GOING by the number of complaints that have come from opposition political parties and civil society organisations, it is clear that the Police have a lot of explaining to do to assure Zambians that the Public Order Act is not being applied in an unfair and selective manner.
While we understand that the President and ministers can address public gatherings without notifying the Police, what is worrying is that the law enforcers seem stuck with the old mentality that ordinary people and opposition political parties need permits before conducting processions or political meetings.
This is where Inspector General of Police, Stella Libongani, should come in and put her house-Police Service- in order.
The Police should go flat out and start explaining the current status of the Public Order Act and the reason why some civil society organisations and political parties are failing to satisfy the requirements for holding processions or political rallies.
It is not doing the Police any good for the spokesperson to just issue press statements on how some people are failing to meet the requirement of the Public Order Act when a meeting for interest groups can be called to resolve misunderstandings.
But of interest is why all of a sudden the Public Order Act has become more controversial than five years ago.
This is happening when the piece of legislation was amended to remove PERMIT which was replaced with NOTIFICATION.
We believe the Police have a duty to explain what has become so difficult in this area of notifying them about intended meetings.
Is it the applicants who are becoming difficult or there are some Police officers who are still reading the old law because they have not received the amended version of the Public Order Act.
We remember how in 2007 Mr Michael Sata, then opposition PF president, decided against petitioning the Presidential election results which saw Rupiah Banda assume power in preference for countrywide campaigns for the 2011 polls.
President Sata traversed the country during his campaigns and more often, there was no notification to the police and he was allowed to conduct his meetings without any form of restriction.
It is shocking that opposition political parties are now being required to get permits from the police to feature on radio stations or even to have in-door meetings.
As if that is not enough, the civil society are being asked to seek permits from the police to hold prayer meetings.
What should be even more shocking is that the ruling party has decreed that police must endeavour to inform leaders of the PF in the provinces before allowing political parties and civil society organisations to hold their meetings.
President Sata acutely condemned the Public Order Act while in the opposition although he was ever free to hold his political meetings and one wonders what has suddenly changed that the law that was archaic just two years ago is now a perfect legislation that does not need repealing.
If indeed the Public Order Act is fair its current form, then the Police have a duty to call for stakeholders meeting to school aggrieved parties on how to successfully notify them to bring down all controversies that have arisen.