The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is urging individuals and institutions to take advantage of the on-going consultative meetings on the amendment of the Public Order Act (POA) and make submissions aimed at improving the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of assembly.


The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in conjunction with the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) is currently undertaking consultative meetings in Provincial Centres to facilitate public submissions on the proposed amendment of the POA.


The Commission takes note that the amendment of the POA is one of the output indicators in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) aimed at promoting an inclusive and democratic system of governance. It is also one of the 183 recommendations which the Government accepted to implement during Zambia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of her human rights record at the United Nations in Geneva in 2017.


It is therefore important that stakeholders turn up in large numbers during the on-going consultative meetings and make concrete recommendations on how the POA should contribute to improving the right to freedom of assembly and an inclusive democratic system of governance in Zambia.


Stakeholders must ensure that any provisions or regulations in the administration of the POA that make the required police notification for a public meeting have an effect of obtaining a police permit are removed to promote equality and non-discrimination in the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and other related rights and freedoms.


The Commission has consistently observed with regret the selective and discriminatory manner the POA was being administered to the detriment of fostering the expression of divergent and dissenting opinions and ideas as expected in a pluralistic and multiparty democracy such as Zambia. It is therefore pleasing to note that the Government is beginning to take practical steps towards amending the provisions of the POA that are incompatible with its national and international human rights obligations.


The right to freedom of assembly is a fundamental right and freedom enshrined in Zambia’s Bill of Rights and in the International Bill of Human Rights. To this effect, the POA should be designed and implemented in a manner that promotes and protects, rather than undermine, the right to freedom of assembly, association and expression.


Notwithstanding efforts towards legal reforms of the POA, the Commission is calling for non-discriminatory and selective administrative measures aimed at promoting and protecting the right to freedom of assembly when considering the notification of convenors for a public meeting and/or assembly.


[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambia [amendment] Act Number 2 of 2016 to ensure that the Bill of Rights is upheld and promoted].
Mweelwa Muleya