Who has been a victim of the Public Order Act in Zambia?


By Andrew Njobvu

The argument  is unassailable and impeccable that Zambians has suffered in this country and one of the tools of oppression has been the Public Order Act. Who have been the victims?

The victims have been opponents and critics of the rulling clique. During the Kaunda regime the victims were African National Congress before the one Party state was ushered in and during the one party state the major critics and opponents were the trade unions led by the Zambia Congress of trade Unions. During the transition to multipartism, the victims were the  proponents of political multipartism and civil society organizations.

With the proliferation of political parties after the 1991, the Public Order Act took centre stage and we witnessed who it was used to deny dissenting groups their fundamental freedoms to gather and meet.

When the MMD took over power in 1991, despite having suffered under the Public  Order Act during the Kaunda regime, shamelessly the Chiluba regime became a Trojan horse and used the Public Order Act to harass and victimize the opposition UNIP and other critics;. Despite Dr Frederick Chiluba having campaigned on the platform of democracy and political multipartism and tolerance, he became so intolerant to the point that the 1996 amended constitution declared Dr Kaunda stateless. This is how vengeance Dr Chiluba was. When Dr Chiluba was asseting to the 1996 amended constitution, the MMD national Secretary then Mr Michael Chilufya Sata organized cadres to witness the event at State House where they were instructed to shout ‘ Kaunda  walala, Kaunda walala, Kaunda walala’. In a nutshell this goes to show how the MMD regime had abandoned its original values of democracy and political pluralism. The Chawama killings using machetes  was a scheme designed by  Dr Chiluba and his National Secretary Michael Sata.  The police have in most cases been viewed as being partial in trhe administration of the Public Order Act. A number of questions have been  raised on the professionalism of the police.

Under the Chiluba regime the country witnessed the following  atrocities, oppressions and victimizations of those who were opposed to Chiluba and the MMD.

1. In 1995 police denied a permit to students at the Elelyn Hone College in Lusaka who wanted to demonstrate and show solidarity for Mr Patrict Levy Mwanawasa’s intention to stand as a presidential candidate, but the same poiice  escorted pupils to state house in a demonstration in support of the then president Chiluba.

2.In 1996 police thwarted a protest march by students  from the University of Zambia over government’s intention to rename the Univeristy of Zambia to Harry Mwaanga  and plans to present the draft constitution to Parliament. The police by their use of force turned what was a peaceful demosteation into a full scale riot leaving a truck belonging to Coca cola company looted.

3.On 30th August 2000, police armed with short buttons and teagas canisters raided the students hostels at the University of Zambia following protests about increase in fees. Some students were seriously injured.

4.In October 1995 police verbally withdrew a demonstration permit for a public demostation against the mode of adoption of the constitution on the ground of security reasons. People who had gathered at the freedom statue in anticipation of the demonstration were arrested. Amongst those arrested were Fr Joe KomaKoma, Samuel Mulafulafu, Morse Nanchengwa and the Late Lucy Sichone.

5.In the same month of October 1995 police issued a ban from holding public meetings to aoll organizations The Barotse  Cultural association in Kalabo was denied a permit by police to have a series of civic education meetings

6. In 1996 in Kabwe and prior to the elections, the MMD had picked late Paul Tembo who was MMD vice National secretary as their preferred candidate but the whole Kabwe  wanted Captain Chewe as their candidate. At a Public meeting addressed by president Chiluba, the MMD cadres booed and jeered at Chiluba for imposing Paul Tembo on them. Chiluba reacted and ordered the police to descend on the cadres and it was pick nick for the police and they went wild and beat up everyone .

7. A group of women and civil society members wanted to demonstrate against the police inability  to arrest a serial killer in Lusaka Cheston area who had killed girls between 10 and 13 years during the the year 1999/2000. However the police denied these people opportunity to do so. A total of 39 demonstrators however defied  the order of the police and went ahead with their demonstration. They were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly.

8 On 27th April 2000 the Junior Doctor association at UTH  planned a demonstration to raise public awareness on the state of the health service delivery and their conditions of service. They  informed the police about their intention. Two days prior to the event, the police informed them that they could not be allowed to demonstrate. The Doctors defied the police order and went ahead after putting in place all necessary measures such as marshals etc. The police in full riot gear  went into action and arrested the doctors.

All these atrocities were taking place in a so called democratic state and meanwhile government officials were going to the UN Human Rights Council making reports that all was well in Zambia.

9..In  1999 there was confusion in Chililabombwe when the then National Citizens Coalition(NCC( president Nevers Mumba was blocked from preaching at Lubengele hall. Police in the area said that Never Mumba needed a permit to preach  and the church leaders who had invited Never Mumba to preach were summoned to the police station. This was happening  in a Christian Nation. Hypocrisy.

10. In 2001 Mourners at the late Paul Tembo’S funeral attempted to march to Mulungushi International conference centre where Chiluba and other heads of state had gathered to express their anger at the fatal shooting of Paul Tembo. The police attempted to disperse the mourners by force and there was disorder.

11. In 2001 MMD cadres armed with machetes and stones indiscriminately hacked people who were  voting in the Chawama by elections and police  watched dormantly without  taking any action because the order to hack people to death was from Chiluba and Sata .

12. In 1996 Christine Mulundika and seven ( 7) other people including Dr Kaunda  held a meeting in Chongwe with police permit but later police cancelled the meeting and arrested the organizers.This matter went up to supreme court and this was the ruling

‘ We begin from the premises that there are certain minimum attributes in any democracy including the availability of a Government which reflects the will of the majority of the people expressed at periodic and genuine elections the power of the state should reside in the people and where this is exercised on their behalf, the mandatory is accountable. Apart from the free and informed consent and maximum participation of the governed it is also common to expect that the people  have and actually enjoy basic  rights and freedoms available to the majority as well as to nay minority. Although there are many shades sof democracy and an adequate definition elusive – and certainly not necessary for our present purposes – the courts have long recognized the importance of freedom of speech and assembly in a democratic society”.

The 2016 elections are crucial and any student of politics and electoral system in Zambia will agree that the fact that people will be voting under new concepts such as the 50% plus one, the running mate, the mayoral elections and the running side by side of a referendum is in itself enough evidence for one to argue that this year’s elections will be crucial and every measure ought to be put in place to ensure that Zambia continues to enjoy her credentials of holding generally free and fair elections.


This article on the Public Order Act and political violence may not be complete if I do not refer to the ‘MAPATIZYA FORMULA’ that evil scheme by the opposition UPND, which encourages violence . The MAPATIZYA FORMULA  is a dent on the UPND and in the event that the UPND won the 2016, it is clear that they could be worse off in terms of administrating the PUBLIC ORDER ACT, because they have already shown that while in the opposition, they are capable of designing  schemes which do not add value to our democracy. Regretably  Hakainde Hichilema  has not distanced himself from the MAPATIZYA FORMULA. We do not know his position. If he wants our votes he needs to denounce every form of violene because violence belongs to dictators such as Kamuzyu Banda, Idi Amin, Emperor Bokasa, Musolini and Hitler.


The author is member of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace(CCJP) and chairperson for the Jesuit Crentre for Theological Reflection(JCTR) Kasama outreach team. And recipient of World Bank award in good governance. Email: anjovu8@gmail.com

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