THE application of the Public Order Act has always been contentious because it seemed intent on suppressing opposition public manifestation, as provided for under the right of assembly and conscience.
Very often sitting governments have used the Act to deny the opposition an opportunity to hold meetings, express their views and seek common action
It is gratifying now that the situation is changing.
This is evidenced by the agreement between Police and United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema in which he undertook to advise police of future political activities in line with the Public Order Act.
There is no doubt the meetings Mr. Hichilema held in pursuit of thanksgiving were perceived negatively by the ruling Patriotic Front whose cadres attempted to disrupt them by causing confusion and mayhem.
Fortunately this did not come to pass as level headed thinking defused what could have been a violent eruption of political contestation.
There is no question that Mr Hichilema is not an ordinary citizen who can walk around Lusaka to thank voters without attracting attention from his supporters and other cadres from other political parties.
He is the leading opposition leader who came second in the January 20, 2015 Presidential by-election. In that election, Mr Hichilema managed to draw crowds in every part of Zambia.
It is for this reason that the thanksgiving procession within Lusaka should have been seen as an on-going political campaign that would attract interest not just from UPND supporters but from other political parties including the ruling PF.
That is why police should have been consulted to ensure that Mr Hichilema’s tour of Lusaka went ahead without let or hindrance.
It is again gratifying that both police and Mr. Hichilema saw the point and agreed on a way forward that will preserve peace and tranquillity in the political body of this country.
It is usually from small events that major differences arise resulting in conflagrations that get out of hand and engulf whole communities.
No doubt that as Zambians head towards the 2016 general elections, political players would like to maximise their interaction with the voters so that they can woo as many as possible voters in next year’s elections.
But this cannot be done without the involvement of law enforcement agencies so that peace is guaranteed to lessen misunderstandings.
History tells us that the meeting of cadres from different political parties has not always been incident free.
Only last week, Mr Hichilema and his followers were attacked by some suspected Patriotic Front cadres who felt aggrieved by the opposition leader’s premature campaigns for next year’s elections.
While the attack on Mr Hichilema and his entourage in Kamwala by PF cadres was unnecessary, it is important that measures are put in place to ensure that peace prevails during those tours.
Therefore, it is important that Police are notified so that it is easier for them to offer security or respond to security threats in areas the opposition leader would like to visit.
As we have pointed out, we are happy that the meeting at Kabwata Police Station was not about who was wrong or who was right.
It was about finding ground in which security and politicking can be managed.