parliament, government would ensure that adequate time and resources are mobilized for capacity building and sensitization of all stakeholders on the provisions of the new Act before the 2021 elections.

At the same occasion, Clerk of the National Assembly Mrs Cecilia Mbewe said that the workshop would provide an opportunity for Members of Parliament to interact with experts on public order and safety. She thanked the IPU and the Ministry of Justice for having taken the initiative to provide an opportunity and a platform for Members of the Legislature to discuss issues concerning the Public Order Act.

The Act was initially promulgated as the Public Order Ordinance of 1955. The Ordinance was then meant to primarily contain nationalist movements in the colonial era.  Many Zambians, especially political actors perceive the Act as an impediment to the enjoyments of their freedoms. Inspite of some amendments over the years, the Act continues to be a subject of intense public debate, controversy and even court challenges.