CCMG Deeply Concerned About the Increasing Incidents of Political and Civic Space Infringements

The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) is deeply concerned about the increasing incidents of political violence and infringements on civic space across the country. CCMG has been monitoring the rise in these types of incidents, which infringe on constitutional rights and civic freedoms including the freedom of assembly, expression, and association.
CCMG has continued to note several incidents in which the Zambia Police use the Public Order Act to restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly. These include: denial of permission for the United Kwacha Alliance (UKA) to hold a public rally on 15 April at Matanda Zambia Compound Grounds due to ‘some security concerns,’ and the denial of permission for the New Heritage Party (NHP) to hold a mass rally in Mandevu on 1 June, initially, on grounds that they did not have ‘a registration certificate under the presidency of Ms. Chishala Kateka’, and later, that the party needed to submit ‘a list of speakers’.
These types of incidents also took place in 2023 and CCMG notes the following incidents: on 18 October 2023, the Centre for Young Leaders in Africa (CYLA) had their planned peaceful protest stopped by the police, citing a lack of manpower to provide protection. In August 2023, the Zambia Police denied permission to the Patriotic Front (PF) citing ‘security concerns’ for a planned rally to launch their strategic plan for 2023-2026, despite providing the requisite notice to the Zambia Police.
While this is not an exhaustive list of all incidents that CCMG has tracked, CCMG believes that it is critical to draw stakeholders’ attention to these incidents as they represent instances in which the Zambia Police prevented citizens from freely assembling, associating, and expressing themselves and, in some cases, deployed police officers in armored vehicles and riot gear. These incidents directly undermine the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly. CCMG calls on the government to promptly address these violations and infringements which threaten both civic freedoms and democratic governance. Further, CCMG calls on the Zambia Police to provide greater accountability and transparency in the handling of notices under the Public Order Act, to actively work with organisers to facilitate gatherings, and to pursue de-escalation measures to ensure the safety of participants and citizens. CCMG believes that rallies, peaceful protests and public meetings provide opportunities for citizens to engage with candidates, political parties, and civil society organisations, allowing for discussion of ideas and policies for the future of Zambia, a key element of Zambia’s democratic governance.
CCMG and other stakeholders have called on the Zambia Police to end the prejudiced application of the Public Order Act and has joined with other civil society organisations in calling for the reform of the Public Order Act and for the government to provide a roadmap for the enactment of the Public Gathering Bill. CCMG also notes that Zambia has a robust legal framework and Electoral Code of Conduct, with provisions for punishing criminal and violent behavior, and hate speech, reasons frequently cited for denying permission for gatherings.
The Zambia Police Service is established in Article 193 of the Constitution with the responsibilities to; protect life and property, preserve peace and maintain law and order, ensure the security of the people, detect and prevent crime and uphold the Bill of Rights. In light of this, Zambia Police should direct its resources to protect the rights of all citizens and use the provisions of the law to punish those violating citizen’s rights.