Revise secret laws—CSOs
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that on Tuesday appeared before the joint Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture and Public Accounts have called on Members of Parliament (MPs) to review the Official Secrets Act and the Promissory Oaths Act.
The CSOs, led by Chairperson of the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Robert Mkwezalamba, argued that enquiries into the saga surrounding the purchase of maize from Zambia may be dampened by irregular applications of the provisions of the two acts.
Their concerns follow an order by Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, that public officers should seek clearance from his office before releasing documents that contain information intended to be used for prosecution purposes.
According to the CSOs, it is strange that Muhara is trying to use the two pieces of law to frustrate investigation and prosecution processes, particularly at this time when different entities are probing the maize saga.
In his presentation before the lawmakers, Mkwezalamba— who was accompanied by other rights activists like Billy Mayaya, Benedicto Kondowe, Leon Matanda and MacDonald Sembereka—implored the MPs to revise the two pieces of law.
“As part of recommendations regarding what you, Honourable Members, can do on the [maize] issue, we believe the Official Secrets Act and the Promissory Oaths Act need to be challenged because they counter basic principles of democracy.
“They are now being applied to embargo information and this is dangerous, particularly this time when we know that different entities including you, Honourable Members, might be willing to go to different government departments to seek information on the maize saga,” said Mkwezalamba.
He added that in analysing documents that might have been exchanged between different parties involved in the maize procurement, the lawmakers might consider engaging an information technology (IT) expert because chances are high some documents would be falsified.
Responding to the recommendations by the CSOs, co-chairperson of the joint committee, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, who also chairs the Agriculture Committee of Parliament, said the lawmakers appreciated the information that the CSOs had provided.
“Apart from the recommendations, they have given us information which we believe is very crucial in helping us get to the bottom of the whole issue. It will help us when we will be meeting other stakeholders,” said Malunga.
He could, however, not clearly indicate whether the lawmakers would use provisions that empower them to revise certain pieces of legislation.
Muhara’s order also surprised other observers who argued that it runs counter to the Corrupt Practices Act which mandates the director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to get information from any public or private officer in the pursuit of investigations.
Teacher drowns while rescuing pupil
A 48-year-old teacher in Mchinji drowned on Monday while attempting to rescue a three-year-old pupil from drowning.
Mchinji Police spokesperson, Kaitano Lubrino, identified the deceased as Patricia Simeyi, who until her death was a teacher at Sunrise Private Primary School in the district. He said Simeyi drowned in a well within the school premises. Simeyi came from Benjamin Village in Sub Traditional Authority Simphasi in Mchinji District.
Police in the district have since urged the public to ensure safety within homes and public places by, among others, covering up all pits that have accumulated water in a bid to avoid drowning and other incidents.
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