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The Daily Times
23 May 2023
By Thomas Kachere

Some lawmakers have lamented Parliament’s delays to facilitate the review of Section 184 of the Penal Code, which provides for the offence of rogue and vagabond. The development has since riled human rights defenders.

In 2018, three people from Kasungu challenged police sweeping exercises after they were arrested for the offences of rogue and vagabond.

High Court Judge Zione Ntaba then overturned the earlier conviction of the applicants and ordered that their fines be returned and that they also be compensated.

In the case, which was supported by Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Ntaba ordered Parliament to quickly review the provision under Section 184 of the Penal Code.

She went further to refer to the High Court’s previous decision, in the case involving the State and Mayeso Gwanda, where it made the same order.

Ntaba reiterated that the laws had to be reviewed.

The Court also expressed concern that no action had been taken by the Legislature to make sure that the review of the laws was done.

The Court then ordered that by July 22, 2024, Section 184 of the Penal Code and other laws that violate human rights should be reviewed.

But after 22 months from the time the Court made its orders, some lawmakers have confided in us that nothing has happened on the issue.

“We do not know anything to that effect,” said a member of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament.

Another lawmaker, who is not in the Legal Affairs Committee, corroborated the sentiments, saying, so far, they have not been told anything about the issue.

Meanwhile, lawyer for the applicants, namely SALC’s Chikondi Chijozi, has expressed worry over the development.

“If you recall, the Court had given Parliament 24 months to review Section 184 of the Penal Code, which provides for the offence of rogue and vagabond and now we are in the 22nd month and we have not seen any progress. However, according to the court order, Parliament is supposed to report to the Court by June 22, 2024 on the steps it has taken to review the said section. So far, we have not heard or seen any progress; so, it is quite worrying to note that nothing has been done on the issue to comply with the order,” Chijozi said.

Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye referred us to the Ministry of Justice, whose spokesperson Frank Namangale asked for ample time before he could comment on the issue.