Zambia extends police powers under state of emergency

Lung Edgar

Lusaka – Zambia’s president on Friday extended the powers of police and other state officials under the country’s ongoing state of emergency, amid deepening political tensions.

President Edgar Lungu formalized the state of emergency declared on July 5 by signing a set of security regulations.

Police are now allowed to detain anyone seen as a threat to public security for more than 48 hours. With the permission of a lower court judge, this detention can be extended to seven days without trial.

Police are also allowed to stop and search vehicles without a warrant, while other government authorities may confiscate passports and visas.

The president’s office is further allowed to prohibit any public activities, close venues, impose curfews and restricts citizens’ movements when deemed necessary.

“These regulations are not meant to interfere with freedom and liabilities of law-abiding citizens but will only be applied to citizens who are found breaking the law,” said acting Home Affairs Minister Given Lubinda.

“The general public is free to go about their normal business as there is no curfew nor restrictions in movements,” he continued.

Lungu declared a state of emergency earlier this month following a spate of large and destructive fires which he has blamed on opponents trying to “sabotage” his government. The cause of the fires is unclear.

The state of the emergency is set to continue until October.

Earlier this year, Zambia’s main opposition leader was jailed and charged with treason, while in June 48 opposition legislators were suspended from parliament for 30 days for boycotting the president’s state of the nation address three months earlier.

Critics have decried what they say is an increasing environment of authoritarianism in the country known for stability.