The first law the Socialist Party in government will pass is the repeal of the public order Act.
And there’s no going back on this. There will be no but…
It will not be replaced by any other Act. There will simply be no public order Act or any such other laws. The Constitution has enough protections for public order. We don’t need any other additional laws. We have seen how from the colonial authorities successive governments of this country have abused the public order Act. The worst one being this current regime of the Patriotic Front and Mr Edgar Lungu.
And we don’t want to be part of such injustices and abuses. We believe that the freedom of peaceful assembly enables individuals to express themselves as part of a collective, including by engaging in public marches, protests, pickets and demonstrations. Assemblies can be platforms to advocate for change and for people to raise awareness about the issues that matter to them, whether it relates to human rights or otherwise. Assemblies often also have symbolic importance, such as in commemorating particular events or marking significant anniversaries.
The Socialist Party in government will have an obligation to ensure that the right to freedom of assembly is fully protected, including when those who assemble protest against its policies and challenge it. The Socialist Party in government will not interfere with the right to peaceful assembly simply because it disagrees with the protesters’ views, and will ensure that the right is enjoyed equally by all groups, without discrimination on any ground.
Effective protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly will not weaken the Socialist Party’s government; we believe that it will actually strengthen it. It helps foster a culture of open democracy, enables non-violent participation in public affairs, and invigorates discussions on important issues. Public assemblies also help to promote good governance by providing opportunities for the public to hold to account people and organisations with power.
As I have consistently stated, we believe that the exercise of power must be a constant practice of self limitation and modesty. The Socialist Party does not fear criticism because we are socialists, the truth is on our side, and the basic masses, the workers and peasants, are on our side. We have the Marxist-Leninist weapon of criticism and self-criticism. We can get rid of a bad style and keep the good.
Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades’ minds and our Party’s work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing. The proverb “Running water is never stale and a door-hinge is never worm-eaten” means that constant motion prevents the inroads of germs and other organisms. To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular maxims as “Say all you know and say it without reserve”, “Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words” and “Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not” – this is the only effective way to prevent all kinds of political dust and germs from contaminating the minds of our comrades and the body of our Party.
If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If he is right, we will correct them. If what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it.
As we Zambian socialists, who base all our actions on the highest interests of the broadest masses of the Zambian people and who are fully convinced of the justice of our cause, never balk at any personal sacrifice and are ready at all times to give our lives for the cause, can we be reluctant to discard any idea, viewpoint, opinion or method which is not suited to the needs of the people? Can we be willing to allow political dust and germs to dirty our clean faces or eat into our healthy organisms?
At this time of the year in 1898 over 10,000 young Ngonis laid down their lives in our interests, defending our land and minerals from that bandit Cecil John Rhodes and his companies, and our hearts are filled with pain as we the living think of them – can there be any personal interest, then, that we would not sacrifice or any error that we would not discard?
We must constantly criticize our shortcomings, just as we should wash our faces or sweep the floor every day to remove the dirt and keep them clean.
It is hard for any political party or person to avoid mistakes, but we should make as few as possible. Once a mistake is made, we should correct it, and the more quickly and thoroughly the better.
President of the Socialist Party
Garden Compound, Lusaka