The statement highlights several issues, including increased arrests of opposition members, concerns surrounding the Patriotic Front, and the need for tolerance to divergent views.
In the press statement, President of LAZ, Lungisani Zulu, emphasized the organization’s commitment to upholding the rule of law, democracy, and national development in Zambia.
He stated, “As lawyers, we are subject to a precondition to our being allowed to practice law, being that we must publicly swear on the Bible, before the Chief Justice, to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of Zambia.”
The statement outlined various areas of concern:
1. Increased Arrests of Opposition Members: LAZ expressed its disapproval of the increased incidents of arrests targeting leaders of opposition parties. The statement highlighted the lack of immediate release on Police Bond, despite offenses being bailable. LAZ called for an end to what it sees as attempts to silence opposition through arrests.
Zulu stated, “The arrests of Opposition Parties by the Police are merely an attempt to cower them into silence, something which is retrogressive in a democratic dispensation.”
2. Matters Surrounding the Patriotic Front: LAZ reiterated its position on the importance of robust political parties for a healthy democracy. It expressed concerns about the involvement of state institutions in legitimizing actions of one faction of the Patriotic Front over another before the courts of law make a final determination.
The statement criticized the Speaker of the National Assembly for acting on the instructions of one faction, even when the matter was contested in court. LAZ announced its intention to move the Constitutional Court to clarify the procedure for electing the leader of the opposition.
3. Tolerance to Divergent Views: LAZ called on the government to embrace divergent views, expressing concerns about the intolerance shown to stakeholders with different opinions. The organization condemned arrests using cyber security and other penal laws for expressing views disliked by the government.
Zulu emphasized, “The maturity and strength of a Government are not judged by the absence of divergent views, but the level of its tolerance and magnanimity to those with such views.”
4. Too Much Politicking at the Expense of National Development: The press statement highlighted the continued and increased politicking in the country, calling for political leaders to offer tangible solutions for the economic challenges facing Zambia. LAZ emphasized the duty of political parties to promote values of good governance and sustainable development.
Zulu stated, “It is archaic politics, and definitely not in the interest of citizens nor furtherance of sustainable development, for political players to stand hands akimbo, waiting for those entrusted to govern at any particular time to fail.”
5. Public Order Act and Access to Information Bill: LAZ commended the government for taking the Access to Information Bill to Parliament but urged the quick reform of the archaic Public Order Act. The organization called on the Police to stop the abuse of the provisions of the Public Order Act and emphasized the importance of the judiciary in maintaining the rule of law.
Zulu concluded the press statement with a call for collective action and urged church bodies and civil society to convene a national indaba to discuss sustainable solutions for the country’s progress.
The press statement serves as a significant expression of legal professionals’ concerns about the state of democratic rights and governance in Zambia.