By CHILA NAMAIKO
and STEVEN ZANDE
THE Government has welcomed the support of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) for stating that President Edgar Lungu was within his constitutional powers to invoke Article 31 of the Constitution.
However, Chief Government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga has raised issues with the way the association has interpreted certain aspects of the proclamation.
Reacting to a statement issued by LAZ president Linda Kasonde, Ms Mulenga regretted some of the issues the association raised, saying LAZ stopped short of enlightening the public on the proclamation.
At a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Ms Kasonde also explained that the procedure of issuing the proclamation in the Gazette was done in accordance with the law, and explained that during the 90-day period when the Threatened State of Emergency would be in effect, citizens’ rights would not be affected in any way because the Bill of Rights had not been over-ridden by the proclamation.
Ms Kasonde clarified that the Government did not have full emergency powers, hence the need to ensure that measures that would be undertaken conformed to the Constitution, especially with respect to the Bill of Rights.
But Ms Mulenga, who is Information and Broadcasting Services minister, noted with regret that the LAZ’s statement went further to doubt the circumstances under which Article 31 was invoked.
“As Government, we are aware that LAZ’s mandate essentially deals with interpretation of the law and, as such, one would have expected that the statement would have ended at enlightening the public about the meaning of such an undertaking by Government,” Ms Mulenga said in a statement yesterday.
Ms Mulenga was disappointed and shocked that an organisation like LAZ could question the circumstances leading to the invocation of Article 31 when the reasons were given by President Lungu in his address to the nation a few days ago.
“If LAZ doubts the reasons advanced by the Republican President, it should have taken the matter to court as opposed to bringing doubts in the minds of many innocent Zambians by saying the reasons would be known when the matter goes to court. Who will go to court?” she asked.
Ms Mulenga said it was also disheartening that LAZ had gone ahead to question the application of the Preservation of Public Security Act (PPA) to the current situation of a threatened State of Emergency.
If LAZ does not believe that the PPA applied to Article 31, she said the association should have challenged the matter in court, but again it had neglected to do so and had opted to cause doubts in the minds of Zambians.
Ms Mulenga said the Government was saddened that LAZ had proceeded to sow seeds of discontent and doubts in the minds of citizens by making feeble statements on the question of the quorum that approved the action in Parliament on the pretext that this would be subjudice.
As an association of lawyers, Ms Mulenga said that LAZ would have conducted a search to establish whether there was a matter before any court to determine whether a quorum was formed or not, as opposed to relying on social media.
Ms Mulenga said it was clear that LAZ’s statement was not made in good faith, saying it was merely calculated to cause doubts in the minds of the people.
The minister said it was important for LAZ to realise that the matter was important and needed to be approached with the seriousness it deserved.
The Government challenged LAZ to be sincere and professional as opposed to peddling what Ms Mulenga called narrow pedestrian views on important national issues such as this one.
Such an approach, she said, left much to be desired and may act as confirmation that the LAZ did not mean well.
She said it was important that institutions such as LAZ stick to their mandates and not involve themselves in matters they may not have the necessary competences such as security.
Ms Mulenga said if the circumstances leading to the invocation of the said article did not warrant the action taken as suggested by LAZ, the Government had cause to worry.
The minister said the Government had a responsibility to safeguard the country’s peace and security, and was convinced that the measures taken were appropriate and in the interest of every Zambian.
Meanwhile, Ms Kasonde had earlier said LAZ would engage the Government on the matter.
“We plan to engage Government on some of these issues. In the interim, we urge the public to be calm and be comforted that even during this time, the courts have power to oversee the excesses of executive,” Ms Kasonde said.
She said this at a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday.
Ms Kasonde explained that during the 90-day period when the Threatened State of Emergency would be in effect, citizens’ rights would not be affected in any way because the Bill of Rights had not been over-ridden by the proclamation.
Ms Kasonde clarified that Government did not have full emergency powers hence the need to ensure that measures that would be undertaken conformed to the Constitution, especially with respect to the Bill of Rights.
She further explained that in this regard Government did not have powers to extend the Threatened State of Emergency beyond the three-months which was approved by Parliament last week.
Ms Kasonde said the 90-day period could only be extended if the President had invoked Article 30 of the Constitution which could have resulted in a full State of Emergency.
She said LAZ had noted the reasons which had been given in invoking Article 31 and expressed the association’s sympathy for victims of the unfortunate events of suspected acts of sabotage.
She urged investigating wings to consider informing the public through a conclusive investigation into the infernos and acts of vandalism to public infrastructure on the outcome of their probe.
She said expeditious investigations and conclusion into the fires and acts cited for the proclamation would help normalise the situation in the nation.