By Elias Munshya
Power is easy to abuse. There is this sense endemic in those who wield guns and bombs to think that they are somehow invincible. To this theme, we must return. Daily. If not monthly. But frequently we should. We will continue writing. And talking. And teaching. We will continue to demand. And demonstrate. We will continue to make it very clear that the people of Zambia will not tolerate the abuse of police powers. The efficacy of our democracy will only be savored if the Police check their use of force – guns, and bombs.
Just this past week, we heard, very sadly, that the Zambia Police fired live ammunition in Kamanga, killing a teenager. We understand that the Police are patrolling compounds to arrest people who are flouting COVID-19 regulations. The only surprising thing about the enforcement of these regulations is that it is the poor of Kamanga and Chiwempala that are suffering far much more than the rich bourgeoise of Kabulonga and State House. There in Kabulonga bars are open until very late in the night. When the Police shoot the poor of Kamanga – it is not because they are trying to enforce law and order. It is only because they want to abuse their power and inflict untold suffering on the poor. Law and order that chooses between rich and poor is neither law, and neither is it order.
Further, there is no reason why the Police should be carrying live ammunition to the compounds – even if it is to enforce COVID-19 regulations. This idea that Zambians must choose between being abused by the Police or safety is a false choice. The Zambia Police can enforce the law, while at the same time respecting the rights of Zambians.
Again, just as fate would have it. It is not enough that the Police are shooting an innocent victim in Kamanga. Still, they are also preventing elected members of our parliament from carrying out their duties. This is where the Speaker of the national assembly needs to show his teeth and bite some. How on earth can we tolerate this situation of the Police demanding that an MP, first of all, clears his presence with them when visiting the MP’s constituency? The honourable member of parliament for Kapiri Mposhi went to visit his constituency. He had a few bricks to donate to marketeers. However, he was stopped from doing so, by a battalion of armed paramilitary police officers. They demanded that he shows them a “permit” for assembling. For the lack of a better term – this is nonsense. Or using a better term – this is an abuse of police powers. No law in Zambia demands that our MPs should get police permits before they meet their constituencies. The Public Order Act does not envisage this idea of getting police permits. Instead of the Police being there to help our MPs carry out their duties, it is the Police that is being used by the executive to settle cheap political goals. This is unacceptable.
Zambia is a democracy. Zambians are protected by their constitution from the State’s intrusion on their liberties. The Zambia Police must stop meddling in the liberties of our people. We demand that President Lungu, Home Affairs minister and their police inspector general reflect on their conduct and change their ways. They should forthwith stop with these bad manners of tolerating police anarchy. Zambians will not go back to the UNIP dictatorship days, or back to the colonial era. Zambians cherish their freedom, and this freedom they will protect. It is sacred freedom.
How then can we explain the aftermath of what happened in Kasama? The United Party of National Development (UPND) has had its top leaders arrested in Lukashya. We are told by the Police that these leaders, including the Deputy National Secretary, had committed the offence of “aggravated robbery”. We find these charges to be exaggerated and do not make sense at all. These charges are politically motivated. These charges are coming from the ruling party which wants to completely kill and obliterate the opposition, including using trumped-up charges. A ruling party leader invaded a police station with his thugs. He beat up the Police and stole from them. The guy did what we used to call in Chiwempala as “ukuseca”. He emptied the pockets of each and every police personnel at the police station and stole from them. He then ran away. When they finally caught the gentleman – they only charged him with a minor offence. They arrested him at 10:00am, and within an hour he was out having lunch with his thugs, bragging that he was the son of the house. When asked why the Police had only charged this thug with a simple offence, the police inspector-general claimed that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) advised the Police that what this thug did “ukuseca ba kapokola”, did not warrant the charge of aggravated robbery – which it was. We then wonder – how come Deputy Secretary-General Mucheleka’s charges are aggravated robbery, but not what this ruling party thug did?
Of course, we have the answer. It is party affiliation. The Police has become a tool of the ruling party and is abusing their powers to stifle the opposition parties. And all these things that they talk about being fair in the discharge of their duties are all lies. But as a nation, we are standing strong together to demand changes, common sense, and fairness.
Elias Munshya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org