HONE SIAME, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has invoked Article 31 of the Republican Constitution to give police more powers to stop a spate of economic sabotage
in the country.
This entails that sabotage suspects may be arrested and detained for more than the stipulated 48 hours before being taken to court.
Civil liberties have, however, not been suspended as the case is under a state of emergency. Under this declaration, if the sabotage continues, the President may declare a state of emergency.
The powers being invoked are in the Preservation of Public Security Act as opposed to the Emergency Powers Act used under the state of emergency.
Addressing the nation last evening, President Lungu said the application of Article 31 of the constitution has been made in the interest of the country to safeguard property and lives of citizens.
This comes in the wake of a string of acts of fire outbreaks and vandalism which President Lungu says are premeditated acts.
“Following these sad events, my Government has decided to invoke Article 31 of the republican Constitution which guides how a nation should deal with an existing situation which, if allowed to continue, may lead to a state of public emergency.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the intentions of the perpetrators of these irresponsible actions is to make the country ungovernable. As President of this nation, it is my responsibility to respond accordingly to forestall this planned chaos and I will, therefore, not tolerate this lawlessness,” he said.
President Lungu said he has watched the sabotage acts with sadness and that it is time to restore order through application of existing pieces of legislation.
“By the powers vested in me by the Constitution of Zambia, I have issued a statutory instrument (SI) which will lead to the declaration of public emergency. This is not an easy decision to make. But in order to preserve national security, I have been left with no choice but to take this decision,” he said.
He said the onus is now on members of Parliament to ratify his proclamation within the stipulated period.
“By the powers vested in me by the Constitution of Zambia, I have issued a statutory instrument proclaiming that a situation exists which, if allowed to continue, may lead to a state of public emergency. This will be tabled in the National Assembly in line with article 31(2) for approval. It is my sincere hope that the members of Parliament will rise to the occasion,” he said
He urged the citizens and the business community to continue going about their daily routines as his decision is not meant to instil fear in them.
Mr Lungu said Zambia has remained a beacon of peace for over 50 years, a feat he said should be cherished and sustained to safeguard the economic gains the country has made.
He said it is sad that the peace the country has enjoyed over the years is being eroded by criminal-minded elements that want to make the country ungovernable through their barbaric acts.
“In the recent past, this country has experienced fires bordering on economic sabotage,” President Lungu said.
President Lungu has since constituted a committee of ministers to be chaired by Vice-President Inonge Wina to spearhead the process of rendering assistance to affected victims to the gutted Lusaka City Market.
The head of State said the committee will also spearhead the rebuilding of the market.
He called on the business community to assist in helping the affected victims by rendering the necessary support to help restore their lives.
“All forms of support will be coordinated through the Vice-President’s office.
These events could have serious socio-economic consequences that could reverse the country’s economic gains,” he said
Some of the acts of sabotage are the gutting of Lusaka’s Tambalala Market in Bauleni, burning of Mongu Local Court, Luburma Market and damage to Zesco installations in Ndola.