People’s freedoms intact – civil society

SACCORD executive director Boniface Cheembe.

CIVIL society organisations say people’s liberties have not been withdrawn in any way and everything is going on normally after the invocation of Article

31 of the Constitution.
Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director Mwenge Chimfwembe says people have continued to enjoy their rights and life has not been disrupted in any way.
Mr Chimfwembe said in an interview yesterday that FODEP has asked its members across the country to keenly monitor if any civil liberties have been affected following President Lungu’s invocation of Article 31 of the Constitution.
“There have not been any freedoms withdrawn from the people, and we would like to commend the police for the job well done so far,” he said.
Mr Chimfwembe, however, called for intensified sensitisation on the implications of invoking Article 31 so that the general public does not live in apprehension.
“Criminals hide in the community, so it’s important that the police work in collaboration with the general public and bring to book these arsonists. But so far so good, public meetings are going on without any interruption,” he said.
Southern African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) executive director Boniface Cheembe said in a separate interview that so far it is “business as usual” and there has been no interruption in people’s enjoyment of civil liberties.
Mr Cheembe is, however, concerned that the threatened state of emergency has not been fully explained to people and therefore some think there is a curfew.
“There is an information gap, most people in townships seem not to understand what this article really means. There are a lot of different versions,” he said.
Mr Cheembe hoped that reports that 10 individuals in Livingstone went missing last week are not true or linked to the invocation of Article 31of the Constitution.
And Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) executive director Andrew Ntewewe has urged the police to quickly bring to book all arsonists so that the invocation of Article 31 can be lifted.
“There is a lot of apprehension, business has been affected. People are no longer going to bars or nightclubs and as early as 20:00 hours, the Great East Road is deserted,” Mr Ntewewe said.
He said this is happening because people have not fully understood the meaning of invoking Article 31 of the Constitution and some have interpreted it as a state of emergency.
Government has invoked Article 31 of the 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.
The powers being invoked are in the Preservation of Public Security Act as opposed to the Emergency Powers Act used under a state of emergency.

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