President Lungu declared a threatened state of emergency on July 5 after making a statement a day before on arrival from Ethiopia that “if I become a dictator for once, bear with me”, following a fire that gutted the country’s biggest trading area – City Market.One third of the stalls at Lusaka City Market got burnt in a fire that started soon after police had opened the area for cleaners early on July 4.“If it means suspending human rights, then we will suspend human rights. Forget about human rights,” President Lungu said after visiting the scene of the fire.

The following day, President Lungu invoked Article 53 of the Constitution which declared a threatened state of emergency which will now run for three months under the Preservation of Public Security Act Cap 112 of the Laws of Zambia.

During this period, the police and other law enforcement officers have been given more powers to stop, search or detain an individual or motor vehicle without a warrant.

This pronouncement has been approved by Parliament which currently has the majority representation from the ruling PF since the suspension of 47 of UPND members of parliament.

It will also allow President Lungu to come up with regulations he deems fit as to decree, among others, prohibition of the publication and dissemination of matters prejudicial to public security, and, to the extent necessary for that purpose, for the regulation and control of the production, publishing, sale, supply distribution and possession of publications; prohibition, restriction and control of assemblies; prohibition, restriction and control of residence, movement and transport of persons, the possession, acquisition, use and transport of movable property, and the entry to, egress from, occupation and use of immovable property.

And under the same Preservation of Public Security Act Cap 112 (3), “If the president is satisfied that the situation in Zambia is so grave that it is necessary so to do, he may, by statutory instrument, make regulations to provide for: (a) the detention of persons; (b) requiring persons to do work and render services.”

“Lungu first warned he was contemplating a state of emergency in April following fires at other market stalls, a blaze at Chalimbana University and arson attacks at court buildings in and around Lusaka. Political insiders and the opposition fear that forces allied to the government planned the attacks to create a climate of fear, leading the public to accept a state of emergency,” stated Africa Confidential in its brief analysis of Zambia’s threatened state of public emergency.

“Lungu fears the treason charge against United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema, who has been in detention since 11 April, might not succeed at trial.

The motive behind the state of emergency is to keep Hichilema in detention and intimidate the UPND and other opposition forces, a State House source told Africa Confidential before the official announcement was made.”




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