HONE SIAME, Lusaka
THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has backed President Lungu’s decision to invoke Article 31 of the republican Constitution to give the police more powers to curb acts of economic sabotage, and has urged those aggrieved to seek legal redress.
LAZ president Linda Kasonde said at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that President Lungu was on firm ground to give the police more powers to curb arson on public and private property.
Ms Kasonde said the President has constitutional powers to invoke the piece of legislation in question whenever national security is under threat.
“The Law Association of Zambia has noted the public sense of anxiety and uncertainty as to the legality and effect of the threatened state of emergency declared by President Edgar Lungu on 5 July, 2017, following the fire that gutted Lusaka City Market on 4 July, 2017.
“Clearly, Article 31 gives the Republican President the discretion as to whether or not to invoke Article 31 if a situation exists which may lead to a state of public emergency. In our view, the procedure of issuing the proclamation in the Gazette was done in accordance with the law Article 31 of the Constitution,” she said.
Ms Kasonde, however, said individuals that are not happy with the application of Article 31 of the Constitution are at liberty to seek legal action.
“As with any exercise of executive power, the power under Article 31 must be exercised reasonably. In this case, there must be a situation which exists, which, if allowed to continue, may lead to a state of public emergency,” Ms Kasonde said.
She said LAZ has taken note of the grounds that have necessitated the invocation of the proclamation by President Lungu.
“We have taken note of the reasons given in invoking Article 31. We sympathise with the victims of all these unfortunate events,” she said.
Ms Kasonde, however, wondered whether a quorum was formed when Parliament approved President Lungu’s proclamation in view of the absence of some suspended opposition members of Parliament.
However, LAZ does not believe the circumstances leading to President Lungu’s proclamation were sufficient to justify the application of the legal provision in question.
LAZ also questioned the application of Preservation of Public Security Act (PPA) to the current situation of a threatened state of emergency.
Ms Kasonde said the association has categorically stated that it does not also expect President Lungu’s proclamation to go beyond the three months period as the Constitution does not provide for that.
Parliament last week voted unanimously to endorse President Lungu’s decision to invoke Article 31 of the republican Constitution and the subsequent proclamation of a threatened state of emergency.
Consequently, the House has extended the period in which the measures under the proclamation will apply from seven days to three months.
During this period, the State will apply measures as prescribed under the Preservation of Public Security Act Chapter 112 of the Laws of Zambia.
The application of the Preservation of Public Security Act approved by Parliament allows strong and clear action to be taken to protect public safety.
Timeline on acts of sabotage:
• August 2016: Tambalala Market, Bauleni, Lusaka, gutted.
• April 2017: Mongu Local Court, Mongu, Western Province gutted.
•April 2017: Luburma Market, Luburma, Lusaka gutted.
•April 2017: Intercity Bus Terminus, Lusaka, attempt of arson, person apprehended.
•April 2017: Lusaka Central Correctional Facility, persons
apprehended on reasonable suspicion of attempted arson.
• May 2017: Kafue District Education Board Offices, Kafue, Lusaka District, gutted with reasonable grounds and evidence for suspecting arson.
•June 2017: ZESCO electricity supply lines carrying over 200
megawatts of power, near Ndola, Copperbelt Province sabotaged and set on fire, with strong grounds for suspecting arson.
.More than 10,000 households and the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium were left without power.
The sabotage disrupted the Zambia International Trade Fair (ZITF)
that was underway in Ndola, which hosts 459 local and 106 foreign exhibitors to promote trade and investment in Zambia.
• June 2017: Zesco electricity pylons, Kafue West-Lusaka West Line, destroyed by fire.
Zesco spent US$1.1 million to repair the damaged pylons
•July 2017: Lusaka City Market, Lusaka, set on fire.
• July 2017: Misisi Township Market, including Zesco pylons, Misisi, Lusaka, set on fire.
•July 2017: A fire incident in Central Province.