Police Shootings and the Failing Presidency of Edgar Chagwa Lungu

By Elias Munshya

On December 23, 2020, the nation was awakened to the horror of two murders that had just happened in broad daylight in Lusaka. The armed Zambia Police service members had shot into a crowd on unarmed citizens killing two and injuring dozens more. What followed after the killing is not only shocking but also symptomatic of the failing and terrible legacy of the country’s commander in chief. But before we cover the aftermath of Nsama Chipyoka and Joseph Kaunda’s killing, let us first look at where it all started.

The Zambia Police Service is, in many ways, a creature of discipline. The service takes upon the character of its commander. If the commander is a murderous sadist, the police are likely to be murderous sadists. This was not the first time the police had killed citizens in broad daylight under President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s watch. A few years ago, Vesper Simunzhila, a University of Zambia student, was killed in her dormitory by direct actions of the police. This year, 2020, a grade nine young boy Frank Mugala was gunned down by the police as they responded to a riot in Mandevu. At that time, many citizens questioned police action. Citizens demanded to know just how the police had loaded their guns with live ammunition that ended up killing innocent civilians. The answers that came from the top police command disappointed. The police top brass claimed that the laws of Zambia empowered the police to shoot to kill. Not only didn’t this make sense, but it was also irrational, unconstitutional and reckless, to say the least. The Zambia Police is not empowered by any laws to kill innocent people. The Zambia Police is supposed to save people and serve their interest not to kill and summarily execute the people of Zambia. The fact that the Zambia Police have guns does not mean that the possession of that gun entitles the police to fire live ammunition at our country’s citizens. But not to be beaten to this, top Zambian politicians joined in singing this chorus of bloodshed. Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya, Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, as well the country’s minister of Religious Affairs and National Guidance, all affirmed the lies that the police are empowered by law, to shoot, and to shoot at civilians so long as the police deem it appropriate to do so. By allowing this unconstitutional and illegal sentiments to permeate through both the police and civilian commands, President Lungu became an accomplice to the murders that the police had unleashed on the civilians. Vesper and Frank’s death were only the beginning. It was only a matter of time before those thirsty for shedding innocent blood would strike again.

Even as the nation was facing economic collapse, and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the nation learned that the President had borrowed some Chinese kaloba and had purchased for the Zambia Police military-grade rifles, armoured vehicles, as well as military-grade ambulances and hearses (fi manda manda). The purchase of these weapons made several people wonder whether President Lungu was preparing the police for war. In actual fact, the Zambia Police do not fight in wars, that is the job of the gallant Zambia Army and Zambia Airforce. Those who wondered what was really going on have now been vindicated – what was that military hardware all about? It was the President and cabinet getting the police ready to kill and maim the people of Zambia. The weapons and equipment cabinet purchased for the police was self-evident – sophisticated rifles to kill, armoured vehicles to shield their assault of civilians, and ambulances to pick maimed pieces of citizens and the manda mandas to transport lifeless bodies of the murdered citizens. And President Lungu made sure there were enough dollars to buy enough of these weapons to silence citizens and silence the lifeless bodies of those who dare to challenge the irrational actions of the bloodthirsty commander in chief. When December 23, 2020, came – the opportunity arose to put to use the equipment President Lungu had purchased for the police. Together with the philosophy of killing inculcated in the Zambia Police from the previous murders, this equipment was enough to embolden the killers.

Using the questioning of Mr Hakainde Hichilema as the pretext to kill civilians – the police gave unconstitutional commands. No one was to escort Mr Hichilema to the police as the police had summoned him. The exact objective for the summons was unclear. Some suggested that Mr Hichilema had been summoned in connection with a farm he bought in 2004 in Kalomo. How that issue could be so urgent as to demand that the UPND leader presents himself before the police without the cadre of his escorts, and just a day before Christmas Eve made many suspicious. It appeared like a deliberate plan to provoke the peaceful citizens of Zambia. After the shootings, the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote wondering why the police acted in the manner they did – how could the nation’s leaders act so recklessly? But some supporters of Mr Hichilema’s political party found it unacceptable that the Zambia Police would issue these unconstitutional and probably illegal orders. Zambia is a democracy, and Mr Hichilema is entitled to support from his members. How dare that the police tell UPND members not to witness their leader’s supposed persecution?

The UPND members were not going to be discouraged. The members went to the Police Force Headquarters to offer moral support to their leader who had been summoned to answer, what common sense tells us are, frivolous and nonsensical charges arising from a real estate transaction between private parties which took place some 16 years ago.

But the Zambia Police had other ideas. This was an opportunity for them to test drive their killing equipment. They loaded live ammunition in their newly acquired military assault rifles. They stationed tanks on strategic roads in Lusaka. They were ready to shoot and shoot to kill. When they found a group of unarmed peaceful UPND supporters gathered around Cabinet Office, the Zambia Police aimed at citizens’ group. Fired on them. And killed Joseph Kaunda on the spot. Nsama Chipyoka was a prosecutor working in a nearby building. He walked across the road to have some breakfast that morning. Unfortunately, as things would happen, one of those bullets fired by the Zambia Police officers hit Nsama. He too died instantly. Within seconds of his killing, police officers showed up and took the lifeless body, perhaps to test drive their newly acquired manda manda.

President Lungu was apparently on holiday in the Luangwa national parks. He was drinking, eating, resting, and sleeping oblivious to what was happening in Lusaka. Lusaka was covered in blood – and the commander-in-chief was relaxing and sleeping, and entertaining his “guests”. It would not be until 24 hours had passed that we heard from the President. In a very bizarre Facebook post TYPED in all CAPITAL LETTERS,  the President condemned democracy, blamed the Bill of Rights, and then demanded a report on his desk “by Monday, December 28, 2020”.

Well, Monday, December 28, 2020, came in earnest. There was no report. The victims of the murders had both been buried. And the people of Zambia have no one else to blame for these deaths than the commander in chief himself. A very weak man whose pastime now is to watch animals in the Luangwa national parks – while the Zambia Police cocky top brass cock their rifles with live bullets and aim at the people of Lusaka, like animals.

Elias Munshya can be reached at elias@munshyalaw.com

Elias Munshya

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